Yes, I’m in Mexico now – San Miguel de Allende to be exact. I have the very great fortune to be able to stay at the house of a generous friend until the end of January.
For those who haven’t visited, San Miguel is a beautiful town rich in colonial history, architecture and color. It’s been a favorite of artists and ex-pats for decades and it’s not hard to find aging hippies from Marin draped in Mexican silver strolling the streets. That said, it’s also not hard to find humble Mexican families who have lived here for generations. It’s an interesting balance that keeps this town wonderfully appealing (though personally I could do with a few less Texans and Marin-ites – no offense).
While I was in Morocco, I found many familiar comparisons with Mexico – the climate, landscape, architecture, colors, and warmth of the people. The contrast of extreme poverty and wealth is also obvious in both countries.
Now that I’m here though, I’m finding the differences even more remarkable. The most fundamental is perhaps most obviously based in religious culture, but most striking in comparison. Islamic culture strictly avoids the representation of figures in religious contexts and these are rarely seen elsewhere. One sees no paintings or sculptures of saints, prophets, or historic figures in Morocco.
Mexico, on the other hand, couldn’t be further apart on the spectrum, especially this time of year. Richly embellished churches are “enhanced” by garish exhibits of tinsel and flashing christmas light-draped nativity scenes. And one would have to walk with their head to the ground to avoid seeing shrines of saints and statues of heros on every corner (even Starbucks can’t avoid it… and the fact that we even have one here is a whole other story). Even now as I type this, I’m watched by 7 faces – traditional Mexican dance masks staring down at me.
I love the richness and visual vibrancy of Mexican culture, and growing up Catholic I’m no stranger to icons of saints. But I love Morocco too where words and designs, rather than literal pictures, are the expressions of our human souls.