“Every building must have… its own soul.”
Falling in love with building is part of the journey of living in Mexico. For me it started 21 years ago when I had the cement floors in my little two-room house in Mazunte redone. The entire process mesmerized me; the mixing of the cement by hand, pouring it onto the floor and smoothing it out with a small wooden pallet.
The mason started in one corner and worked his way towards the door. Then came the powered color that left different shades of streaks as he polished and polished ensuring evenness. Once it was complete the floor felt smooth underfoot, slightly slippery when wet and cool on the hottest days of the Mexican summer.
Working with cement is a staple when it comes to construction in Mexico. The state of Oaxaca has one of the four main cement plants of Mexico. The Cementos Cruz Azul plant is located in the town of Lagunas (population 3,850), in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, 250 kilometers from Huatulco. The factory produces one hundred tons per day of three types of cement: white, gray and mortero (mortar), sold mainly in Mexico and the United States. The plant was built in 1942, due to the great wealth of raw material deposits. It has a railway station that connects with the center of Mexico and the Gulf and Pacific Oceans, which allows many advantages for its commercialization. It also has the advantage that the road connection to the Pan-American Highway is only a few kilometers.
Since those floors in Mazunte, there have been many building projects and homes that serve as markers on my Mexico journey; my marital home in Puerto Angel, my precious River House in Zimatán, various changes in my restaurant, but no project has been as momentous to me personally as that of my cooking school, Chiles&Chocolate.
The reason is that it was the first project I undertook as a single woman. This meant I was the one to communicate with the mason and his crew, explaining what I wanted, listening to what was feasible, negotiating timelines and costs. There were so many decisions to be made and I carefully evaluated each one- asking advice from people more experienced than me along the way.
I have a huge appreciation for each block that was poured by hand into a mold and dried in the sun, each stone that was collected along the river to find its place on our walkways. When we had a setback last June after mud slides during tropical storm Beatrice destroyed part of the structure, it was also an opportunity to learn more and strengthen. We rebuilt- block by block and while the building looks the same as it did before- the process made me stronger than ever!
See you in July,