“What are Improvements”
Bocas new jetty, and bath house

View of the retaining wall/ramp and parking lot, Malecone, (complete with benches and palm trees), and bath house  

Looking at life and art, (I see them as intrinsicley linked), I find myself at different times asking, “What are improvements?”. If we look toward the dictionary for definitions of the word improve we find: “ORIGIN early 16th cent. (as emprowe or improwe): from Anglo-Norman French emprower (based on Old French prou ‘profit,’ ultimately from Latin prodest ‘is of advantage’); -owe was changed to -ove under the influence of prove. The original sense was ‘make a profit, increase the value of’; subsequently ‘make greater in amount or degree.’ And the word improvement coming from: “late Middle English emprowement (in the sense ‘profitable management or use; profit’), from Anglo-Norman French “.

Easy access stairs and ramp to the boats from the parking lot

So the idea of improvement, particularly in the west, has been, not always, but often, linked to that of profit, something that is quantitatively measured. And perhaps by focusing our lens narrowly just on profitability, we loose something in the realm of quality in the process. We can certainly see this through history and in our current affairs where the improvement of profit for a select few is at the expense of the quality of life of so many. We simply need to shift to a different lens of perception around improvement, (something that art often affords us; the ability to step back, gain perspective and think outside the box – or is it perhaps to see “The Whole Box” more clearly). As in art, it is all about intention. Our intention shapes and informs our process, (and product). To shift from profit consciousness to quality consciousness, (quality of life consciousness). In art (and life), this is focusing on the process not the product – the excitement and joy of doing and being, learning, growing, expanding, experimenting, discovering, creating, rejoicing – improving. In art, when we focus on product and profit the work runs the danger of stagnation, becoming shallow and eventually lacking the connection to life force that perhaps we experienced when we were originally creating. As an artist making a living from doing and being art, there is always that balance of continually striving to improve quality, (be in the process as described above) and at the same time, aware that you are creating a product, a “Brand” – that Galleries and collectors, etc. want to “Brand” you for marketing – profitability, (this subject in itself is deserving of a whole other essay).

In the world, this separation of intention, profit vs quality, though rampant throughout society in many forms, is easily apparent in the example of environmental degradation that we are currently a witness to, i.e.: While there are certainly technological advances that would improve the creation and delivery of clean, affordable energy that would benefit the environment and quality of life for all concerned, (as well as in the long term being quite profitable for all concerned), it is being for the most part ignored because it is viewed with the small, distorted lens of profit through greed of short term gain for a few.

So why do I bring all this up when sharing with you the few “minor improvements in Boca”. It has to do with our awareness of striking a balance. Although, with few exceptions, all major cultures have had their hand in colonization, (which boils down to the so-called “improvement” of “others” culture through the imposition of values, etc. of the colonizer, with the intention of profit), the greatest reach in global history falls to the relatively short history of the U.S. This is   perhaps due to technology playing a role as one of the major factors, (along with a generous portion of self serving belief in, white male supremacy,  Manifest Destiny and all that carries, etc., etc.). This is why, as a guest resident in a small fishing village in Mexico, we always encourage our guests to try to leave their cultural preferences and conditioning “at the door” so to speak, so that they can fully appreciate and benefit from a different world view and experience a fresh perspective, (this actually creates the ideal environment for a learning/workshop experience). One of the things that makes this easy is the warm and welcoming hospitality that is part of Mexican culture and is often easily felt in the Boca. We also take great consideration in contributing “improvements” to the village. What are all of our motives and the implications of our desires in consideration of our host community and their values as best we understand them. That is not to say that all our motives are altruistic, we are a business and therefor seek to make a profit, but we also see through the eyes of art. Art recognizes that all things are connected, that we are a part of nature, not separate from her and one global family – so we seek balance. Our kids remind us all to often how Mexican culture has seen the results and changes of colonization, with out benefiting largely from the advances of society sharing in the profits, (and this goes way back in history, not just the U.S but to the Spanish invasion as well).

Construction of the new ramp on the Boca foot bridge, organized by our friend and Casa architect Douglas.

So the building of a large Medical Clinic to a simple walkway, or smoothing of a jungle path or railings by an overhang or bridge, can’t just come from our desire to “improve” the conditions for the safety of ourselves, our guests, and residents, but must be met with a consensus from the locals that this is in fact in everyones’ best interest. Not just because we, the guest, thought it would be safer or even “look better” or whatever. Their society, (like ours), has been changing and shifting quickly under the influence of technology with the added edge, (and one could argue, damage), of the influence of cultural colonization. It is no wonder that some changes take time, people are leery of change, particularly from the outside, for good reason.

New railings on walkway
Many thanks go out to Casa workshop instructor and watercolor master
Lian Quan Zhen for his contribution to the construction projects for the safety of Boca residents and guests!
Join Lian when he returns to the Casa in 2020

One of the special attractions of Boca is that it is a quaint and simple fishing village, with a rural charm with rugged simplicity – a vital, traditional Mexican village with friendly welcoming residents. We hope and pray it doesn’t loose this unique niche in the world for many, many years to come. It not only privileges us of the opportunity to experience life at a different pace and perspective, but to hopefully bring that expanded world view home with us to share.