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Ecuador Graffiti: Street Art Expressions

Stepping off the plane in Quito, Ecuador, the first thing you notice are the colors. The entire country is bathed in bright reds, lush greens, deep blues, sunny yellows and everything in between. Some of that is because this is one of the world’s most beautiful countries. But much of it is also due to the Ecuador graffiti scene – a robust sub-culture that takes street art who whole new levels.

Mural of Toucans in Otavalo by the SBC Crew
Toucans in Otavalo

In many countries, urban arts are treated like a crime. Beautiful murals are hidden in trash filled alleys such as in Toronto or Vancouver. Or they might be tucked away in the back of parking garages or lining railroad tracks or generally being hidden from public view. But street art in Ecuador doesn’t hide – it is front and center.

Two Old Men mural in downtown Quito by Luigi Stornaiolo.
Massive multi-story mural in downtown Quito by Luigi Stornaiolo

We learned, however, that the government has recently been cracking down on Ecuador’s graffiti artists. There are new laws that prohibit public art and include steep fines and even jail time. That hasn’t stopped the creation of beautiful street art in Ecuador.

During our trip to Ecuador, we found a large number of murals. There is a saying – “No wall is white in Ecuador” – meaning that nearly every wall has been covered in some kind of public mural or graffiti tagging. We certainly found that to be true. Some of our favorite cities for Ecuador street art were:

Otavalo street art murals of dog biting boy and pirate in canoe
Murals in Otavalo

Otavalo – The city surrounded by high volcano peaks is known for its market – one of the largest in the Andes. The local Otavaleños dress in traditional attire and the market is full of delights. The walls of the city around the market have numerous murals.

Murals in Otavalo of old man and dancing skeletons
Murals in Otavalo

Cotacachi –At the base of the Cotacachi volcano, the small town of the same name boasts a community that is well known for its fine leather products. A number of Ecuador’s graffiti artists live and work in the community and the local walls can attest to their talents.

The Third Eye mural in Cotacachi by Wambra Raymi
The Third Eye in Cotacachi

Machachi – One of the largest towns in the Avenue of the Volcanoes, Machachi is a transit point up into the highlands. The murals in Machachi stretch along a stream and are scattered throughout the city, many featuring indigenous themes.

Traditional foods featured in this graffiti mural in Machachi
Traditional foods featured in this Machachi mural

Quito – No discussion of street art in Ecuador would be complete without including Quito. The city is home to some of the largest murals we’ve ever seen. However, what struck us was something we witnessed on our final day a Quito: a massive 2 kilometer wall being divided up into over 150 different 20-foot mural sections. There were hundreds of street artists assembled to paint the wall. We can’t wait to see how it turns out!

Muralists lining up to paint a large section of wall in Quito
Muralists lining up to paint a large section of wall in Quito

We’ve big fans of street murals and we loved what we discovered in the Andes. There is a rich graffiti and street art scene in Ecuador – and we hope that continues!

Here are a few of the other murals we discovered in Ecuador:

The Woman, a mural in Cotacachi, Ecuador
Woman in Cotacachi
Cartoon graffiti of The Monkey and clown in Otavalo
The Monkey in Otavalo
An anonymous mask as street art in Cotacachi
Anonymous in Cotacachi
A mural to the condors in the Avenue of the Volcanoes
Mural of Condors
The Hummingbird mural in Machachi
The Hummingbird in Machachi
An indigenous mural in Cotacachi
Indigenous in Cotacachi
Graffiti mural of girl in Cotacachi
Girl in Cotacachi

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