Sometimes beauty is skin-deep, something that Colectivo Tomate and Comex must have realized. Colectivo Tomate has promoted a Mexico-wide series of mural competitions and Comex, a Mexican paint company owned by PPG, created México Bien Hecho (Well-Made Mexico), a social impact program. Over the last few years they worked together to facilitate the work of local artists in towns like La Cruz de Huancaxtle (where we live currently), La Paz, Guadalajara, Monterrey and many others, mostly on promoting urban mural projects.
Colectivo Tomate is a civic organization that inspires communities to take action for transformation. Since 2009, the organization has intervened in various neighborhoods around Mexico through its Mural City project, which creates links between the neighborhoods’ residents and visitors and captures the stories that evoke the identity of the people and their community.From BusinessWire.com
Mexico is already a very beautiful country with jungles and deserts, mountains and sea vistas, sometimes all at once like here in Puerto Vallarta. But the towns can look dusty and crumbling, at least until you see the smiling faces of the people that make this country deeply beautiful. Comex set out to help with a facelift across Mexico, donating money and paint to communities for mural projects. One project is particularly stunning and apparently the first of its kind. In Monterrey, in the eastern mountains of Mexico, the Comex project entailed painting an entire town – 200-300 buildings. Each building served as a “pixel” of the entire painting of a bird.
Here in tiny La Cruz the efforts were smaller but no less significant. Thirty murals were funded in a 4 block by 7 block area of the main town. The cobblestone streets and one and two story houses jostling for sidewalk frontage have been transformed into a colorful tapestry celebrating the town, its history and its families.
In the days leading up to the gala celebration last Sunday we watched young artists blocking out their designs and beginning to add the colors. The colorful facades were exciting and captivating – as we turned each corner we eagerly looked for the next examples. Some were small, maybe just a section under a line of windows, others soared up the sides of two story buildings or wrapped around upper balconies or crawled across the sidewalk. All the artists I noticed were under 30 and though the styles varied quite a bit they all finished in time and were striking in their own ways. I was as impressed by the variety as by the delight each presented.
On Sunday we joined the group walking around town to celebrate the muralists. At each mural the group stopped and were treated to an explanation of the story behind the mural. Although this was all in Spanish a brief English translation was also given for the handful of us gringos.
Each mural was very carefully designed for the building it adorned. The wall of the elementary school was designed with ideas from the students and staff – and the whimsical result delights everyone that sees it. A family that has lived in the same house for 3 generations had its history celebrated – from the farming that sustained them to the 65 kilo shark the grandfather had caught to the dancing of the first nations that grandmother brought back to town. The stories of the women were told too. The generations of girls married off at 12 were celebrated by a mural commemorating their lost childhoods; a mother never known by her sons was mourned on the wall of another house; the strength of the women – the hearts of the town – were depicted as the loosely heart-shaped giant huanacaxtle (pronounced “wanna-cox-lay”) tree seed for which the town is named. I was very moved by these stories and the warmth of the lives they depicted.
The crowd was of all ages and they all seemed to involved in this new story as well – the meta-story of celebrating their human stories. The party for the artists continued well into the night but us old Gringos left at dark.
These simple painted walls, just skin-deep beauty, once their stories were told revealed the true deep beauty beneath their bright colors. This town knows and loves its history and came together to celebrate it and its new young artists. Viva La Mexico!