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FAROS Crafts Factory

The Fabricas de Arte y Oficios (FAROS) are a series of community centres that provide marginal communities with the resources to learn about creative mediums and to exercise their own artistic prowess. Since their inception in the 1990s, the centres regularly hold film and photography exhibitions and conduct workshops that expose community members to new creative skills. Following the election of the first democratic government of the Federal District in 1997, Benjamín González rode the wave civic engagement and—along with some of his colleagues—founded what has come to be a world-renown exemplar of social and creative services.

The concept of the FAROS was also heavily inspired by the CESCs in Brazil, a series of arts and culture centers that were commissioned and built by Brazilian state authorities in the 1970s. The role of these CESCs was to increase the accessibility of recreational facilities for communities in impoverished conditions to allow them to participate in sports, theatre, crafts and other such creative activities. It is with this same mission that González decided to create a space in which communities could allow the creativity of its citizens to flourish, even in low-income areas that did not typically have the resources to do so. The FAROS have gained traction amongst these communities due to the service they provide as both a physical space and a canvas for street artists. The FARO’s ability to contribute to the livelihood of their resident districts have even brought non-participating members of these communities to appreciate the presence of the centres in their neighbourhood.

The first FARO was established in the borough of Iztapalapa, the most populated district of Mexico City and often the subject of photographs demonstrating the city’s excessive density. In the late 1990s, the FARO was built as a centre where art and culture could have a place and furthermore be in proximity to one’s own home. This kind of social infrastructure is especially necessary in communities as socially and geographically isolated from the city centre as Iztapalapa. The building in which this first center is now located was originally intended as an office space designed by the architect Alberto Kalach. The project’s construction stopped before it could be completed, leaving an abandoned shell that was soon thereafter taken over by criminal activity. In 1998, the building was taken over by González and his crew, who turned it into a creative education centre where over a thousand participants per session would register for their workshops. Soon the Ministry of Culture took notice of the FARO’s societal value and began supporting the project financially, opening 5 new centers in various peripheral districts.

With a total of 6 active centers, the FAROS are continuously involved in the same movement towards the people’s conquest over the city that first inspired its creation; they continue to enrich underserviced neighbourhoods around Mexico City and help relieve social isolation for various demographic groups within them.