Folk housing is a symbol of material culture that geographers, anthropologists, and architects often employ in understanding regions and places and the people that live within them. The folk house serves as a clear expression of human culture. Due to the continuity of traditional lifeways throughout Mexico, even in the northern borderlands, I use the folk house as an appropriate tool in which to interpret the cultural landscape. The preservation of cultural heritage and the relative abundance of traditional folk houses is impressive, especially in light of proximity to the United States and the increasing presence of globalization. The built environment in this region, especially in many of the smaller towns and rural areas, retains a charm that is reminiscent of places further south in Mexico and the rest of Latin America.
The traditional built environment in northern Mexico manifests a complex cultural history as well as practicality and adaptability to environmental conditions. The variety of folk house types reflects a syncretization of multiple cultures, most notably Native American, Spanish, and, to a lesser degree, pioneer Anglo-American influences. While these traditional dwelling forms reflect cultural history, they continue to manifest the interrelationship between the inhabitants and their environment, especially in regard to climate, vegetation, and available resources. Each of these house types, whether it be the more ubiquitous flat-roofed adobe dwellings of the drier lands, the gable-roofed jacales of the humid gulf coastal lowlands, or the timber cabins of the highlands, reflects both the cultural and environmental forces at work. The overarching intent of my research in Mexico’s northern borderlands is to emphasize its folk cultural landscapes as surviving symbols of sustainable relationships between people and the earth.
|Keywords:||Folk Housing, Cultural Landscape, Culture History, Adaptation, Sustainability, Mexico’s Northern Borderlands|
Associate Professor of Geography, Department of Political Science and Geography, Francis Marion University, Florence, SC, USA