Mexico City neighborhood dubbed ‘Sprayfield’ is an outdoor museum of Simpsons murals

It's a play on words between “spray,” for the type of paint, and Springfield, the famous town in which the Simpsons live

Lesson #
June 4, 2018

A group of artists called the Night Lords has turned vacant walls into graffiti murals of The Simpsons in Iztacalco, a neighborhood of Mexico City. Over 15 murals are up and five more are on the way. Neighbors who were initially skeptical now embrace the project. Plus, learn how to use the English phrase "˜on board.'


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Transcript

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A neighborhood in Mexico City has become an outdoor Simpsons museum

Welcome to Episode 52 of Plain English, the podcast that goes at just the right speed for English learners. I’m Jeff and today is June 4, 2018. On today’s episode, you’ll learn how graffiti artists have painted murals depicting characters and scenes from The Simpsons all over their neighborhood, near the center of Mexico City. And the building owners in the area are all on board. At the end of the episode, I’ll show you how to use the phrase “on board” like I did just now.

Remember that all episodes of Plain English come with a free online transcript—and the transcripts are not just ordinary transcripts, either. They are interactive transcripts. That means if you speak any of our five supported languages, you can see instant translations from English to your language. And this week we debuted Japanese as our fifth supported language. So in addition to Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese and French, we now have instant translations of key words and phrases into Japanese. The transcript of today’s episode is at PlainEnglish.com/52.


Graffiti artists bring ‘Springfield’ to streets of Mexico City

If you’re a fan of the animated television series The Simpsons, then listen up: a neighborhood in Mexico City is covered in murals featuring your favorite yellow characters.

Though its official name is Infonavit Iztacalco, this neighborhood just to the southeast of Mexico City’s historic center is more popularly known now as “Sprayfield,” a play on words between “spray,” for the type of paint used in graffiti murals, and Springfield, the famous town in which the Simpsons live.

Sprayfield is a collaboration between local graffiti artists and building owners. The artists, who go by the name Night Lords, noticed that there were a lot of empty walls in the neighborhood, and those walls had graffiti tags on them. This type of graffiti seemed dirty and aggressive to the residents of the neighborhood, contributing to the sense that the area was unsafe.

So, the local graffiti artists wanted to do something about it—the question was, what? They needed a theme that was non-threatening and enjoyable for everyone. That’s when the idea hit one of the artists: Why not the Simpsons? They’re lovable, universally recognized, and generally pretty harmless (except sometimes to themselves, but that’s another story). And one thing you have to admit about The Simpsons: they’re entertaining.

Once they had the idea, the artists went door-to-door, building support for the idea. Not everyone was on board at first; some were skeptical about it. But the artists showed pictures of their previous work and ideas for their murals and eventually won over the local residents. After their first mural was up, public support in their neighborhood was a lock.

Now, six months later, there are 15 murals and five more in progress. The neighborhood is an open-air graffiti art museum, with drawings of all shapes and sizes. Some of the more well-known graffiti artists in Mexico have come to participate as well, and they’ve had calls from people in other countries too.

The Night Lords are the organizers and they are responsible for finding new locations and getting public support for new murals. Then, the individual artists are responsible for coming up with the concept, which must include a theme or character from the Simpsons. The artists also have to buy their own supplies and pay their own expenses. They sometimes have to raise money to do so.

One thing that is no longer a problem is support from people in the neighborhood. The group says that they initially had to ask for permission from building owners to lend their walls to the project, but now building owners are approaching them, asking to be part of the project. They sometimes lend artists their ladders and art materials.

Some of the murals are dedicated to famous episodes or characters; others are more obscure, referring to secondary characters or others that appeared only once on the show. There’s Blinky, the three-eyed fish, Snowball the cat, a lot of Bart, including one of him dressed up as his imaginary superhero Bartman, and of course a lot of Homer. You’ll recognize some of the famous phrases, like Bart yelling “Ay Caramba!”

My favorite, though, is a mural showing Springfield Police Chief Clancy Wiggum shouting “Hey!” and holding a ticket with the names of the artists written on it—and of course, Chief Wiggum is clutching a donut behind his back.

