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Color Me With Hope….

18 September 2006

When I used to travel across Mexico by train, I would have the opportunity to see quite a few areas of immense poverty that you don’t often see by car or bus. While Mexico’s middle class has grown by leaps and bounds, there are many poor who have been left behind. Often, they are struggling families who left their rural homes to seek better jobs in the larger cities. They took huge risks because they were generally unskilled and poor to begin with. Numbers of these families end up “surviving” in the squalid slums like the one from Tijuana pictured (below) or Mexico City on the (above):

After viewing slums in Tijuana, Mexico City, Juarez, Chihuahua etc, I came up with a theory. My theory is that “the color of poverty is brownish/grey”. It’s particulary true of the huge slums on the outskirts of Mexico City where the dirt from the roads and the barren land blows over and through the “houses”. There is no distiction between the land and the sky where the horizon completely blends the two with the brownish/grey polluted air. The monotony of the colorlessness seems endless and reflects the hopelessness of the families who must exist there. The residents of the slums are robbed of the delicious ‘gift’ of color in a country which cherishes color in their every day lives.

Is it any wonder that Mexicans would bring bright colors into their homes if given the chance? When families have the opportunity to express themselves, it’s often done with brilliant shades rather than with soft pastels. Regional cooking is done with a variety of vegetables, fruits and spices which satisfy your eye and palette. Spices, which are unique to Mexico, give your tongue an extra “tingle”. Hot, Hot, Hot! … can be as hot as their colors!

Mexicans and art are synonymous. Expression through art can be seen everywhere in Mexico! Not just in their famous murals or cathedrals. They wear it in their indigenous clothing, they use it in decorating their homes (inside and out). Eye-candy exits even in simple Mayan huts (decorative bowls, and bright hammocks), hair-dos (bright ribbons) and belts in Chiapas. It’s as if colors and designs lift/feed their spirits.

Items from colorful serapes and handpainted tiles for the patios, kitchen walls, or decorative stairways are plentiful in Mexican homes. The styles and patterns are different thoughout the regions, but there’s something for everyone.

How much is too much? If you’ve ever visited the fishing town of Tlacotalpan, you’ll find out that that there’s no limit! This unforgettable town, which is situated along the Rio Papaloapan, is filled with houses, shops and government buildings painted in deep blues, bright yellows, and cool greens along with spicy hot reds. Every color that Diego Rivera ever used has been applied to the buildings in Tlacotalpan.

This is the beauty and artistry that is absent from the lives of the unfortunate families who dwell in the misery of the “left behind” Mexico. So close, but so out of reach.

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