MEXICO: PAINTED SIGNS

by Abellio

Bangkok, 13 January 2015

It was at Tlaxcala that I began to notice it.

We’d taken a bus from Mexico City to visit this small town, since it was described as a nice example of colonial Mexican architecture and town planning. It certainly was pleasant enough, as were Chiapas de Corzo and San Cristóbal de las Casas, two other colonial-era towns which we visited later. The latter two have been declared “pueblos magicos”, magic towns, a slogan dreamed up by the Mexican tourism authorities (clever branding, although I do feel duty-bound to whisper that the pueblos in Tuscany, for instance, or any number of pueblos which my wife and I have visited in Spain, are more magico than Tlaxcala and the two official pueblos magicos that we visited).

In any event, my point in mentioning the visit to Tlaxcala is another. What I began to notice as we walked around the town was the lack of modern signage on the shops. To understand what I mean, let me insert here a picture of the shopping street in Vienna, the Graben, where we often went for a stroll and coffee when we lived there.
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Notice the abundant use of neon shop signs, tacked onto the shop fronts. For better or for worse (and in my opinion for worse; it drives me crazy in this age of climate change to see all those illuminated shop signs blazing out into the night), this is now the accepted and expected type of design for shop signs.

So it was with great interest that I saw in Tlaxcala that shop signs tended to be of the old-fashioned type, painted by hand
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Alerted to this phenomenon, I made sure to get some close-ups of such signs in San Cristóbal
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I began to notice that advertisements were often painted too. The following style of painted advertisement was definitely my favorite, with this particular example coming from San Lorenzo Zinacantán.
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These types of advertisements, to be found on otherwise bare walls, seem always to be announcing some upcoming event. Notice the large, rounded, friendly, inviting font, but placed at a slight angle denoting future excitement, and with a very pleasing colour scheme which starts with a dark colour and shades off into a lighter one. I throw in here some other signs of this genre that I spotted from buses or trains flashing by.
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It would seem that the honorable profession of sign painter is alive and well in Mexico! (this reminds me of a wonderful novel from India, another country with a great sign painting tradition, “The Painter of Signs”, by R.K. Narayan; great novelist, by the way, I highly recommend him to my readers).

Of course, painting on walls has a long and noble tradition in Mexico. This art form must have reached its apogee with the great Mexican muralists Diego Rivera, José Orozco, and David Siqueiros. Already 35 years ago, when we first visited Mexico, we had reverently visited a number of the murals by these artists. This time around, we visited Rivera’s murals in the Secretaría de Educación Pública, just behind the cathedral on the Zocalo in Mexico City. As was his style, they are very political, very “leftie”; they made me and my wife smile as they brought back memories of the excited discussions of our youth. These two murals, “The Capitalist’s Dinner” and “Death of the Capitalist”, epitomize them all.
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In San Cristobal, up some back streets, I saw what I fear are today’s inheritors of Rivera, Orozco, and Siqueiros
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It’s sad really. All that grand, elevated talk of our youth has degenerated into the childish babble of these cartoons. But the rot doesn’t finish there, for Mexico suffers from the same mindless graffiti which defaces so many of our cities

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“Fuck you. I exist”

What are our civilizations reduced to?

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Mariahilfestrasse 1: http://austriacazare.ro/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/mariahilfer-strasse.jpg (in http://austriacazare.ro/shopping/mariahilferstrasse/#photoGallery%5Bgallery-503%5D/3/)
Calle 20 de noviembre , Tlaxcala: http://www.mexicoenfotos.com/estados/tlaxcala/tlaxcala/MX13379190432534&album=01&province=tlaxcala&city=tlaxcala&pagina=6
Avenida Vicente Guerro, Tlaxcala: http://www.mexicoenfotos.com/estados/tlaxcala/tlaxcala/MX13362760603306&album=01&province=tlaxcala&city=tlaxcala&pagina=6
Shop signs, San Cristobal: my photos
Painted advertisement signs: my photos
Cartoon wall paintings, San Cristobal: my photos
Graffiti, Mexico City: http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-hsTD7FnkGKs/UIEueVASNkI/AAAAAAAAAQs/PJ0N-K0omig/s1600/150559_545018925524744_786800387_n.jpg (in http://thevilgang.blogspot.com/2012/10/el-graffiti-de-la-ciudad-de-mexico.html)

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