For The Love of Mexico – A Color Fiesta –
Like stepping into Technicolor from a movie set of black and white, the initial visual effect of Mexico is startling. Each winter when we arrive in Manzanillo from our home in the north, our eyes sense a need for adjustment. Is it just the bright sun? Vivid colors greet us like over-energized long lost friends. “Welcome back, amigos! Wear your sunglasses! Have your camera handy!”
Our Minnesota certainly can boast spectacular colors too in spring, summer and fall, but ours are the more subdued sort. We take great pride in our delicate but short-lived tulips and peonies, the subtle greening of the dormant trees, the summer bursts of showy gardens, the reddest red tomatoes on our garden vines, the yellow-orange-red show of autumn, the shimmering pale waters of our many lakes. But then, with the dialing back on sun hours, we turn to find beauty in the neutral palette of winter…the monochromatic shades of brown, the black and white. Beautiful in its own right. But gee, I’m sleepy.
Mexico colors vibe like a party. Flowers, fruits, ocean, sky, textiles… all are in on it, it seems, to get us in a lively mood. At the coast, the stark white beach condos play up the stunning natural surroundings. The palm trees wave against the sunny sky. The Pacific pounds with rainbow sprays. Hibiscus are lush. Markets bulge with an array of fresh fruits like a color chart gone wild, and alongside are stacked the classic Mexican blankets, the colorful sarapes, each more striking than the other.
And let’s not forget the shops and houses, notably not a one in white or beige or gray – but rather, the boldest yellows, greens, reds, oranges, pinks, turquoises, lavenders, and in eye-catching match-ups. Who says there are any rules? Then, perhaps my favorite: The captivating Mexican blue…that intense blue-purple that makes its mark, say, outlining a window or door, or an accent on a ceramic design, even on tiles in swimming pools. That blue also shows up on the rims of glassware, now popular here in the north too. Is that indigo? Cobalt?
Terracotta seems to be the mat for framing this warm and lively culture. From the mineral rich clay of Mexico, terracotta has found many uses – from ancient earthenware and sculpture to modern floor tiles, roofing tiles, and decorator planters. The brownish-orange hues of the simple clay compliment whatever fiery color is with it. Mix it up! Let’s try bougainvillea reds/pinks/oranges/magentas with a backdrop or accent of terracotta, and it says “Mexico!”
Mexicanos themselves dress in vibrant colors. The colorful folkloric costumes of Mexico’s indigenous groups each tell a story of that people dating from before the Aztecs. The swirls of skirts, the multi-colored embroidery on Mariachi jackets, the ribbons and the sashes. A color extravaganza. And those colors have transcended the generations – just attend any Mexican festival to see the same dizzying array of lively color combinations on young and old.
As for us foreigners from the north – it’s no wonder we standout in our appearance, and it’s not just our mostly fair-skin and light hair. Our wardrobes for the most part are, well, on the dull side. We call it classic or stylish, those muted tones. But after a stay in Mexico, even the most reserved of us will show a playful side with a colorful spark…possibly a vibrant piece of jewelry or a hand-sewn purse, a loud beach shirt, an embroidered belt in blues and purples with a touch of orange. Then we tuck these things away for our next visit to Mexico.
This engaging neighbor Mexico doesn’t hold back on inspiration, so bold and proud with its colors. We can’t help but take note. I admit that our home in Minnesota is one of those monochromatic neutrals – “Proper Gray” is the name on the label of the paint can. But inside we have an orange wall.
So continues my blog “For The Love of Mexico”
In process my book, “Mariachi, Running Off To Mexico…on Beach Property, Retirement, and Crossing Borders”