Category Archives: May & June

Editor’s Letter

Screen Shot 2018-04-27 at 6.27.12 PM“Every building must have… its own soul.”

Louis Kahn

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. Continue reading Editor’s Letter

24 Hours in Oaxaca

By Alvin Starkman, M.A., J.D.

The city of Oaxaca is rich in museums designed with architectural brilliance, craft shops featuring the best that state artisans have to offer, colorful marketplaces, colonial churches, arguably the finest cuisine in all Mexico, and world renowned archaeological sites only minutes away. Yet some travelers only want to visit for a couple of days within the context of a longer beach vacation; others for merely hours. While I am generally loath to even make suggestions to those who inquire about such a brief jaunt to Oaxaca, truth be told there are visitors with time constraints, who, I realize, deserve a shot at making the most of a day in the city.  If you simply want a taste, this is for you. If you are coming from or going to Huatulco or Puerto Escondido and have a few hours to kill in between connecting flights, then consider extending to a full day. Why? Because you can at least begin to experience the wonders of Oaxaca in a day; and then you’ll undoubtedly be back, and spend more time marveling.  So here it is, a 24-hour whirlwind tour of Oaxaca. Continue reading 24 Hours in Oaxaca

Border Crossings: The Literature

By Carole Reedy

Crossing borders is not a modern phenomenon. The walls, guards, surveillance, and divisions between countries that borders establish have been with us for centuries; the border between Mexico and the US is currently a highly-charged focus of the Trump administration.

Many of our favorite writers explore not only the physicality of borders, but also the emotions evoked and the effect on the lives of people seeking new territories. These authors communicate the human side of the story, in contrast to politicians who view virtually every issue from an economic, self-serving perspective. Continue reading Border Crossings: The Literature

Mixing Cement with Soccer

Screen Shot 2018-04-27 at 6.27.41 PM

By Jan Chaiken and Marcia Chaiken

Last year, during a visit to Mexico City, we were strolling through the beautiful Roma neighborhood and came upon a small doorway at Colima 145, marked “Museum of Objects.”  This oddball museum is dedicated to the ordinary objects of everyday life, and at the time of our visit it was showing exclusively an exhibit about soccer in Mexico (which is called fútbol here). The exhibit included examples of various teams’ uniforms through the years, soccer balls, graphic displays of famous games, and biographies of famous personages in Mexican soccer. Continue reading Mixing Cement with Soccer

Building Mexico: The Many Faces of Mexican Concrete

By Deborah Van Hoewyk

While we can all think of very different examples of Mexican architecture—pyramids, cathedrals, block houses by the roadside–what almost all of it has in common is concrete.  Elsewhere in this issue, you’ll discover that “cement” (calcined lime, clay) is the “glue” that reacts with water to bind aggregates (pebbles, gravel) with sand to make “concrete.”  Cement with sand alone is used to create a smoother mortar for joining blocks.  Continue reading Building Mexico: The Many Faces of Mexican Concrete

Wabi Women:  Fork in the Road

Screen Shot 2018-04-27 at 6.28.57 PM

By Leigh Morrow

Leigh Morrow and Crystal Buchan, Vancouver-based co-authors of Just Push Play– On Midlife, an interactive life-mapping program for midlife women, have created Wabi Women Radio.  The title comes from the Japanese concept of Wabi-sabi, an aesthetic of imperfection and transience; Wabi Women Radio is mapping a new midlife and beyond, seeking a longer, healthier, happier, more playful and purposeful third chapter of life. Continue reading Wabi Women:  Fork in the Road

Cement and Concrete in Mexico

Screen Shot 2018-04-27 at 6.29.12 PMBy Julie Etra

First, a primer. Concrete consists of three basic components: 1. water; 2. aggregate (rock, sand, or gravel); and 3. cement.

Portland cement.  Portland cement consists of limestone and clay. The limestone is essential, of course, but minor elements in cement can vary as a function of the parent material (the native rock formation). Limestone is by definition calcium carbonate (CaCO3) and is a precipitate, or a sedimentary rock, formed from calcareous parts of marine animals. Chalk is a fine form of limestone. Cement is usually in powder form and acts as a binding agent when mixed with water and aggregates. Continue reading Cement and Concrete in Mexico

Adobe/Cob vs. Concrete—Back to the Future?

Screen Shot 2018-04-27 at 6.29.30 PMBy Kary Vannice

Concrete is the dominant building material used in Mexico, much of Latin America and many other regions of the world. Why? The cost is relatively low, and with the use of forms, one doesn’t need a lot of technical or architectural knowledge to build a sufficient dwelling. However, while the cost of a bag of cement required to make that concrete may be nominal—making it easily accessible to nearly everyone wanting to build a home—the hidden cost of cement production is high! Continue reading Adobe/Cob vs. Concrete—Back to the Future?