The Graffiti Grammarians Correcting Street Art in Ecuador
Graffiti artists in Quito, Ecuador better bone up on their spelling and grammar, lest a group of vigilante street-art editors take a can of red spray paint to their tags. Since November 2014, Acción Ortográfica Quito has been patrolling the streets for graffiti in need of a little copy editing.
Their name references Acción Poetica, a movement that began in Monterrey, Mexico in 1966 and whose members have been graffiting love poems and quotes about friendship and optimism across Latin America for decades. The intentions of Acción Poetica are noble, but their grammar isn't always up to snuff—which is why Acción Ortográfica frequently targets their graffiti for correction.
The group is comprised of three men in their 30s, one of whom is primarily responsible for running their active social media accounts while the other two correct grammar mistakes out on the streets. Although they describe what they do as trying "to take a vandalistic act and put some order in what’s anarchic by nature," that doesn't mean they're legally in the clear. To avoid run-ins with the police, Acción Ortográfica works at night. First, they drive around scouting error-riddled graffiti, then the two active members grab a beer while they discuss edits. Afterwards, they return to carry out the corrections.
In an anonymous conversation with COLORS Magazine, they defended their efforts, saying, "it’s a public service and a moral obligation. We’re against spelling vandalism and we won’t break nor give up until we see a society free of spelling mistakes."
Their edits range from simple first letter capitalization to a full-sentence overhaul. Their first job contained 13 errors in just two lines of text.
"There’s a big difference in saying: ‘No quiero verte’ (I don’t want to see you) and ‘No, quiero verte’ (No, I want to see you)," one of the members said. "Many times, someone does not realize how a comma or an oversight can completely change the meaning of a sentence. It can change your life."
Recently, they've taken their copy editors' eye to Twitter, where they've corrected spelling and grammar mistakes in tweets by Ecuador’s president Rafael Correa—although they stipulate that their concern is strictly linguistic, not political.
— Acción Ortográfica Q (@AccionOQ) February 11, 2015
Their plans for the future involve spreading beyond Quito and launching a hotline where passersby can leave tips about graffiti in need of a little editing.
"We recently received a complaint about a nice graffiti that talks about how unbelievable a mom’s love is. We think it’s important that the message get through."
[h/t COLORS Magazine]