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Recession in graffiti: Walking in Greece

We were staring at a wall and its many eyes were staring right back. It was his last night visiting me in Colombia and we were sitting across my favorite graffiti in Bogota. It was neither the most intricate, nor the most innovative, but the simplicity of its gaze resonated with me. There were eyes floating on walls all across Colombia, bearing witness, reminding us that we were watched in all the ways that raised the hairs on the back of my neck and seen in the ways that make a heart sing.

Two years later, in Thessaloniki, Greece, the walls display no eyes. They have become receptacles of public anger at the financial crisis sweeping through the nation. The walls of my hometown are covered in messages of hope, revolution, indignation, and judgment. Some of them are bohemian, others misspelled. Most of them denounce the decisions of the Greek government and the austerity measures the IMF bailout package brings with it. As I was watching the news this week, I was dismayed by the fact that violence — even by the usual agent provocateurs — overshadowed nonviolent protests. I know there are people in my homeland who want to effect change without breaking marbles and burning movie theaters. I am always on the hunt for positive images, for photographs of hope. Even though my walk through Thessaloniki yielded many more photographs of anger than of love, the humor that some Greeks have maintained and their attempt to preserve their sensitivities is fueling my own optimism.

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