Saturday, February 07, 2015
signs of our time
During our loop through Mexico last month, I started shooting signs. Some funny. Some ironic. Some confusing.
I had this great idea of compiling them into one essay -- until I noticed I must have deleted several of the best while transferring them from my camera.
But a good idea is a good idea. Even those that suffer in the execution.
So, here is a somewhat eccentric distillation of my trip with Dan and Patty through the country in which I have chosen to live.
As you know, I am a sucker for toilet humor -- humor involving toilets, that is. Or urinals. Such as the shot at the top of this essay.
This is what I found when I walked into a Pemex rest room on our way to Oaxaca. Anyone who has traveled our roads knows that rest rooms are always a crap shoot. You never know what you are going to get.
For whatever reason, the urinals at this particular stop had gone missing. The pails were not replacements. At least, I didn't use them for that purpose. They appeared to be there only to catch water draining from the plumbing to nowhere.
And this sign baffled me. It is usually posted over a toilet -- letting the user know that toilet paper is not to be deposited in the bowl, but in a nearby waste paper basket.
But there is not a lot of toilet paper involved in using a urinal. On the other hand, I have seen some of the most unusual items discarded in them.
I suspect the stall may actually have once hosted a toilet -- or a very literal sign poster was simply following what he thought he had been told.
Not surprisingly the theme in Oaxaca was anarchy. It appears that the teachers who love going on strike each year (or their untaught students) have a penchant either for the reddest of leftist views -- or the more untamed anarchy version.
Anarchists (and socialists for that matter) are proud of the old maxim: "Property is theft." I guess that is why they have no qualms about defacing other people's property. Vandalism? Theft? It's all the same in the fevered swamps.
The first version was on a university building. This one was on a shuttered piece of private property.
I had to look up Flores Magón -- it appears the sprayer may have had his own spelling problems. Flores Magón was an anarchist credited with being one of the little candles that started the Mexican Revolution flame. He died in Leavenworth Prison (yup, in the United States) for fomenting anti-war sentiments during the First World War. That old Progressive Woodrow Wilson knew how to put an end to anyone who tried to steal his left wing.
Speaking of graffiti, this little number caught me off guard in Xalapa. I assume the author was importing a bit of ghetto patois to the mountains of Mexico.
Or this neon job in Colima.
"Grafiti and piercing?" It took me a moment to remember that "grafiti" in these parts is not just brainless slogans sprayed on a wall. But "piercing?" Is that really a Spanish word?
One of the most realistic signs I spotted on the trip was at the entrance to the Mitla archaeological site.
"Recommendations." How polite is that? No scolding. No finger wagging. Just one adult talking to other adults.
I wish I could have caught the shot I wanted. There was an Italian young woman standing in front of the sign reading it -- while smoking a non-recommended cigarette.
You may have seen this one already. It was in a market in Juchitán de Zaragoza. Like the cigarette-smoking Italian, I have a certain anarchic streak when it comes to "no photography" signs. I like shooting them.
If I had had my way, I would have been shooting while wearing a forbidden ball cap with my forbidden sunglasses while smoking a forbidden cigarette. OK. Forget the cigarette. But what is with ball caps and sunglasses?
And while we are on the topic of smoking. I guess it is only a matter of time before the forces of control caught up with the historic raison d'être of the very existence of some establishments.
When I saw this brilliant plaque in Puebla, I knew I had to have it.
What better antidote to the fatuous plaques that populate many a wall. (Or maybe that are simply re-working Proudhon's commentary on property.)
But I am glad I quashed the purchasing urge. It turns out the phrase is not that original. It was in every souvenir shop at each of our subsequent stops. Curmudgeons r Us must have made a killing on stocking the shops.
And there you have it -- Mexpatriate's particular take on what Mexico looks like if you dig a little deeper.