the urban art neighborhood that hides hundreds of Meninas

We travel to Ferrol to discover the story behind the Meninas de Canidoan urban transformation led by the artist Eduardo Hermida that has revitalized this Galician neighborhood through urban art.

What began as a modest project to beautify the streets of this neighborhood has become an event that attracts artists from all over the world every year, each one leaving their interpretation of Velázquez’s iconic work. Hundreds of works distributed among the steep streets of Canido, including an original work by Banksy … or not.

Eduardo’s dream, the soul behind the Meninas de Canido

Eduardo Hermida. Photo by Christian Rojo

We could say that the origin of the project dates back to the childhood of its creator, Eduardo Hermida, when he spent his afternoons painting with chalk and pieces of tile on the walls of his neighborhood. Some decades later, in 2008, Hermida decided to recover that childhood hobby and give a little color and joy to a depressed Canidowhich had fallen into deep neglect in recent years.

So one day, He went out to paint some meninas with his daughter, a former student, a neighbor and the artist Jorge Cabezas. One of the first works was quickly covered by a neighbor and this incident caused a wave of solidarity among urban artists throughout the country. That same year, The first meeting was born during the first weekend of Septembera tradition that continues to this day, using the festival to restore and expand the creations.

The project grew year after year to become a resounding success, attracting the attention of more than 500 artists from all over the world who get together every year in Ferrol to leave their own interpretation of the meninas in more or less free interpretations.

Hermida chose to represent Las Meninas because he considered it the largest painting in Spanish painting. full of symbolism and susceptible to multiple interpretations. He highlighted the particularity that Velázquez, committed to the kings, represented in his work the servants and the Infanta Margaret Teresa of Austria, whose melancholic air evoked the importance of her childhood.

This connection with childhood, together with the Galician origin of one of the meninas, Agustina de Sarmiento, and the play on words between Canedo and Canido, were decisive in his choice. Furthermore, the figure of the dog (canid) and the Galician-Portuguese term “menina” reinforced the suitability of this work for the project.

Is the alleged Banksy mural original?

Alleged Banksy mural in Ferrol – Photo: Christian Rojo

The initiative generated special interest when one morning an alleged graffiti of Banksy on one of its walls. It all started with a bravado from Eduardo himself, who was joined by a well-known Galician beer brand, in which they proposed to get the participation of the best-known urban artist in the world… a certain Banksy.

To achieve this, launched an international advertising campaign and in the places where the artist supposedly lives so that he would know about the initiative and inviting him to participate in the next festival. “Dear Banksy, we have a wall reserved for you,” said the advertisement that could be seen in different cities of United Kingdom and in the main European newspapers.

The artist did not appear at the aforementioned festival, but some time later, Eduardo Hermida received an email from an address that seemed to belong to Banksy’s entourage. In this email, in a concise manner, the exact location of the space that had been reserved for the artist was requested. And, coincidence or not, a few months later, The Canido neighborhood woke up with a surprising work on the wall reserved for the occasion.

Two civil guards kiss on a mural which is very similar to Banksy’s famous work from the Two policemen bobbies, generating all kinds of speculation about its authorship. Eduardo was quick to write to the email he had and the response was as brilliant as it was ambiguous: “Cover the mural with paint and we will confirm if it is original or not.” And Eduardo decided not to cover it up and stay with the mystery.

Banksy’s official response to a query from the AFP agency was that the work was not his and that the artist had never been in Ferrolbut Eduardo is still not so clear about it or, at least, he prefers to continue believing that it is possible. In 2023, the documentary “Welcome Mr. Banksy” was released, directed by Carlos A. Quirós. which documents how the initiative was born and everything that happened before and after the appearance of the controversial mural. Real or self-serving joke? The best thing is to see it and draw your own conclusions.

Although, in reality, it doesn’t matter. What this initiative has more than demonstrated is the capacity of community work to revitalize a neighborhood and place Ferrol on the world map of urban art. The walls, once crumbling and grey, are now alive and full of creativity, attracting tourists, artists and the curious from all over the world.

This community effort has served not only to improve the appearance of the neighborhood, but also to strengthen its social and cultural fabric. Residents have seen how their environment is revalued and have actively participated in a process of change that transcends mere beautification. Canido’s story is proof of the transformative power of art and what can be achieved when a community comes together around a shared vision.

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