Sunday, October 20, 2019

There is nothing like the fresh smell of sunshine-dried clothing!

Isla laundry day 

Driving around the Isla Mujeres on a sunny day you may notice many houses have a clothesline strung across the front, festooned with brightly coloured clothing snapping in the Caribbean breeze. It’s a custom that is acceptable in many European, Mexican, and Latin American countries where clothes drying from rooftops and balconies is an art form. Yet, in other countries it is considered to be vulgar, or low-class to hang your laundry on the line.

Venice Italy 
How odd that standards have changed so dramatically since I was an elementary-aged kid, tasked with hanging the sheets, pillowcases, and garments on our backyard clothesline. 
In the warmer months it was a pleasant task, but in the winter months, we also had below freezing temperatures that created havoc with wash day. 
I remember laboriously hanging the laundry on the line and then a few hours later being directed by my mom to remove the stiff, frozen items as the temperature rapidly plummeted.


Isla - solar-drying
Here in Mexico, islanders who use a clothesline also learn to keep an experienced eye on the weather. A sudden squall off of the ocean can ruin a day’s work in a few minutes – soaking the clothes, delaying the drying time, or entirely shutting down washday if the rain settles in for a few hours. 
When we first moved to Isla in 2007, I was entranced by the idea of line-drying our sheets and towels. I asked our builder, Patricio Yam, to install a roof-top line for me. Then for the next six months I trundled up to the roof, carting my freshly washed linens, happily pinning them to the line.  
Venice Italy

Ah, fresh sun-dried sheets!  An hour later I would return to remove the laundry … to find everything wrapped like fat sausages around the line, over and over and over again. Still wet. The Caribbean breezes had been playing games. 

Eventually after fighting the wind and rusty clothes pegs that left non-removal marks on everything white or light coloured – I gave up. I now use our propane-fired dryer. It’s not the healthiest option for the environment, but on the windy side of the island it’s the one that works best for me.
Environmentally friendly solar-drying 
Solar drying – yes, that’s the new socially-acceptable name for airing your gonchies in public – has many environmental and financial benefits. Of all common household appliances, electric clothes dryers are second only to refrigerators in energy consumption. 
France - not allowed in the snooty neighbourhoods.
A natural gas or propane dryer is cheaper to operate but electricity is still required to rotate the drum. 
So, why have some communities or individual strata-developments banned line-drying? 


The most widely quoted reason is, “to ensure aesthetics and make sure that the common areas and look of the building is kept neat and clean at all times.” 
There’s no arguing with tastes, but clotheslines can be beautiful. They are flags of freedom; freedom from dirty energy and expensive power bills.
Hopefully the colourful clotheslines on Isla Mujeres won’t disappear entirely. They are so much a part of Isla’s character.

Cheers from paradise!


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