Sounds odd, doesn’t it? In my mind, Mexico does not resemble Europe, despite having been colonised by europeans. And, let’s be fair, after visiting Mexico, I can still stand by this. Mexico doesn’t feel like any European place I have been to, and I am far from thinking this is a bad thing.
For architecture admirers, Mexico City is indeed a place where we can feast the eyes to a number of different and intriguing architectonic pearls. But what is interesting to me about this, are the mixed feelings I got.
Spanish Colonial style buildings are everywhere, a reminder of the conquest of Mexico by the Spanish in 1521. These buildings are beautiful, with its bright, happy colours, and the refreshing varandas. But my thoughts were not always so happy. When you think about what this conquest meant to the indigenous people. When you think about the great amount of heritage that was destroyed. Which takes me to the the great churches and cathedrals in Baroque style, again Spanish legacy.
Catholic churches also represent the so called second conquest – the spiritual. Locals were forced to change their beliefs, suspend their spiritual, religious practices, abandoning their Gods. Their temples destroyed and its stone used to build the New Era the spaniards suddenly had come to start.
But what really reminded me of Europe were the Art Nouveau and Art Deco details in some buildings, alongside the neo-classical columns and façades. This comes from modern times, but still no better. At least not for the people of Mexico. We are talking about times of dictatorship. Hard times for the people, the workers. With low pay, extremely poor working conditions, unemployment rates being high, and access to education difficult. At the same time, the government was sponsoring these large buildings, with chandeliers decorated in gold leaf and staircases sculpted from marble. All of this when thousands struggled to eat.
So this is the thing. I cannot go to a place, admire its beauty, absorb its culture, learn their traditions without neglecting the dark side of it. If I have been privileged to enough to be able to travel across the Atlantic and land in Mexico, I have the duty to understand the hardships of the people, the darkness of their country, their History and their heritage.
So does this mean we are not to enjoy the golden sunshine of an interior? The craftsmanship of a Baroque façade or the the elegance of a Art Deco hall? No. I think we should enjoy it. But bearing in mind its real cost.
Come fly with me: @nic.in7
More about Mexico City here.