Bangkok, 13 January 2015

It was at Tlaxcala that I began to notice it.

We’d taken a bus from Mexico City to visit this small town, since it was described as a nice example of colonial Mexican architecture and town planning. It certainly was pleasant enough, as were Chiapas de Corzo and San Cristóbal de las Casas, two other colonial-era towns which we visited later. The latter two have been declared “pueblos magicos”, magic towns, a slogan dreamed up by the Mexican tourism authorities (clever branding, although I do feel duty-bound to whisper that the pueblos in Tuscany, for instance, or any number of pueblos which my wife and I have visited in Spain, are more magico than Tlaxcala and the two official pueblos magicos that we visited).

In any event, my point in mentioning the visit to Tlaxcala is another. What I began to notice as we walked around the town was the lack of modern signage on the shops. To understand what I mean, let me insert here a picture of the shopping street in Vienna, the Graben, where we often went for a stroll and coffee when we lived there.
Notice the abundant use of neon shop signs, tacked onto the shop fronts. For better or for worse (and in my opinion for worse; it drives me crazy in this age of climate change to see all those illuminated shop signs blazing out into the night), this is now the accepted and expected type of design for shop signs.

So it was with great interest that I saw in Tlaxcala that shop signs tended to be of the old-fashioned type, painted by hand
Alerted to this phenomenon, I made sure to get some close-ups of such signs in San Cristóbal

I began to notice that advertisements were often painted too. The following style of painted advertisement was definitely my favorite, with this particular example coming from San Lorenzo Zinacantán.
These types of advertisements, to be found on otherwise bare walls, seem always to be announcing some upcoming event. Notice the large, rounded, friendly, inviting font, but placed at a slight angle denoting future excitement, and with a very pleasing colour scheme which starts with a dark colour and shades off into a lighter one. I throw in here some other signs of this genre that I spotted from buses or trains flashing by.

It would seem that the honorable profession of sign painter is alive and well in Mexico! (this reminds me of a wonderful novel from India, another country with a great sign painting tradition, “The Painter of Signs”, by R.K. Narayan; great novelist, by the way, I highly recommend him to my readers).

Of course, painting on walls has a long and noble tradition in Mexico. This art form must have reached its apogee with the great Mexican muralists Diego Rivera, José Orozco, and David Siqueiros. Already 35 years ago, when we first visited Mexico, we had reverently visited a number of the murals by these artists. This time around, we visited Rivera’s murals in the Secretaría de Educación Pública, just behind the cathedral on the Zocalo in Mexico City. As was his style, they are very political, very “leftie”; they made me and my wife smile as they brought back memories of the excited discussions of our youth. These two murals, “The Capitalist’s Dinner” and “Death of the Capitalist”, epitomize them all.
In San Cristobal, up some back streets, I saw what I fear are today’s inheritors of Rivera, Orozco, and Siqueiros
It’s sad really. All that grand, elevated talk of our youth has degenerated into the childish babble of these cartoons. But the rot doesn’t finish there, for Mexico suffers from the same mindless graffiti which defaces so many of our cities

“Fuck you. I exist”

What are our civilizations reduced to?


Mariahilfestrasse 1: (in
Calle 20 de noviembre , Tlaxcala:
Avenida Vicente Guerro, Tlaxcala:
Shop signs, San Cristobal: my photos
Painted advertisement signs: my photos
Cartoon wall paintings, San Cristobal: my photos
Graffiti, Mexico City: (in

Published by


I like writing, but I’ve spent most of my life writing about things that don’t particularly interest me. Finally, as I neared the age of 60, I decided to change that. I wanted to write about things that interested me. What really interests me is beauty. So I’ve focused this blog on beautiful things. I could be writing about a formally beautiful object in a museum. But it could also be something sitting quietly on a shelf. Or it could be just a fleeting view that's caught my eye, or a momentary splash of colour-on-colour at the turn of the road. Or it could be a piece of music I've just heard. Or a piece of poetry. Or food. And I’m sure I’ve missed things. But I’ll also write about interesting things that I hear or read about. Isn't there a beauty about things pleasing to the mind? I started just writing, but my wife quickly persuaded me to include photos. I tried it and I liked it. So my posts are now a mix of words and pictures, most of which I find on the internet. What else about me? When I first started this blog, my wife and I lived in Beijing where I was head of the regional office of the UN Agency I worked for. So at the beginning I wrote a lot about things Chinese. Then we moved to Bangkok, where again I headed up my Agency's regional office. So for a period I wrote about Thailand and South-East Asia more generally. But we had lived in Austria for many years before moving to China, and anyway we both come from Europe my wife is Italian while I'm half English, half French - so I often write about things European. Now I'm retired and we've moved back to Europe, so I suppose I will be writing a lot more about the Old Continent, interspersed with posts we have gone to visit. What else? We have two grown children, who had already left the nest when we moved to China, but they still figure from time to time in my posts. I’ll let my readers figure out more about me from reading what I've written. As these readers will discover, I really like trees. So I chose a tree - an apple tree, painted by the Austrian painter Gustav Klimt - as my gravatar. And I chose Abellio as my name because he is the Celtic God of the apple tree. I hope you enjoy my posts. Klimt/big/Apple Tree I.jpg

2 thoughts on “MEXICO: PAINTED SIGNS”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.