The Bakalarte Festival was first held in 2016, celebrating art and poetry in the town of Bacalar, one of Mexico’s “Pueblos Mágicos” (Magic Towns) and namesake of the renowned Lagoon of Seven Colors. Following its staging almost every year since (minus exceptions during the COVID-19 pandemic), its main legacy for the town has been over 100 murals and other pieces of street art, which have now come to define it almost as much as the lagoon.
Tania Sol Portillo, of the “Una Luz Para Mi País” (A Light for My Country) Association championed the festival as a way for features and cultural expressions important to the people of Bacalar to be represented artistically. This is definitely the case with three murals that show the water snail known as chivita. These snails are endemic to the lagoon and prized for their meat. Two of the murals, painted by Sr. Papá Chango (Mr. Monkey Dad), use fantastical creatures and bright colors to highlight the snail, while a third depicts it with a more realistic simplicity.
Owing to a reduction of habitat due to development around the lagoon, as well as its waters changing chemistry due to ever-increasing numbers of visitors and overexploitation, chivita populations have been steadily decreasing. The species is likely to be endangered soon, if not already, so efforts to raise awareness of the issue have become more pressing with time. If nothing else, these walls are one way to give more visibility to this small but crucial gastropod.
Know Before You Go
Sr. Papá Chango is the artist behind two of the murals featuring the snail. The most central of these is located on 7a Avenida, in front of Bacalar's main church, the Parroquia de San Joaquín. The other can be found further south, along Adolfo López Mateos Avenue, close to the Rafael Ramírez Primary School.
In order to preserve the delicate ecosystem home of the chivita snail and rare stromatolites, please refrain from using any skincare products when going in the lagoon, as well as any motor-based water sports.