Adventure International

Holbox Street Art in Mexico

Holbox street art features a young girl.

I can’t even begin to describe my obsession with Holbox street art during my visit to the Yucatan in Mexico. Around every corner, I see wall murals on Isla Holbox. The islanders paint the walls of buildings, doors, alleyways, and fences.

Holbox street art features exotic flowers.

Holbox street art appears on buildings throughout the town.

I wander the sand-packed roads on Saturday night, when I arrive. I am starved for food after my long day to reach Isla Holbox via plane, van and ferry from Washington, DC. After stepping off the ferry boat, I hire a driver in a “taxi golf cart” to take me to my AirBnb. That’s right, no automobiles on this island paradise. Holbox is “Mexico’s car free island,” according to National Geographic.

Maya Girl

Walking to the main street, I come up close and personal with Maya Girl. Her wall size mural takes me totally by surprise. I feel her brown eyes sear me with her unflinching gaze. Yet she is so young. And then I look down to see the little Scottish Terrier who stands guard at the bottom of the mural—her little companion. Clearly, any child visiting Isla Holbox with their family will want to take a photo with this mural as a backdrop.

Holbox street art features a young Mayan girl.

A scottish terrier guards the young girl.

Now I don’t know if the dog lives in a nearby shop or simply is given access to the whole block. I do know that I love to see him every day during my stay in Holbox. And I will never forget Maya Girl.

Jace Jano

I was able to contact the artist Jace Jano through his Instagram account. I asked him the inspiration for Maya Girl. A photo of a young girl inspired his painting.

“The mural of the girl, is based on a photograph of Bruno Morandi; the girl is originally from the Himalayas, Himalayamaya. This mural was made for the first time in 2014 and restored in 2018. The idea of painting a girl from the Himalayas in Mexico … it is in order to break with the borders and to realize that we are all one. The hat has a planet 🌎 with the south to the north and the north to the south … her clothes represent the elements of nature.”

This mural will always haunt me. Her dark brown eyes challenged me to look hard at her, to memorize her face, to ponder how she felt about life. I love that the painter saw her as a borderless girl—a child that could be anybody’s daughter or sister or friend.

I asked Jano about his life as a painter. He said that he has been “painting murals in an artistic way since 2011. Most of the time I live in Playa del Carmen, but at this time I have no base place. I am a traveler.”

Dona Sara

Near the Maya Girl mural is another striking painting of an elderly woman displayed at Painapol. I ate breakfast at this local restaurant frequently during my stay. (Best avocado toast! Cappuccino!)

Holbox street art

Jano said the “Dona Sara” mural of the sage old woman “was commissioned by Painapol (Restaurant) and is based on the photograph of Sara’s grandmother, the owner of the place.”

I suspect their proximity is no accident: Two murals of mujures (women)—one at the beginning of her life, the other a wise woman closer to the end of her life.

Holbox Street Art Video

I photographed 90 murals and wall paintings in my first three days on my trip to Holbox to produce this video. It was a safari. My iphone even snapped a wild cat.
Holbox street art features animals.

Dynamic wild cat is painted on a Holbox building.

How could this little island two hours north of Cancun turn itself in an outdoor art museum? I quizzed locals but nobody seemed to know the artists or the story of the street art. I did a quick internet search that uncovered a blog about the subject.

International Public Art Festival

There was an International Public Art Festival held in 2014. According to Daniel Illescas (Ekza One), resident artist and organizer of REVIVE Holbox in collaboration with The Holboxeno, “we noticed that many murals had worn out. What we tried to do was to rescue the walls that were too deteriorated and create new murals.”
The organizers’ main goal was to turn Holbox into the place with the most murals in all of Mexico, on average. The festival is an open program, so anyone can participate if they can come up with an idea. Participating painters included Cato, Regina Rubio, Capitán Klavis, Jace Jano and Lina Arias.

Journey To Design Blog

Postscript: I highly recommend the blog published by Sarah Fabien. She writes about her travels from a designer‘s perspective. She wrote an article about favorite murals that she saw during her trip to Holbox:

It is a great way to take a virtual art tour with Sarah. And I love her focus on architecture and design.

On my last morning in Holbox before I caught the ferry, I sat in a little bakery. I videotaped “Scotty” as he guarded Maya Girl on the street. It was the perfect way to end my vacation on this island.

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Holbox street art

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  • Sarah
    June 3, 2019 at 3:14 am

    great post! I fell in love with the Maya Girl (and painapol’s avocado toast) at first sight too <3