All around Cozumel, there are beautiful murals painted on walls, big and small. In collaboration with Pangeaseed Foundation and their Sea Walls: Artists for Oceans program, artists from all over the world converge on Cozumel to showcase their talents while spreading an important message.
Cozumel has not only embraced street art but has done so in collaboration with an organization that is focused on spreading the word about how important the oceans are to the environment.
The program began in 2013 in Sri Lanka as part of an effort to bring awareness to the overfishing of Manta Rays which were used to produce phony Chinese medicine. After that first mural, individual murals popped up worldwide with the same message – save the oceans and the marine life in them.
The following year, 15 artists converged on a small island off the coast of Cancun, Mexico, called Isle Mujeres. The first murals painted were depictions of endangered Whale Sharks that gather off the coast of the island every year. Those first 15 artists started something that has grown into an international campaign and produced over 300 murals in 14 countries.
While we didn’t locate all of the murals on the island, we did manage to find a few. Each is a beautiful message of how vital the ocean is to the island and the world.
Located in the main town square, ‘Protect What You Love”, created by Kelly Spencer from New Zealand in 2019 is designed to make you think, not just about what it says but how you can be part of the change. Whether it’s stopping single-use plastic, making educated decisions on which souvenirs to purchase, or using sunscreen products that are safer for the environment, including reefs, we can all do our part to be more aware and help save what we love.
This 2019 mural titled “Su Vida Es Nuestra Vida,” or “Life Is Borrowed,” is a collaboration of two artists who combined are known as Alegria Del Prado. The artists are Octavio Alegria from Mexico and Esther del Prado from Spain.
Located on the side of the Cozumel Convention Center, the mural depicts the ocean that makes life possible. The combination of marine life and nature shows the symbiotic relationship and importance they have with each other.
The dwarf Coati, located in the center, is an endangered species native to Cozumel. A closer look shows an earth mover destroying the natural habitat of the Coati as well as a spear in the side of the Humpback Whale, signifying the illegal hunting of whales, which still happens today.
“Letanía” or “Litany”, was painted by Mexican artist Secreto Rebollo in 2019. Located near the city center, it brings awareness of the importance of sustainable fishing and to stop overfishing. The golden line piercing the hand, fish, and then the heart of the man is a reminder of how overfishing can harm man, the environment, and ones we love. If overfishing continues, there will be no natural resources for future generations.
By choosing more sustainable fish to eat, such as Sardines and not Tuna, we can help ensure that the population has time to renew itself and be around for generations to come.
One of my favorite murals, “The Last Bloom,” by Gina Kiel from Wellington, New Zealand, is a bright and colorful mural located in the parking lot of the MEGA store along the main road near the city center.
Painted in 2019, the mural brings awareness to the damage being done to the coral reefs. The artist’s depiction of the coral reef as a woman’s face is a reminder that the reefs are part of Mother Earth.
As more and more tourists and cruise ships descend upon the island, more and more people get into the water. Many people do not realize that coral reefs are living, breathing, creatures and that they are rapidly dying due to pollution, global warming, and tourism.
Touching or stepping on coral will do irreparable harm, even killing it. Chemicals such as body lotions and sunscreen can kill them as well. The black and white lines in the mural depict the splitting and dying of the reefs.
With this mural, I wanted to illustrate the story of consumption that we can often partake in without being aware of the repercussions that are in store for us and the lives we affect. Ness Lee
Focusing on the global issue of overfishing, the artist wants viewers to remember that they have a choice and a responsibility to do their part to ensure the longevity of the resources for future generations.
Appropriately named “Hide and Seek,” the mural was completed in 2019 by Australian artist George Rose and is located on Avenue 65 near the Carnitas ElRey restaurant,
The mural focuses on conserving endemic species in Cozumel, primarily the endangered Splendid Toadfish and the Yagerocaris Cozumel. With the increase in tourism that the cruise ship industry brings to the island every year, the coral reefs which the fish depend on to live are being destroyed.
The message is simple but clear, “Now you see me now you don’t,” once these species are gone, we will never see them again.
This mural is so big it takes up a city block, and two photos to show it all. Created in 2019 by two different Mexican artists, Bner and Rehos, it has no title, but it has an essential message in a futuristic way.
The oceans provide food, and play a vital role in the regulation of Earth’s climate. Nevertheless, the impact of human activity is destroying marine life. The seas are suffering, and when they die, we will, too.
The message the artists wanted to convey is how important our choices are. Whether it is stopping the use of single-use plastics, lowering our carbon footprint, or choosing more sustainable food choices, we must all educated ourselves in the impact we have on the earth.
These two untitled murals were painted by the Argentian artist Ever in 2019. Located at City Hall, they focus on how vital the ocean is not only to the citizens of Cozumel but the entire country.
Showing a man and woman wrapped in the colors of the Mexican flag and surrounded by marine life, the artist reminds viewers about the importance of respecting and protecting the ocean for the future of the island and country.
Completed in 2015, “Plastics Fantastic” was created by the Brazilian duo known as Bicicleta Sem Freio or “Bicycle Without Wheels.”
Located on Avenue 65, Indepencia, not far from the Hide and Seek mural, the mural is a fun use of bright colors and characters. If the title doesn’t give away the message, then perhaps the images of plastic water bottles and garbage alongside Spongebob and his friends will. We must decrease the use of plastics to protect our oceans.
“Mapache’s Stare” is, by far, my favorite mural of them all. Painted in 2019 by South African artist Sonny, it is on a wall near one of the two cruise ship terminals on the island near the city center.
Depicting a pygmy raccoon or Cozumel raccoon, one of 36 species native to Cozumel and critically endangered due to habitat loss at the hands of excessive tourism.
With 5 million people visiting the island by cruise ship every year, these creatures’ natural habitat is being destroyed. With the potential of another cruise ship terminal, which will increase the number of visitors to nearly 10 million per year, they will have even fewer places to live on the island.
The murals focus is on endemic species conservation, plastic pollution, mass tourism, and coastal development. While the mural itself is stunning, it’s what the raccoon sees in its eye that brings an even stronger message.
A landfill reflected in the eye of the raccoon represents how these animals can only watch as their habitat gets destroyed and taken over. The raccoon is painted to break and fade away, and if you look hard you can see a cruise ship in amongst the splatters.
Interestingly enough, while we were visiting the beach at Punta Sur, one of these fantastic creatures had no fear and was scampering about looking for scraps amongst the tourists. Even though there were signs everywhere stating not to feed them, people were reaching out with food.
If you ever get to Cozumel, whether it’s for a day or a week, take some time and head into the city center to see these murals with a message. We hope that they inspire you to stop and think about how vital the oceans are to our lives and the lives of everything around us.