Wandering the streets of Buenos Aires' trendy Palermo Soho district on a graffiti and street art tour was one of the highlights of my six-week stay.
I also grew to appreciate graffiti and street art during my three years in Medellin, Colombia.
So, it was a pleasant surprise to meet Laura Ainscough, Director of Stylewalk MX at an entrepreneur conference I attended in Mexico City last month.
Laura founded Stylewalk MX, the first company to offer a guided street art and graffiti tour in Mexico City.
As I was staying the week beyond the conference, I took her up on an offer to experience her most popular tour first hand.
Joining me was a friend from the conference who had grown up painting graffiti in the city where it was born, New York City.
We met our local guide, Jokan Deka, on a weekday afternoon for the 2.5-hour walking tour in downtown Mexico City.
Jokan is an affable tattoo artist, illustrator, and DJ who also has several years experience working for the well-regarded Fifty-24 MX gallery.
The fact that Stylewalk MX's guides are all involved in the street art scene makes all the difference, as it lends their tours a sense of authenticity and credibility.
I learned a lot during our afternoon together, both from Jokan and my New Yorker friend.
After visiting a few walls, we ducked into a paint shop that was up a flight of heavily-graffitied stairs. Inside, you could find every shade of spray paint imaginable from multiple manufacturers.
In addition to the paint cans, I learned you could also buy plastic caps that help you as the artist control the width of the spray paint coming out of the can.
I had no idea there was such a mature market for artists' supplies!
As in Buenos Aires, and most cities I imagine, painting in Mexico City is illegal unless you have the permission of the property owner.
My biggest takeaway from the tour was the distinction between graffiti and street art.
Graffiti came first, as it was used by gangs in NYC to mark their territory. It primarily consists of tags, abbreviated names or nicknames of the graffiti artists. These can be basic and ugly, or incredibly intricate.
Aesthetically, it can be hard for the average person to pick up on subtle differences in artistry that show one tag is more skillfully painted than another.
However, competition-worthy graffiti artists use multiple colors, intricate design, and unique styles to set themselves far apart.
Graffiti is typically painted by people with no formal art training.
Meanwhile, the more aesthetically pleasing murals that are a hallmark of street art are often painted by artists with some formal training.
I prefer street art. I find it more pleasing to the eye, and I like how it can represent local culture, history, and politics.
To me, street art adds to the environment while the overwhelming majority of graffiti detracts from it.
I know this may sound a little bourgeois of me. Perhaps it's all the art history classes I took in college.
We saw dozens of murals during the tour. Below are more of my favorites.
More Images from My Street Art and Graffiti Tour in Mexico City
I highly recommend finding the time to take this tour. It's a wonderful way to see a part of downtown Mexico City you might not otherwise see. Plus, the artwork is incredible!
Type: Stylewalk MX offers private walking tours with English-speaking guides
Cost: The cost depends on the number of people, and is subject to change.
As of September 2017, the cost is $138 for one person, $155 for two people, $165 for three people, $171 for four people. See the Stylewalk MX website for further details.
Tip: If you're traveling solo and want to bring the cost down, ask around in your hostel or through social networks such as Couchsurfing to see if you can find more people to join you.
Length: 2.5 hours
Booking: Visit the Stylewalk MX website to book your tour.
I received a discounted rate for my private tour with Stylewalk MX.
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