Hand_Painted_Sign_Rotulo_Pam_Bristow

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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Mystic Itzá

10/26/2008

I first visited Chichén-Itzá about six years ago and cannot fathom why the entire United States is not obsessed with this major mystical and architectural wonder located a mere 1500 miles from downtown New York City. Perhaps it’s the Mayan blood I have running through my veins, but I’m pretty proud that while Europe was still in the midst of the Dark Ages, these amazing people had mapped the heavens, evolved the only true writing system native to the Americas, and became masters of mathematics. They invented the calendars we use today. Without metal tools, beasts of burden or even the wheel they were able to construct vast cities across a huge jungle landscape with an amazing degree of architectural perfection and variety. The Chichén Itzá complex is unbelievably extensive and includes ancient temples, pyramids, steambaths, sacred watering holes, a marketplace, and a mindblowing observatory. Their legacy in stone, which has survived in a spectacular fashion at places such as Chichén Itzá, (and Palenque, TikalTulum, and Copan), lives on as do the seven million descendants of the classic Maya civilization – including me!

Given this insanely rich history, and its status as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it astounds me that most people I know have never heard of one of the greatest (and conveniently located) Pre-Columbian centers our hemisphere has ever known. So next time you are planning a long weekend in Cancun, rent a car and take a drive 150 miles down the coast, drop your bags off at the magical, sustainable, and impeccably green Hacienda Chichén, and educate yourself, man.

Deadly Beauty

10/01/2008

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.