Oaxaca: A Travelogue

Last week I shared a few photos from my winter-break trip to Mexico. Before that, my brother spent a few days in Oaxaca—a place I’d been to 15 years ago, and which affords me the opportunity to write a few things more about Mexican color.

Oaxaca is state in south central Mexico, and is the site of several pre-Columbian cultures, numerous ancient cities, colonial Spanish churches and bright outdoor squares. My brother’s photos were so vivid just flipping through the viewfinder on the beach; I thought I’d share my notes.

A culture’s sense of color and design reflects the local environment and here, bright Mexican colors get even brighter and more elemental, or as Scott would say, “mas alegre”—make it happier.

Indigo is native to here, as is “Mayan Blue” and the bright red pigment cochineal, made from the insect. These dyes are all exceedingly colorfast and have stood the test of time. And how can you think of Mexico and not think of all that Spanish gold? The natives suffered mightily under their conquerors, and had to be seduced into the new churches replacing their temples.

I close with a slide show of a variety of architectural styles, and leave it to reader submissions for possible color inspirations at home.

Mark Chamberlain, interior and decorative painter

Images: Scott Chamberlain