Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Querétaro: Try Our Individually Handcrafted Artisanal Highways

As part of the city's ongoing construction of a flaming piranha-filled security moat, workers have been ripping up the streets and sidewalks all over town (usually with sledgehammers, which, as tools for digging trenches go, are inefficient even by local standards) and then patching them up again. It's been fascinating to watch. Because Querétaro is under a governmment mandate to be charming, the streets, rather than being paved with asphalt, are made of rectangular, gold-brick-shaped paving stones quarried from the nearby town of La Cañada, each one cemented in by hand and leveled off against a string tied between two pencils.

The sidewalks, meanwhile, are made up of flat, square paving stones arranged in a diagonal checkerboard fashion, which means that, along the edges of the sidewalk, every other stone has to be cut in half with a grinder. As the sidewalks' widths are wildly inconsistent, each cut has to be measured individually. It's not unusual to see three guys on their knees with mallets and chisels working a single stone into place. Then the spaces between the stones are filled with a cement - plain gray cement for the street, tinted a pinkish-red for the sidewalk - mixed by hand in a bucket and then poured into the cracks from a plastic Pepsi bottle cut in half (always Pepsi, because they're cylindrical; Coke bottles are shaped like Pamela Anderson and lead to spillage). The wet cement is smoothed down with a wet finger and sanded with a stiff brush after it dries. Then, it's on to the next stone.

We're not sure how many miles of sidewalks and roads there are in Querétaro, but it's a pretty large city.

3 comments:

Lazlo Lozla said...

You forgot to mention the effort to re-use as many blocks as they can, so when they are at them with the hammers they actually try to lift them and pile them up in a side, something that makes you think they are just insane. Now, you know mano de obra is extremely cheap in Mexico, compared to good quality asfalt and concrete or even more blocks...

Malcolm said...

God bless the Mexican Department of Public Works.

Jorge Arturo said...

The hand made looks great, because is not perfect, that I like, plus that is jobs (so the government can claim)