“Defacimento?” depicts the struggle of graffiti “bombers,” low-income Blacks and Puerto Ricans, specifically in the Bronx, New York. In the piece of work, a silhouetted person is shown being beaten by two policemen. These policemen have a red-colored skin tone, and are very ugly. These physical traits make them seem like demon-like monsters. One even has fangs, further representing his evil-nature thirst for violence. The person they are beating up is a dark silhouette; he is a faceless being that nobody cares about. The blackness of the person could also be playing into the stereotype mentioned in the Style Wars and in Can’t Stop Won’t Stop that graffiti offenders were “Black, Puerto Rican, other (in that order).” (135, Chang)
The colors used in this picture add to its story. The loudness of the bright colors and sloppy writing seem to give the piece of work a tone of recklessness, a sense of urgency, and a lack of tranquility. These tones are congruent with the emotions graffiti writers must feel when they are constantly forced to beware of cops. They must constantly be on their toes to avoid beatings such as the one depicted in “Defacimento?” The bright colors associated with the police suggest their power and confidence, while the dull colors of the victim show bleakness and a lack of hope. One final thing to notice about the piece of work is the drawing above the victim’s head. This drawing makes him look as though he has just been knocked out, and the lines are similar to the stars seen over cartoon characters heads when they are knocked out. This detail tells the audience that the safety of Blacks and Puerto Ricans in the Bronx is treated comically, and nobody really cares about them.
The title, “Defacimento?” seems to be a double entendre. The author of the piece could be talking about defacement, as in vandalism, and asking whether or not writing on public property to provide a message is actually defacement. In Can’t Stop Won’t Stop, Hugo Martinez, organizer of the first graffiti association, says ‘“Graffiti writing is a way of gaining status in a society where to own property is to have identity.”’ (Chang, 118) To the author, graffiti is simply a way for him to make a name for himself and take back his identity, which has been stripped by society. He could also be breaking up the work and thinking about the meaning of its parts. The root “de” means to undo something, or to take something away. The author might be bringing up the fact that many Blacks and Puerto Ricans are treated as nobodies, as represented by the faceless silhouetted victim in the piece of work. Their faces are literally being taken away by the government and the police force. This piece of work sums up the feelings of helplessness and facelessness that were common among many Blacks and Puerto Ricans in the Bronx during the 1970s and 1980s.