Book Review: New Mexico – a guide for the eyes

I vividly remember my first trip to New Mexico: giant blue skies and adobe everywhere. But really, the coolest thing in my 5th grade eyes was that the local chain pharmacy didn’t look like your typical strip mall pharmacy, it looked like it was straight out of New Mexico! I was instantly in love with this place that didn’t attempt to be like every other city in America, but rather stood out, literally, with a style of its own. But what did it all mean?
A chain store shadowed in the facade of adobe architecture, may not be authentic [New Mexico], but for me it was a stepping stone in understanding and inquiring about the meaning behind a new place. As a kid my parents were my guides. Somehow they just seemed to know everything and where to go. I never remember traveling around with a guidebook (why, when you’re father is a walking map of the world?). Obviously, we survived the trip just fine, but surely there were unanswered questions after it all, but most likely any guidebook wouldn’t have answered any of my questions, let alone teach me new meanings I never would have thought to ask about.
Several months ago Elisa Parhard (you may remember her from this Boarding Pass), a cultural anthropologist, contacted me about her new book series: “Guide for the Eyes.” The concept was simple enough – taking a hundred images from the local landscape – foods, icons, traditions, folk art, symbols, souvenirs – and using these gorgeous snapshots as a way to experience the place. Quickly the book becomes a treasure hunt of new things to try on your travels, but is equally as beautiful as a coffee table book. It’s vicarious travel at it’s best, and more insightful than any travel guide you’ll find on the market, and visual references make it easy to explore.
As you make your way through the book alphabetically, you come across the mundane and the magical. For the first book in the series, New Mexico: a guide for the eyes, you learn things you’d never expect, from what makes a good breakfast burrito to the fact that blue doors on adobe buildings aren’t just there to look pretty (the blue color is symbolic as it wards off evil spirits). And while (sadly), I likely won’t me making it to New Mexico anytime soon, reading through this book makes me feel like I was there (and once again secretly wishing I had come up with the idea for these incredible clever guides first). You chuckle along the way as “lowriders” and “aliens” weave their way along site rich traditions and history, but the result is a compact guide that is true to the place. And, not to worry, Elisa includes some of her favorite “not to be missed” places in the back of the book if you’re still looking for a more traditional guide. {Congrats, Elisa on your first book!!!}

Click HERE find out more about (and pick up your own copy!) of the Guide for the Eyes series. Stay tuned for the next book in the series, all about Japan (the true inspiration behind the project)!


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