|Courtesy of Vienze Ziction on Flickr|
"I believe it's a civil right to live in an environment free of weapons."
Pedro Reyes, Organic Gardening December 2012
When I picked up a copy of the latest Organic Gardening magazine, I did not expect to be reading about guns. To be exact, these were guns that Mexican artist Pedro Reyes recycled into shovels for his exhibit Palos por Pistolas. These guns came from the streets of Culiacán Mexico - home to one of Mexico's most powerful drug cartels - and they were melted down into materials used to make 1527 gardening shovels. Now if you have the chance to see this display of shovels be prepared for more than your typical art viewing, be prepared to use these shovels to plant trees. Planting trees with transformed guns is what what Pedro Reyes asks in return for hosting his art exhibit; these shovels have been used by art admirers in Culiacán and in other cities such as Paris and Vancouver. Now that is what I call art in action. This exhibit gives a way for people to engage with human rights issues by juxtaposing peace and life with violence and death.
I was reminded of Palos por Pistolas this weekend because a horrific act of gun violence took place not too far away from me. I was far enough away to remain safe and physically unharmed, sadly two young women did not have my fortune. I can not get this shooting - all shootings - out of my head. More than ever, Bob Dylan's well-known question resonates with me: how many times must the cannonballs fly before they're forever banned?
What would the world look like if all states embraced Palos por Pistolas? What would the world look like if all people recognized the basic human right to a life free of fear? Although the act of melting guns into shovels will not eliminate arms trades or human rights atrocities facilitated by guns, Reyes' art has turned instruments of death into instruments of life. The Palos por Pistolas project has given people a chance to peacefully resist gun violence, a trend I hope catches on in days to come.