"Why did you choose to live in Mexico?"
It must be one of the most common questions around the local haunts frequented by foreigners. We have even played the game in my Spanish class.
There are a predictable list of answers that people who have moved here "simply adore." As vague as they are predictable.
The food. The people. The culture. The weather. And, yes, the colors.*There is no arguing with the fact that almost everything in Mexico is far more colorful than anything up north, with the possible exception of Miami. But that exception proves the rule.
Houses. Signs. Nature. All seem to have conspired to paint Mexico in shades far more brilliant than the average burgher from Belgium would appreciate.
And most of the combinations work together. Remember that color wheel in the eighth grade with its complementary shades? It seems to be second nature to Mexicans. If you see jarring color combinations here, you can almost be certain they were chosen by some northerner hoping to look "local."
But color sense is not universal here.
I have a pair of Ecco shoes. They are the third pair of the same design. So light and unobtrusive, they almost feel like dancing shoes. They are my favorites.
But even more than the fit, I liked them because of their color. It was a reddish brown -- almost a shade of mahogany. Exactly the color a shoe designer in Milan would spend months trying to get just right.
Unfortunately, the rocks in our local streets and fields combined with my old man shuffle have not been kind to the shoes. Within about a year of wear, they looked as if I had tried to polish them with a bench grinder.
Unlike some of the fancy colonial towns in the highlands, we do not have ranks of shoeshine chairs in our plazas. What we have is one guy who occasionally shows up to shine and repair shoes.
I looked for him for several weeks, but I could never find him. I assumed he closed up shop when the northern tourists returned to their summer ponds.
Yesterday, while walking through my neighborhood to Spanish classes, I saw him. He lives about two blocks away from me. I went back to the house, picked up my scuffed shoes, ad dropped them off for a good polish. His expression was rather glum as he examined the remnants of what had been a good pair of shoes. He told me they would be ready when my classes were over.
When I returned, he was just finishing up. The shoes looked a bit odd to me -- as if they had been re-colored, instead of polished. We talked a bit, and I discovered that is exactly what he had done. But he made it quite clear that they were exactly the same color as the original dye.
They weren't. What had been Italianate mahogany was now somewhere between Minnesota gumbo and the shade of brown on counterfeit designer bags.
But they looked like new shoes. New shoes from Value Village. But new. Shiny and ready for strutting my stuff in Barra de Navidad.
And that is good enough for me. No one here is the least bit concerned if my shoes are an off shade.
After all, this is the land of the bejeweled sandal. And that is just the guys.
Nancy -- hit it.
* -- I will skip over the oft-repeated patronizing canard that all Mexicans have lovely singing voices. That is an essay of its own.