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I am working on a design project at the moment that has me wrapped up in Mexican roadside iconography. As a Latin American myself who has traveled pretty extensively throughout Central America and the Carribean, what stands out the most from my tropical roadtrips are the classic handpainted signs – Rotulos – that are sadly starting to be replaces by modern, inexpensive computer printing. Until recently, most signs in these third world countries, even corporate ads for Coca-Cola and Corona, were painted by hand.  It’s a business that has thrives in some parts of the world for hundreds of years…

I read an article recently about the fading trade, that is still hanging on in many parts of Mexico. According to the author…

A Se Vende or Se Renta (“For Sale” or “For Rent”) sign with an accompanying phone number can be painted on your façade for under $200 pesos (less than $20 US). This includes materials and the meticulous lettering styles that the artist in question learned at a special school in Mexico City. Hand-drawn signs are cheaper, according to the painter, but many Mexicans prefer to use the more modern services as they think somehow they must look better.

Really?  Um.  Nah.

Hand_Painted_Sign_2_Pam_BristowRotulos_Pam_Bristow

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I am obsessed with Desiree Dolron‘s eerily intimate portraits of Cuban life. Her photographs of classrooms, kitchens, and sitting rooms are Vermeeresque, dark but angelically lit, Dutch Master-style. The beautiful series, titled Te Di Todos Mis Sueños (I Gave You all my Dreams) is just one more reason for me to get back to the motherland.

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Cuban Aisle

10/17/2008

I’m Cuban, and no matter how far I travel or what type of Bruni-vetted restaurant I try, nothing ever tastes better to me than some home cooked Cuban food (preferable made by made by a guy who looks like this.)

I recently made the mother of all discoveries. For a small delivery fee you can have a little Camaguey delivered straight to your door. At CubanFoodMarket.com I can get everything from my grandmother’s churros to the Royal Violets baby cologne I love. You can even buy awesome La Lupe CD’s, Poetry by Martí, and vintage Cuban school yearbooks. Below, some greatest hits… Dale!

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Deadly Beauty

10/17/2008

These awesome crepe paper flowers are traditionally made for use during the Mexican Day of the Dead. Apparently making these folded beauties is a huge cottage industry in Texas’ Mexican communities because big blooming flowers are hard to come by and are really expensive. Nearly everyone there buys paper flowers to decorate their relatives’ gravesites during the Olmec-inspired Dia De Los Muertos festivities. I love them for our stark white living room and cause they won’t poison the dogs.

If you’re ambitious, learn how to make them HERE. If not you can always CHEAT and say you did.

Bru-Ja-Ja

10/16/2008

The explosion of eastern and fringe religions in the U.S. can be attributed to a myriad of causes – from the public flogging the Catholic Church has received lately, to the widespread violence of religious fundamentalists in the Middle East. This big-religion weariness has not only created an unprecedented interest in the Eastern traditions, but also in the cruder (and once taboo) syncretic religions of Santeria, Voodoo, and Palo Mayumbe. According to many accounts, more and more Anglos are turning to these African-based religious traditions for the simpler, non-political, and more organic spiritual experiences they offer.

As a Cuban American, I am most familiar with Santeria – a tradition that emerged in the 1600’s when African slaves arrived in the New World and were immediately baptized en masse by the Catholic bishops. Their religion suppressed in this strange new land, they clung to their beliefs by attributing the virtues of each of their holy deities to a Catholic Saint. Now they could worship freely under the guise of Catholicism.

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