If you’ve ever heard of Culiacán in Mexico, you’ll know that it isn’t a recommended spot for tourists. The capital of the Mexican state of Sinaloa, Culiacán is well-known among Mexicans for the many musical groups originating from there. However, you won’t find more than a passing mention of this city in most Mexican tourist guide books and there’s a very good reason for that. The scenario was the same a decade back as it is now.
Infamous for the high levels of gun violence and gang wars, the situation in Sinaloa was so bad in 2014 that the government actually started preventing journalists from publishing crime reports not in accordance with the government’s own press releases. However, in the middle of all the blood and struggle, a Mexican artist proved that there is always hope.
Pedro Reyes is an artist from Mexico City. He fully believes that we need to turn our civilization’s failures into positivity. Reyes works with material that is normally perceived as damaged and remodels it into something beautiful and functional. Looking at the gun violence in Mexico, and especially in Culiacán, which saw the highest rates of gun violence in Mexico that year, Reyes decided that he had to do something. He began by asking the people who lived in Culiacán to exchange their guns for coupons which could be redeemed to get things necessary for a household.
Speaking to BOMB magazine, Reyes pointed out that things that are stinking and rotting or almost dead can be used to create compost which creates new life. There are many ways to solve these problems if we look at them from a different perspective. He took a weapon used to kill and turned it into an instrument that brings life.
And Reyes made sure to get his point across. When he was done collecting guns, he had them all taken to a military base and made a public show of smashing all the guns with a steam roller. Only after that did the process of melting them and turning them into shovels begin. The shovels were given wooden handles to make them easy to use. Now, these guns can only be used to plant trees and bring new life.
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Besides educational institutions, Reyes’ work with these guns has shot to fame and the shovels have been displayed in art galleries ranging from the Vancouver Art Gallery to the Maison Rouge in France. Just as with guns, a shovel has a functional use and criminal use. Hopefully, the inspiration behind the project will permeate those who are using these shovels and they will always use them to create life and to nurture it.