The controversy jumped because the state authorities decided to remove the word “femicide” from under a tourist sign in downtown Guadalajara. Besides a lack of sensitivity to a series of perfectly legitimate demands, an in-depth debate has opened: what should be allowed and what should not be allowed in the public space? Is any statement true? Does anyone have the right to express their ideas in the city, or do only certain ideas have legitimacy to be public? How long should these expressions stay on the streets and street furniture? I must say that there are no simple answers to these questions, and those who think that they have these questions do not really think about the problem in all its complexity.
Let’s start with an idea: a city is not a monolithic urban mass connected by streets and sidewalks. The city is a great political building. The word itself comes from “Greek” and means: city affairs. Politics was born with the city. Democracy was born with it. The morphology of cities is key to understanding the politicization of cities. Compact cities – European style – tend to have common problems and become politicized around them. Extended cities – the Gringo and Guadalajara model – tend to weaken social ties and, therefore, force families to run their own lives and worry less about life in the community (politics).
The city is a compendium of political symbols. The most obvious sign is the name of the streets. A few years ago, Chancellor Salvador Caro opened that debate in the municipality of Guadalajara. He demanded that the names of members of the Constitutional Revolutionary Party be withdrawn from the city’s streets. Of course, more than a legitimate interest in the neutrality of public space, the councilman used urban symbols to reap electoral returns. However, the street names are a reflection of the power of a particular era. As well as urban effects. Who we respect and who we do not respect is an absolute political decision. Imagine opening a debate among the citizens about the remaining characters in the roundabout of the illustrious Galicians. We wouldn’t agree with half the names.
Urban demonstrations are also purely political. protests against insecurity; for more sustainable mobility; against or in favor of abortion; for diversification by family or families; Specific concerns such as truck drivers or workshops. Not only is it useless, it is also undesirable for the city to cease to be a mirror of political battles. Politics – the art of solving problems in society and civil society – is part of an integrated human life.
So far, I think most of us agree more or less. Now back to the beginning. Political exhibitions in urban space have to do with discussions: freedom of expression (ideological and expression of ideas) and protection of public furniture. As for the first point, the most difficult thing is to draw a line between what is desirable and what is practically undesirable. Here we are sailing in murky waters. Should the state have an official ideology? Acceptable and acceptable ideas? Is the law the limit?
I believe – but do believe – in an expanded vision of freedom of expression. I think we all have the right to take to the street. He is a feminist leftist who fights the patriarchal system as he is from the right and considers that the ideology of gender distorts the youth. Even fascist or openly anti-human rights groups should be able to express their ideas. Throwing a few ideas underground will only empower you. Such a vision assumes that on the walls, squares or parks you will see ideas that you like and others that you do not like. It is a vision of tolerance built on the model of a city without formal ideas and open to pluralism.
The second is to define the limits of expression in general furniture. Is everything allowed? In France, feminists decided to decapitate historical monuments because they represented patriarchal power. In the United States, revisionism has led to demands for the removal of monuments to their racist or slave owners. In Spain, the Democratic Memory Law calls for the removal of any symbol of Franco in public places. How difficult it is to draw a boundary, and on many occasions we draw that boundary from our way of seeing the world rather than from a pluralistic view. Here Rawls’ veil of ignorance will help us a lot. What to remove and what to put in the public space is an incomplete and endless debate.
The bottom line: a social debate and consensus around the rules of the game around the politicization of public space is necessary. No one tip is good: no heritageization of a few that belongs to all, but no indifferent vision of the city as a gigantic, untouchable act. I think it’s a discussion not about institutions (that too), but about society in its complexity. What can and cannot be done in the city is the root of politics.