For the Love of Concrete

Mexicans have a genuine love affair, one more convincing then grayed men in Latin soap operas passionately embracing portly divas -- a romance with stacking and pouring concrete. The ability to sculpt concrete seems as indispensable a test of manhood as is hauling the sacks of Cemex on ones back.

Working with concrete must be quite rewarding. Ever present and cheap it assumes any shape desired and apart from the occasional slumping gives the appearance of solidity and permanence. Unlike the passions on Mexican TV however, the grey marvel doesn’t age gracefully. Beautiful as the colors of the houses may be, painted peeled, repainted and faded, rich layers of complementary colors that work only in the heat and company of tropical plants and memory of the reef, the infinite variety of greys, slight surface changes and rough patches appeal to an aesthetic more refined than my own.

The building of sidewalks here is a private affair, a display of personal pride and ingenuity. In the absence of norms for the heights of curbs, the spacing of steps, or the quality of workmanship even a single block’s walk presents countless steps, slopes and patches. This wouldn’t be a major problem were it not for two for-one drink specials.