"Como un Cerillo" is a mural and audio installation that juxtaposes a text written by Alfonso Hernández (1) with four songs (2) that refer to the life of Tepito (3). Pille, El Despreciado, a professional MC/DJ from the 1960s, who started his career playing in this neighborhood, narrates the text over over each song’s instrumentation and lyrics. The audio synthesizes a history of this contested Mexican neighborhood as seen through Alfonso’s perspective.(4)
(1) Alfonso Hernández, Tepito’s most renowned contemporary historian, runs a public archive of books, photos, newspaper clippings and ephemera that chronicle the life of the neighborhood. The text written for Como un Cerillo is based on Hernández’s writings published in brochures and flyers and periodically distributed to Tepito’s community. The archive, named CETEPIS (Centro de Estudios Tepiteños), is located in a multifunctional vencidad at the heart of Mexico City’s black market. In the 1970s and 1980s Alfonso Hernández was part of the collective “Arte Acá,” with whom he organized several exhibitions that proposed alternatives to the forced transformation of the neighborhood. He also edited “El Nero,” a magazine that rejuvinated Tepito’s linguistic style.
(2) The four songs that are included in this piece are "La Casa de la Vecindad" by Sonora Mantecera with Celio González, "El Chico de la Vecindad" by Chava Flores, "El Niño Majadero" by Sonora Mantancera with Daniel Santos and "La Cumbia de Tepito" (Information missing). Cumbias and other tropical rhythms coming from South and Centro America were illegally imported to Mexico through Tepito’s black market beginning in the 1960s. Each evening after the markets closed, residents of the neighborhood gathered together in the streets around loud speakers to dance to this imported music. MCs/DJs would frequently talk over the song lyrics, sending greeting to specific audience members. These festivities/concerts were later described as Sonideros.
(3) Tepito is known as an area composed of three neighborhoods (Tepito itself, Peralvillo and Lagunilla) in the outskirts of Mexico City’s historic downtown, which together shape one of the largest black markets in Latin America. Tepito’s history goes back to Aztec times, when this area functioned as a slave market. Today the area is known as the “Barrio Bravo” - the epitome of the neighborhood’s resistance against the logic of gentrification. In addition to the commerce of electronics, drugs and second-hand products, the local community consists of a variety of craftsmen. Tepiteños’ opposition to the dismantlement of vecindades (rent control horizontal housing that allows for the integration of workshop areas, storage units and living spaces) became ferocious after the 1985 earthquake, when many vencidades were damaged. During their reconstruction, a new social organization was imposed that separated work from living spaces. Confrontations among the police and the local community are constantly in the news.
(4) "Como un Cerillo" is part of a series of fourteen urban interventions by different artists in Tepito, Mexico City, curated by Yutsil Cruz.