Distrito Graffiti, Bogota’s Street-Art District

One of Distrito Graffiti’s whimsical murals

photography by: Omri Westmark

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Throughout much of modern history, graffiti has persistently incurred the ire of authorities, who in turn saw it as a form of vandalism. In response, stringent measures have been employed to quash its presence. In recent decades, however, this attitude has changed significantly, so much so that now cities around the world encourage taggers to leave their marks in designated zones. Nowhere has this trend been more pronounced than across Distrito Graffiti in Bogota, a formerly gritty area of the city where grey walls were replaced with a slew of breathtaking murals.

For years now, Bogota has not only served its role as the capital of Colombia, but also that of South America’s street art scene, boasting myriads of vivid murals wherever one gazes. In spite of its current popularity, graffiti wasn’t always the celebrated practice that it is today, in fact, there were times where taggers were met with an iron fist.


The decades-long hostility towards this form of expression culminated in 2011, when a young graffiti artist named Felipe Becerra (aka Tripido) was shot dead by the police after paint-spraying over the Piers of Avenida Boyacá Bridge in northern Bogota. In the wake of this tragedy, a widespread outcry heralded a shift in public mindset.


The last straw transpired two years later, during the high-profile visit of Canadian singer Justin Bieber in Colombia. While Bieber’s meteoric rise to fame was first and foremost due to his vocal prowess, he is a spray-can artist on his time off. After his concert, Bieber walked the streets of the capital, where he painted a maple leaf on top of a marijuana leaf in memory of his late hamster.


This very act spurred resistance among Bogotans who in matter of hours fearlessly followed in Bieber’s footsteps and covered the entire city with hundreds, if not thousands, of murals. Overwhelmed by the vast protest, the city council was forced to change its policy and shortly thereafter, devised a plan to legalize street art throughout Bogota.

Instead of a citywide ban, authorities began to grant a graffiti permit to self-proclaimed muralists who could now realize their full potential, free of any fear and persecution. In 2016, the initiative was further cemented when an entire district was allocated for this very goal, and so, what was once a cluster of humdrum workshops and garages in the locally of Puente Aranda, turned into an open-air gallery when dozens of taggers used the area’s nondescript walls as their canvas.


Tucked away between Carrera 53F, Carrera 54, and Carrera 56 Streets, the aptly named Distrito Graffiti has since become awash with copious wall-paintings to awe at. Many of the artworks here feature local indigenous motifs while others resonate with Colombia’s contemporary hip-hop culture, thus offering onlookers a glance to the country’s past and present.


Every year, the district evolves in a different way as multiple artists from Colombia and beyond add a series of new murals atop some of the existing ones, making every visit a new experience. Chief among the muralists who partook in this project are Mugre Diamante, Carlos Trilleras, StinkFish, El Xupet Negre and Eva Bracamontes, to name just a few.


There are several guided tours, where visitors can learn about the cultural context and history of certain artworks across the district, but if you wish to enjoy this place from the comforts of your home, a 360° online tour provides a glimpse of what Distrito Graffiti has to offer.