In Mexico, most properties — especially houses — are hidden behind huge fences.
While I wish so much of Mexico wasn’t hidden, I understand this fence-me-in obsession on a homeowner level, perhaps because I grew up Texan? We like our personal property, and we like it private — unlike my in-laws’ neighborhood in Minnesota, where there are no backyard fences, which stunned me at first.
In Texas, though, most homeowners wouldn’t dream of fencing in their front yards. Yet in Mexico, the entire property is often ringed by a high wall, making homes of even modest means fortresses of stone and concrete. The need to give in and build a wall is complicated, especially for American homeowners here who try to live here, sans walls.
For a country obsessed with walls, then, it follows that the walls are not merely practical forms of keeping the world out. They also become perfect space for art and advertising, easily erased and re-painted when the need strikes.
Comex, a chain of paint stores, is as common as Starbucks is in Manhattan, for obvious reasons. Muted tones are not their specialty. Our apartment, for example, is painted in “Oaxaca Red,” “Gouda,” and “Tulum,” courtesy of Comex. The bright colors help cover up the reality below — drab concrete (furnished by a similarly-named business in Mexico, Cemex.)
Of course, when you’re pondering cultural trends in Mexico, it doesn’t take long to find ancient references. Walls and wall art feature prominently among the sites of the Aztecs, Mayans, Olmecs, Toltecs….
And walls — or at least the murals painted upon them — figure heavily in not-so-ancient history, as well.
I have to wonder: This national obsession with walls is perhaps why there wasn’t a bigger outcry when the U.S. announced the building of the border fence? Which I await eagerly to be torn down. Eagerly, folks. If only to save the South Texas/Northern Mexico flora and fauna. Obama? You’re in Mexico this week — want to announce you’re tearing down one of the dumbest creations of the 21st century?
Photos by Mark Hess and Bob Walsh