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Sun, Surf, and Screen Printing: A report from la zona serigrafica

(September 2004) posted on Thu Sep 16, 2004

Discover Mexico City's most densely populated graphics-production district.

click an image below to view slideshow

By Andy MacDougall

A few weeks later we landed at Zihuatenejo-Ixtapa airport on the Pacific coast, rented an awful car with a two-squirrel-power motor, and headed for Cuerna-vaca 650 miles away to join our friends Juan and Octavio Toledo, a father and son team who run TOC Maquinas Industriales. TOC is a well-respected Mexican graphic-equipment manufacturer that supplies screen and offset distributors and printers in Latin America with large-format presses, exposure systems, UV dryers, and other products.

Into the Zone

Octavio had agreed to take us into the south central part of Mexico City to visit the screen-printing Zone located in Colonia Algarin and Colonia Obrera so that I could get some pictures and tour a few of the shops. We would go to what I can only describe as the most unique area I've seen on the planet when it comes to the graphics trades. The Zone covers about five city blocks, including portions of Isabel La Catolica, Jose Toribio Medina, J. H. Davalos, 5 de Febrero, and Peon Contreras. There you'll find literally hundreds of shops involved in businesses related to screen, pad, and offset printing, as well as diecutting and other finishing processes.

Dealers sell machinery, inks, and supplies, plus services like embroidery, engraving, film production, and screen reclaiming. This concentration of print equipment and services has, in turn, attracted suppliers of printable materials to the area who sell shirts, hats, work gear, advertising novelties, and graphics substrates such as paper, cardboard, plastics, and vinyls.

In between, behind, and over top of these commercial operations--and for blocks around--are printers of all types, many of them small operators working out of apartments and sheds. This symbiotic neighborhood defies conventional urban-development logic and exists as both a throwback to medieval cities with their specialized trade districts and as an example of another possibility--a future where small, independent shops locate side by side with their suppliers, bringing just-in-time delivery to a new level. One-stop shopping without a mall. What a concept!


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