Where can they go next? The group has ambitions of expanding beyond just walls in the neighborhood and doing something on a larger scale—for example, whole sides of buildings like schools, and to cover the buildings from top to bottom. They would also like to do a similar project in another neighborhood.

The Simpsons were a great choice of a theme. For one thing, there are so many episodes and characters to choose from. But they’re also very distinctive and they’re cross-cultural. People all over the world know the Simpsons, and you can enjoy the murals whether you’re an expert and know all the episodes, or if you’re like me and you just catch one episode every now and then. And the drawings are great, too—they’re true to life.

So, check it out. Next time you are in Mexico City, or especially if you live in Mexico City, take the Metro to Ixtacalco station and have a look. Oh, and if you’ve been there or if you know about this area, send me a note about what you think of it and which is your favorite mural. I’ll put a link in the show notes to the article that has some good pictures of the area.


I want to say hello to a couple of new friends this week. First up is Rodrigo from Belo Horizonte in Brazil. He was telling me about all the good things to do outdoors in his part of the country. Second, I also want to say hello to José, a science teacher from Monterrey, Mexico. And last but not least, Marco from Pisa, Italy, where I visited as a twelve-year old. Marco sent me a picture from Pisa today and it brought back some good memories from the school trip I took to Italy as a youngster. Thank you and hello to Rodrigo, José and Marco. I’m happy to have you all in the audience.

If you’d like to get in touch with the program, you can find us on Twitter and Facebook under the user name PlainEnglishPod. Another great way to stay in touch with us is by getting the show announcement emails. For each episode, I send out a summary of the main topic, an explanation of one additional word, and links to the English articles I use to prepare the show. If you want to get those emails, just go to PlainEnglish.com/mail and enter your details there.

¿Hablas español?

The transcript of this lesson is available with interactive translations into Spanish. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

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你说中国话?

The transcript of this lesson is available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

How can I access the translations?

Translations are included in two memberships: Plain English Plus+ and Starter. Choose a plan and get started today!

Parlez-vous français?

The transcript of this lesson is available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

Can I see a sample?

Yes, please visit PlainEnglish.com/sample to see a sample episode with the Spanish translations.

How can I access the translations?

Translations are included in two memberships: Plain English Plus+ and Starter. Choose a plan and get started today!

Você fala português?

The transcript of this lesson is available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

Can I see a sample?

Yes, please visit PlainEnglish.com/sample to see a sample episode with the Spanish translations.

How can I access the translations?

Translations are included in two memberships: Plain English Plus+ and Starter. Choose a plan and get started today!

日本語は話せますか?

The transcript of this lesson is available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

Can I see a sample?

Yes, please visit PlainEnglish.com/sample to see a sample episode with the Spanish translations.

How can I access the translations?

Translations are included in two memberships: Plain English Plus+ and Starter. Choose a plan and get started today!

Parli italiano?

The transcript of this lesson is available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

Can I see a sample?

Yes, please visit PlainEnglish.com/sample to see a sample episode with the Spanish translations.

How can I access the translations?

Translations are included in two memberships: Plain English Plus+ and Starter. Choose a plan and get started today!

Sprechen Sie Deutsch?

The transcript of this lesson is available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

Can I see a sample?

Yes, please visit PlainEnglish.com/sample to see a sample episode with the Spanish translations.

How can I access the translations?

Translations are included in two memberships: Plain English Plus+ and Starter. Choose a plan and get started today!

Sen Türkçe konuşmayı biliyor musun?

The transcripts of Plain English lessons are available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation. Turkish translations are available starting at Lesson 278.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

Can I see a sample?

Yes, please visit PlainEnglish.com/sample to see a sample episode with the Spanish translations.

How can I access the translations?

Translations are included in two memberships: Plain English Plus+ and Starter. Choose a plan and get started today!

Mówisz po polsku?

The transcript of Plain English lessons are available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation. Polish translations are available starting at Lesson 278.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

Can I see a sample?

Yes, please visit PlainEnglish.com/sample to see a sample episode with the Spanish translations.

How can I access the translations?

Translations are included in two memberships: Plain English Plus+ and Starter. Choose a plan and get started today!

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