My boss, the executive creative director of the agency and, like me, a foreigner in Mexico, was denied renewal of his residence. The reason: he has an ear piercing. The piercing has to be removed for the photo or he must leave the country. It doesn't matter if the piercing is minuscule or doesn't obstruct the picture. Accepted are faces "disfigured" by scars or leporine lips, but not by piercings.
In Mexico City's Zocalo, the world's second largest square, the photographer Spencer Tunick brings together 20,000 Mexicans of all ages, genders and social condition, who, despite the morning chill, pose naked and exultant before the camera, beating the Guinness record of nude individuals photographed.
This somehow reflects the growing gap between an anachronistic, ceremonious and traditional Mexico, still locked in a culture of "non-change", and a new Mexico striving to find its place in the map of modernity overflowing the old hegemony of powers, institutions, ethics and aesthetics established decades ago.
The spearhead of this new Mexico is a refill generation, still small in relative terms, but growing day by day well connected to the world, fashion, music and all sorts of contemporary trends. It's looking towards Miami or Los Angeles, as well as Berlin, London or Tokyo, with total disregard to the cliches with which the North has often wanted to pigeonhole the country.
It is a cosmopolitan youth that grows with cable TV, YouTube and seven years of democracy after 70 years of single-party government. It is also a youth increasingly immune to the tentacles of Televisa, the Latino entertainment monster that has done more than a bit to shape a culture that neither promotes nor gratifies the ability to think.
And how does advertising end up in all of this? So far, there are still more announcements asking you to take your piercing out of your ear than asking you to take your clothes off in the square. But just give it time.
Mexico is experiencing a transition process (at "Mexican" speed) from its old nationalist, non-competitive, populist, past-rooted reflexes, towards something new and powerful. It is awakening, and has in its favour a lush source of inspiration, being the first economy of Latin America, having the talent of excellent suppliers and - unlike its Latin American neighbours - money.
That's what we from Lowe Mexico understand, and that's why we are parlaying all this into a modern structure, with a multicultural staff capable of generating communication projects worldwide.
One day, we will see a naked client in the square. Then another. And another. And the striptease won't stop.
It's worth noting that my boss finally got his renewal without shedding blood. He erased the piercing from his photo with Photoshop CS3 Extended. That's modernity, too.
- Flavio Pantigoso is the creative director of Lowe Mexico.