Introduction of the book
Why are Mexicans fond of Blackletter?
Today in Mexico blackletter can be found mostly in folk functional graphics such as fascia lettering, signage, do-it-yourself advertise¬ments and labels; it has also proven its popularity in tattoos, concert posters and less – but still present – in graffiti. Don't be mistaken by the contents of this book and believe that most folk Mexican lettering a set in blackletter, however. Unquestionably, most folk graphics use roman type in its serif or sans serif versions.
The purpose of this book is to show the presence and anatomy of blackletter in contemporary Mexico, and no examples of roman type are included. The blackletter that adorns countless small stores, shops and service providers all over Mexico has a long history that today enjoys a wholly Mexican twist that caters to the everyday needs of people, from plumbers to cobblers and everything in between. More than a way to create signage, Mexican blackletter speaks volumes about contemporary Mexican culture.
There are many explanations for why blackletter is popular in Mexico. The country's overwhelming colonial Spanish background is still pres¬ent today, not only in the collective unconscious, but also in buildings, plazas and entire cities, some of which use blackletter in their signage to appeal to tourists, who visit these places to see colonial remnants.
Blackletter in Mexico is also associated with Christianity, from divine elegance to exuberant transcendence. Rooted in European religious traditions, the lettering possesses the quality of being above and be¬yond the normal. The same as the religious applications of blackletter instilled European practitioners with the importance of meditative de¬votion, the secular uses of blackletter in Mexico today convey the im¬portance of such daily and simple practices as selling tortas or shoes, and symbolizes the fact that these acts are not just silly little hobbies, but people's lives. Why wouldn't a merchant or craftsperson advertise their service through a form that imparts a sense of lasting for a long time, or even being eternal?
Mexicans are fond of ornaments, colour and contrast because they elicit laughter and fantasies, rituals and sense of place. One needs only to visit the nearest marketplace where all of this is bundled into one tangle of sensory overload. The songs of local music mix with the endless chatter of merchants hawking their wares, from an abundant range of fruits and vegetables, to herbs and plants sure to cure what ails you, to colourful textiles. Every step of the way, as often as the colours change, so too do the aromas wafting off piles and garlands of flowers, and the carts of food vendors, grilling, frying and pepper¬ing regional delicacies. This is a significant reality of everyday life in Mexico and the perfect point of entry for understanding the contexts in which blackletter is embraced and used.
The letterform's characteristics rely on ornaments and contrast, which are both playful and mysterious at the same time. The same as the market engulfs the shopper with its array of stimuli, the conjunction of blackletter characters overpowers the background. Blackletter heavily anchors the symbols by means of its robust structure. It is this structure of the blackletter shapes – amusing, flamboyant, even comi¬cal – that establishes the dialogue with the viewer.
Now you too have the chance to engage in this dialogue with the vast and varied hand-letterers working in and around Mexico City today. Read their signs, study the differences, appreciate the craftsmanship, and come to understand a very real facet of Mexico and Mexicans
that transcends typography.
1st edition 2006, Hb, 98pp, full colour throughout, 26.1 x 31.4 cm