Mexico country of contrasts #1: Keep & Fix vs Throw Away culture

Visiting Valladolid made us see two very different sides of Mexico.

On the one side, there were dozens of small shops selling regalos (children’s presents) that were filled from floor to ceiling with Chinese manufactured cheap plastic toys, there were mobile phone shops with walls of plastic phone accessories and very cheap high street clothes shops (even more cheap than H&M). These were all signs of Western throw-away culture, all too common where we live (think H&M, new phones each year, home refurbishing  for the sake of boredom, cheaper to buy new than to fix…).

IMG_4930On the other side, was a culture reparador of making things, of having things that last and fixing things if they’re broken. We saw an electronics store with old fat TV’s that looked like a junk yard but where each item worked or could be used for pieces. Andrea got her watch fixed in the most incredible clock repair shop. Never seen so many spare parts randomly scattered around but I’m sure he knew exactly where everything was. Needless to say the cost of repair, new battery and labour cost was cheaper than just the battery in Sweden.

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There was also a great appreciation for craft and hand-made things, from hand embroidened beautiful traditional white dresses with flowers to hammocks and sandles, being hammered away or drying in the sun. Andrea and I both got a pair of beautiful handmade leather sandles which we’re delighted with.

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Then as we were leaving, the plastic zip on our bag came off! Needless to say our bags are quite full so we needed to close it. The time was 11, our bus was at 1pm and panic kicked in. having seen all these craftmen at work, we thought we should check. Very quickly, they pointed us to the man 4 blocks down the street who was specialised in fixing zips. No signage whatsoever, just a stable door leading into the oldest most dusty workshop and an 80 year old man peered up to ask what I needed. I’m sad not have brought my camera, his workshop was the most timeless room I have seen, unchanged since the 50’s I have no doubt. After showing me his preferred zippers and agreeing on a price, he agreed to get it done by 12.15. It was done on time, beautifully and worth every penny.

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It feels instinctively like a generational split, with most of the throwaway shops with younger customers and seemstresses being older ladies and cobblers  very old men. But perhaps that’s over-simplifying things and both of these simply live in parallel in a more subtle Mexican culture. From our point of view, the zipper works perfectly, our sandles are the most comfortable we have ever had and Valladolid has given us a refreshed appreciation for handcraft and Keep & Fix culture. Let’s start appreciating classic things made well and keep them working.

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