For many of us, the first thing that comes to our mind when we think of Mexico is: colour. You find it everywhere, its architecture, food and clothes. The use of colours dates back centuries in Mexico. The Mayans (c. 2000 BC), for example, assigned a colour to each cardinal point:
Colours also play a spiritual role in Mexico. The Huichol Indians, for example, who live in the Sierra Madre in Mexico, are famous for their use of colours. They were never Christianized and, therefore, continue shamanic traditions that date back to pre-Columbian times. They use colours as a language to communicate with gods and spirits of sacred sites. The higher meaning the Huichol Indians assign to colours is also evident in their
artworks, such as their jewellery, or yarn figurines and paintings (or examples, see here, here, and here). Indeed, on our travels we have met Huichol people who explained to us that their colourful artworks are based on visions they have during spiritual ceremonies that typically involve the consumption of peyote.
In Mexico, many colours used for textiles and pottery are natural, derived from plants, earth, or insects. Natural colours are increasingly in demanddue to health and environmental concerns relating to synthetic colorants (even though, of course, some plants are poisonous, too!).
Here are some of the natural colours and shades that you can find in Mexico, many of which are used for dying textiles, particularly in Oaxaca and Chiapas:
Indigo Blue: derived from the Indigo Suffruticosa, a flowering plant;
Carmine red: derived from the cochineal insect, which is a parasite living on cacti;
Yellowish red: derived from the seeds of the Achiote, a shrub/bush;
Brown, yellow-red, purple black: derived from the extract of the Haematoxylum campechianum tree;
Yellow, red and orange: derived from the flower of the cosmos sulphurous;
Blue: derived from Texotlalli, a type of soil in the Mexican State of Michoacan;
Blue: derived from the Murex snail.
The vibrant colours throughout Mexico are especially addictive and striking for those of us who come from or have lived in North and Western Europe, or North America, where the dominant colours are shades of white, brown, and black. These geographical differences in the use of colours has made us wonder about a possible relationship between the colours used in the architecture, arts, etc. of a country and the temperament of its people. So far we'v been unable to find any information about this, so if you have some ideas on it we'd love to hear from you!
Who doesn't need a bit of colour in their life?