mad in pursuit travel notes: mexico

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Tuesday, 5.4.04: Puebla, Mexico

Puebla, Mexico[<<< previous] Puebla is about the walls and their surfaces. On any given block, the buildings in the historic center of town all flow together. The open spaces are not in between buildings but in their interior courtyards. The structures are built of squared off stones or bricks, faced with smooth stucco or concrete, then painted. An abandoned building or one damaged by earthquake can't realistically be torn down without massive reconstruction of the adjoining structures. So they are left alone.

Besides, Puebla has been designated by UNESCO as a Cultural Patrimony of Humanity site. The Mexicans are committed to preserving the distinctive colonial Spanish style.

But then again they are poor. This isn't like Paris, where lots of wealth supports the maintenance of lovely old buildings.

Puebla, MexicoSo, the concrete chips. The paint wears thin. The years pass. Out of the blues and corals and ochres and golds a grungy texture emerges. My suburban eyes at first only saw "needs a paint job!" But the more I looked, the more I was charmed by it. After a while the weather-beaten paint looked like the patina of an old piece of furniture. Or maybe it's like an old man preferring to wear a well-tailored but threadbare suit, rather than buy a new but cheesy discount store version.

I'm sure the Pueblans would love to have their beautiful buildings all scraped and painted. But I admire their resistance to tearing them down and replacing them with nondescript poured concrete and aluminum siding.

In general, I like the Mexican refusal to "go American." They honor the past (even if it is not economically sensible), while we raze entire center cities and replace history with crap.

Puebla, MexicoThis independence also extends to politics. There is lots of news in the local papers about Presidente Fox taking Fidel Castro to task. Diplomatic relations are strained, if not completely broken, over some specific incidents too arcane to go into here.

Of course, then George Bush rushes in with his statements about needing to "help" Cuba "transition to democracy" by tightening the screws more on Fidel. And everyone knows this is a cynical attempt to win over right-wing Cubans in Florida. But, in typical Mexican fashion, Fox quickly distanced himself from Bush and began to soften his rhetoric about Cuba. Mexico has always maintained an active trade relationship and cultural exchange with Cuba. They are not going to let Bush blow it out of proportion for his own advantage.



UNESCO designation of Puebla as a World Heritage site.


5.2.04 Puebla, Mexico

5.3.04 Puebla, Mexico

5.4.04 Puebla, Mexico

5.5.04 Xalapa, Mexico

5.6.04 Xalapa, Mexico

5.7.04 Papantla, Mexico

5.8.04 Papantla, Mexico

5.9.04 Papantla to Puebla, Mexico