Words of Guerrero


Words cover the city’s streets. Painted signs, advertisements, warnings, graffiti, and propaganda mark the limits of public spaces. Their presence and permanence illustrate the conflicts between people with authority, control, resources, and guile. Each sign is distinct: handwritten fruit labels, promotions at the Oxxo store for one peso, generic supermarket posters, and declarations of love in schoolhouse ink.

Guerrero Texts is a computational linguistic experiment based on the way structure and content, grammar and lexicon, relate in public spaces.

For three weeks, I walked through the neighborhood of Guerrero in Mexico City and photographed signs. I collected the words residents read and write daily. But I also found texts that were not originally from Guerrero, the government’s warnings and announcements. Since they did not form part of the neighborhood’s vocabulary, they looked out of place.

I broke down the grammatical structure of one government mantra: "This program is public, unaffiliated with any political party. It is prohibited to use it for purposes others than those stated in the program." This bureaucratic poem haunts Mexicans from the radio to the television to the streets. I found it in the window of a government office, printed and reprinted to block a view of the interior, like a series of opaque acts.

The sign is the basis for a program that randomly substitutes particles of speech from the photograph collection. The experiment replaces instructions for the general Mexican public with the local lexicon of Guerrero, rejecting the government’s structures of control.

Pablo Somonte Ruano, 2017
for oral.pub
Translation from Spanish by Maya Averbuch
Map from
code available here as free software images available under creative commons CC BY-NC-SA 4.0

contact: herramienta(at)herramienta.digital