Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Yuctecan Still Lifes: A Walk Around the Corner

Assignment: See what kinds of photos I could make on my routine walk to the store around the block where I buy the morning paper. The round trip takes less than ten minutes, and I did not allow myself to take much more time than I normally do, nor deviate from my normal path. This means not crossing any streets: to get to the store I turn left out of my front door and walk to the corner where I make another left, and continue to the next corner where I turn left once more. Tendejon Miguelito is a few doors down the way, just about back-to-back with my house. I walked to the store, observing, and bought the newspaper. On the way home, I took pictures. They reveal details about life and culture "por mi rumbo," in my neighborhood.

#1. (above) A barred security door, propped open against the wall of a house. Someone slipped an advertising flyer into the bars. This is a daily occurrence in Mèrida, where many families do not have internet or receive the newspaper. Advertising is often done via these types of leaflets.

#2. Trash in a planter. Some wrappers, a plastic spoon, a bottle, two chunks of cement and what appears to be a photo of a child soldier in the Mexican Revolution have been discarded in this planter in front of a home.

#3. Old bakery. This late 19th or early 20th century-style building has been empty ever since I moved onto the street. During the Yucatàn hennequen boom of this time period many Mèrida buildings were renovated or built in this Europeanized style. I am told this once was a factory or a bakery. Some of the original wooden doors, like the one on the right, were replaced by modern steel overhead doors, a common practice over the years here in Mèrida where a good proportion of the oldest buildings were converted to industrial, retail and warehouse use. For years this building has been for sale or for rent, but nothing ever seems to happen. Recently workers have been painting, cleaning and renovating the facade. The sacks contain some of the rubble and debris from the work that presumably will be hauled away some day.

#4. Renovated house. These neighbors decided to redo the facade of their old house, creating a garage door where once there was a window, and putting ceramic floor tile on the lower part of the facade. Supposedly these types of alterations in the Centro Historico are prohibited, but many flaunt the rules. Or perhaps this house is modern enough to be exempt. Maybe no one noticed. Whatever the facts are, they redid the front of the house. It's not exactly to my taste, to be gracious about it, but everyone has a right to their own aesthetic.

#5. The carpenter car dealer. This building is just about five doors down from my house. The guy, who seems to be a Chilango (from Mexico City) and is definitely not Yucatecan, used to build and sell furniture, tables, chairs, shelving, beds, things like that. Now he seems mostly dedicated to selling used cars. These he often has parked along the street while leaving his huge private parking lot empty, taking up a lot of the limited public parking and annoying some of the neighbors. However, mostly he seems to play very, very loud music and invests his time cruising around in a convertible, top always down and with his elbow resting on the window ledge, or holds court on the sidewalk with a six pack and various neighborhood characters. You get the idea. About a year ago, he built this coffin, and it has been outside leaning against the front of his shop since. Maybe the person who ordered it got better. Maybe the buyer put off making his last payment until it was too late. Or maybe the carpenter made it as a joke. He did have the lid open and a mannequin dressed up like a monster laying inside for Halloween. I like it; brings up the neighborhood a bit. Best thing that guy's done around here.

#6. Neighbor's door. Frankly, looking at the front of this house with any kind of concentration gives me vertigo. Fortunately it's not directly across from my house, so I don't get dizzy walking out the door. A lot of homes in the city have some tile on the facade because it is more durable and requires less maintenance than a painted surface. This tile pattern apparently was fairly popular some years ago.

#7. Gilda's tree. This is a piece of a flor de mayo, or plumeria tree that my neighbor and friend Gilda put out against the front of her house to be taken by the trash collectors, who apparently balked at hauling it away. After resting there for a few days, it fell over and stayed that way, as you see it here. Right after I took the photo, someone collected it.

#8. Neighbor's plant. Three doors to the north of my house is a very old, very traditional home. When the doors are open you catch glimpses of chandeliers, paintings and old furniture that look like they have been there since great grandma's day. In the front garden there are several potted plants. This is one of them, in front of a window grille.


  1. Marc,
    Great writing! I love your description of a walk around the block. The photos are lovely; the coffin was a little haunting until you explained why it was there.

    A couple of Mexicans are working on the teacher housing project behind the school. Its been great to speak Spanish again. Seems like I am always homesick, wanting to go back to Mexico, to enjoy the culture, la gente amable, and to speak Spanish. I wouldn´t mind drinking a little Mexican hot chocolate in this cold winter weather. Hace mucho frio aquí. Its 20 below today.

    Thanks for writing your blog. Its great to read when I am feeling nostalgic for México.

  2. Thanks for the positive comments. In writing this blog, as in many endeavors, I often find that the simple and everyday things are the most interesting.


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