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Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Moving to Mérida has changed my relationship with color

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Lee Steele
Lee Steele
Lee Steele is the founding director of Roof Cat Media and has published Yucatán Magazine and other titles since 2012. Sign up for our weekly newsletters, so our best stories will appear in your inbox every Monday.
Photo: File

I’ve always had a strange relationship with color. It’s not a thing our family embraced when I was growing up outside Philadelphia. 

Even now, I love grays and I marvel at how many shades of whites exist. I inherited this colorphobia. Mom’s favorite color is beige. Every seven years, she bought a new car and if the lot had something in a neutral tone, the deal was practically done. She thought it matched the house, which was brown. We felt those were tasteful colors. 

Mom’s living with us now in Mérida, and wow has she changed her ways. She’s over 90 now, and her nurses are polishing her nails all kinds of hot pink and jungle red. And she approves heartily. She proudly sports orange shorts and aqua-with-jewel-tone sandals. She’s never looked more adorable! 

She loves living here because there are brightly hued flowers year-round. Back in the northeast, we never even had a patio to enjoy lilacs and tiger lilies — sources of the meager and fleeting color we had worked into our landscape. Now she sits on the terrace at every meal and marvels at the kaleidoscope of color on the other side of the arches. 

I’ve worked in publishing all my adult life, but my first jobs were in periodicals that printed in mainly black-and-white. And my bosses were also color averse. Anything too lively made them think of a comic book, unfortunately. Were we tasteful or just timid? 

I opened up to more space on the color wheel when I started to travel more: to the Caribbean and the Florida Keys, to Murano and Burano in Italy, and finally to Mexico. Each trip was a lesson in embracing pinks, oranges, and greens — the brighter the better.

Of course, many of you dive fearlessly into the rainbow right away. Talavera tiles from Puebla and some regional Mexican handicrafts are the easiest way to start. Pasta tiles, which are more true to the Yucatecan aesthetic, can also be as bold as you wish. Paint choices are endless. No one will judge you for being flamboyant.   

To paraphrase fellow Yankee transplant Craig Saunders in Issue 2, hot pink is the new neutral.

This editor’s note appears in Issue 3 of Yucatán at Home.

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