This gang answers the question often asked in Mexico “Who would buy that?”
Everyone who comes to Mexico started off as a Tourist and Tourists make mistakes. The most common mistake is buying something in Mexico, taking it home, sobering up, realizing it looked quite different in Mexico and unloading it at a garage sale. When they return to Mexico and in particular to San Miguel and the AWAKENING occurs they know they will never make that mistake again or ever become “The Person who Bought That”.
But the AWAKENING is not the same for all who come to San Miguel. For some strange reason, it is not Guidebooks nor Lost and Found in San Miguel that causes the AWAKENING but the Power Parrot
For some, once they purchase this cute little parrot and give it cute little Mexican name the AWAKENING occurs. They realize not only can they own a house, but they can now decorate their complete house for under 200 pesos. This Power Parrot will lead them to discover others. This Gang forms not in El Jardin but in the Tourist Shops of San Miguel. They know when they see a Tourist holding the POWER PARROT, and not snickering, then this Tourist is theirs. They start a conversation and suggest the Tourist buy this
Who can resist another set of Wind Chimes with a sun, moon and stars theme? There can never be enough clanging in the backyard. With purchase two, this Gang will soon have a new member.
This Gang is unlike all the other Gangs. It is completely unaware of the existence of other gangs in San Miguel. Collecting what they call Mexican Folk Art occupies their whole day. They have no time for the Jardin. They don’t read Atención because it never showcases their Art Form. One look at the prices in an Art Gallery and they know one purchase would shoot their decorating budget for ten years. They can tell at a glance the kind of person who would buy those items which no else would ever buy.
However this Gang, is known to all the other Gangs and really has two names. They call themselves the Mexican Folk Art Gang while the rest of San Miguel call them the Who’d Buy That Gang. It is considered the lowest level Gang. A favorite expression in San Miguel is “You know who would buy that?” followed by gales of laughter.
To avoid making purchases that would get you cast into the Who’d Buy That Gang, members of every other gang are given the Top Ten No Buy List. The purchase and display of any item on the list would lead to expulsion from your gang, banishment to the Mexican Folk Art Gang, and years and years of shame.
Top Ten No Buy List
So here is what must avoided.
1. Onyx Bookends in any form. These are dangerous and several have been featured as weapons on Law and Order. In fact one single, lonely male resident in San Miguel met his untimely end when the bookcase over his bed collapsed and an Aztec God Onyx bookened landed on his head. Well that is what his executrix said before she sold his art collection.
2. Aztec Calendars. Few, who display these in their house, refer to any day as the Fourth of Hueytozoztli or the Ninth of Quecholli. But turn a Mayan Calendar into a clock and you are on the list of those to shun.
3. Pre Columbian Art Reproduction. Put the words Pre and Reproduction together and this gang is on it. Pre means old and Reproduction means cheap.
4. Sequined Mexican Sombreros. Art is great art when it can serve two functions – Wall Filler and Party Clothes. Imagine being able to take something off the wall, put it on your head and go to a Fiesta. This gang calls this Functional Art. The rest of San Miguel calls it Avoidance Art.
5. Talavera Everything. The source of Talavera Pottery is Dolores Hildago. Its proximity to San Miguel means the ability to fill a house at discount prices. But Talavera is addictive. It starts with a small serving dish, then larger bowls, then a complete dinner serrvice, and then the Talavera Sink. Several gang members have been forced by their spouses to join the Talavera Recovery Group following the purchase of the following item and spousal refusal to do any business in it.
6. The Problematic Frida Kahlo. There is a fine line between Frida the Icon of Feminists and Frida the Elvis of Mexico. Drawing that line is impossible for this gang. Anything with Frida on it is golden. But be warned if you see this bamboo curtain covering a door. Open the curtain and you know that you will soon be entering Decorating Hell.
7. Sun, Moon and Eclipse These Gangs live in a land of many moons and suns.
9 . Rustic, rustic, rustic. It’s a look…if you own a ranch numbering more that 40 hectares, you cannot call yourself both cosmopolitan and describe every piece of furniture in your casa as “rustic”. If the majority of your furniture is worm eaten, the doors won’t shut, and wobbles, some editing is required. Sure, it is (VERY) exciting buying a 12 drawer dresser for $299 US, but will the drawers shut? Ever?
10. Corn Husk and Paper Flowers in every available vase. Real flowers are expensive and die. But these are cheap and last forever. Imagine the joy of finding some, discarded after a party among the empty wine bottles and half eaten canapes.
Deb Hall of Zocalo Folk Art in San Miguel was kind enough to provide me all the ideas and sources for this post. She must be congratulated for creating this definitive list to help anyone in San Miguel avoid being considered part of the Mexican Folk Art Gang. As an exclusive, I was able to get a picture of her house and this comment
And here’s a photo of our house. I may be the WORST offender of all.
A member of the Spiritual Gang has been dispatched to Deb’s house.