Palas por Pistolas is a campaign for the voluntary donation of weapons, which are subsequently destroyed and melted down into shovels. The shovels are then used for the planting of trees. During the first campaign, 1527 weapons were collected. These were turned into 1527 shovels, which have been used with the aim of planting 1527 trees.
The project was initiated by artist Pedro Reyes in collaboration with the Botanical Garden of Culiacán, a city in western Mexico. The Botanical Garden in Culiacán commissions artists to produce site-specific installations in the park. On this occasion, the Garden participated in the realization of a project that had a broader and more profound impact.
Culiacán has one of the highest rates of gun-related deaths in Mexico, so the first step was to make the public aware that there is a direct relationship between crime and the number of weapons in circulation.
Several television advertisements were prepared by the local TV station, inviting citizens to give up a weapon. The TV spots enacted situations in a soap opera style. In one of these scenes, a father looks into his sons closet. He finds a gun and says, “I don’t want my son to be a murderer”. The next scene is set in City Hall, where the father is handing the gun to a woman who thanks him politely. This character was cast carefully so he could not be mistaken for the military, the police or any other authoritarian figure.
A local chain store sponsored the campaign, so that those who gave up a weapon received in exchange a coupon that could be traded for electrical appliances such as fridges, computers, microwaves, etc.
The television ads ran for a month and a half, and everyone had two weeks to surrender the weapons and benefit from the coupons.
We had to make it clear that there would be no questions asked. The important thing was to collect as many weapons as possible, without asking questions about their purpose in the past
The weapons were taken to a military base where they were destroyed in a public action by a steamroller.
Teenagers undergoing their military service helped to remove any non-metal parts from the weapons.
The gathered metal was sent to a foundry where the 1527 weapons were ultimately destroyed.
The metal was then sent to a factory to be manufactured into shovels. One of Mexico’s leading firms in the production and distribution of tools produced a special edition of shovels made of this recycled material.
A text on the handle of each shovel explains the story of how the weapon became a tool.
These 1527 shovels have since been sent to various museums, schools and cultural institutions, where they have been exhibited, together with documentation that illustrates each step of the process.
Every time the project is exhibited, the planting of a tree is organised. Local forestry experts advise on the best choices of trees for each venue.
In schools, this project has been a very important lesson to show the kids how an agent of death can be turned into an agent of life, and how this positive effect can be replicated in other spheres of human activity.
We ask everyone who has planted one of the 1527 trees to look after the tree and send photos of how it has been growing.
Our goal is to replicate the entire campaign in as many cities as possible.
Are you also interested in planting a tree?
Are you connected to a cultural or educational institution that may be interested in organising the planting of a tree?