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Monday, December 14, 2009

Nicaraguan Color

The most distinctive thing about Nicaragua is the color. Every town explodes with color. There is nothing subtle about entering a Nicaraguan town. No earth tones and blending in with the surrounding topography. They are not followers of the Frank Lloyd Wright melt-seamlessly-into-your-surroundings philosophy. When I saw a Sherwin-Williams store in what amounted to a barrio, it did not seem out of place. These people need paint. It is for sustenance. The climate in Nicaragua is such that people live essentially outdoors. Many houses lack windows, and some do not have a real door or even interior walls--the rooms are open into a courtyard. But they are all painted and the brighter the color the better. I asked alot of people about the origins of this custom, but got no answers.

So, I wonder, what does color say about a culture? Not just that black represents death in Western culture, but is a symbol of honor in Japan, but what does an array of colorful buildings say about the people of those towns? Because it is not just one or two houses, it is whole blocks of houses, and the effect is not the San Francisco, ticky-tacky pastel houses. These houses are vibrant and compelling. The effect on me is one of festiveness. I notice an uplifting of spirit, an expectation that I will enjoy myself. In my own home, everything is a variation on off-white. Slightly yellow would be a huge leap for me. But in the hands of others I enjoy it.

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