I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The exterior of an American house is the mirror image of the interior of the home (which is unsurprisingly boringly mundane, however expensive).
Mexico and some of the places I’ve visited in Asia are the complete opposite. For example, what lies behind any Mexican door is a complete mystery. Even an old adobe wall, covered by a well worn tile roof, with a single outfacing wooden door might open up to reveal a multitude of potential interiors ranging from the most humble and sublime to the palatial.
In Mexico, the interior architecture most definitely does not reflect the outward facing facade. The interior architecture, while somewhat rigid given its Spanish roots, still maintains the fluidity of the building materials – namely mud. If you can imagine it, you can build anything out of adobe mud.
The furnishing in a typical Mexican household do not come from places like IKEA. Most traditional homes are furnished top to bottom – from plates and dishes to tables and chairs – with what was made by a craftsman locally.
These particular contrasts between cultures positively fascinates the hell out of me. And I want to give my opinion on that at some point here but for now let’s begin with a house I saw in La Manzanilla yesterday.
At the very end of my last post, ‘La Manzanilla de La Paz’, I showed in a photo a brownstone wall running at an oblique angle on the left side to a long narrow courtyard it was adjacent to.
It had a single wooden door (more ornate than most):
The door opened into a small colorful vestibule:
And the hacienda’s floor was composed of hand polished individually placed stones unlike any stone floor I’ve ever seen. It was not uneven like cobblestone but unusually smooth:
The vestibule opened into a glassed off part of the courtyard:
The wood doors in the photo above open into the courtyard proper. Please keep in mind that any of these old hundred plus year old Spanish style haciendas here in Mexico are composed of adobe and shaped in a square configuration around a central element of exposed courtyard that generally contains a garden of flowers and ancient fruit trees.
The entrance to the dining room is both from the covered kitchen as well as from the open courtyard.
The entrance to the salon:
I have a few more dozen photos of this lovely place including a couple photos of a surprisingly affectionate pure white stallion that was stalled on the eastern most side of the hacienda.
He crossed his stall when I approached. Sniffed my offered hand, nuzzled it and gave me an approving lick. I petted him and he moved even closer.
Everything I saw in this magnificent old house was all about honoring family and tradition. There were no ostentatious displays of wealth. Hell, there wasn’t even the ubiquitous big screen TV; in fact there was no TV, only a music player.
Now in the US, what you see on the outside is what you get on the inside. That statement is unequivocally true. If you’ve got money (or want people to think you do anyway) then the outside of your house – the face presented to the street – is going to reflect that.
And if there are any photos in that typical house of American affluence, than they are also going to be a reflection of that same kind of lifestyle. There might be one or two photos of your parents or maybe your grandparents on their wedding day but that’s about it. All the other framed photos are ski trips to Aspen or that holiday in Hawaii.
There can be no question in your mind why I value my tiny little life here in Mexico. Smile and tip your hat to a woman in one of these old pueblos and she might just invite you in for a cup of tea; or maybe even a meal.
Talk to that poor old raggedy dressed campesino out in the valley and chances are he’ll invite you to share his meager lunch of tortillas and beans.
Courtesy goes a long way here in old Mexico and the reciprocity is almost embarrassing in it’s unconditional and nonjudgmental hospitality.