Blue doors and windows are a common sight in New Mexico, prompting visitors to wonder at their significance. According to Southwestern Homes and Living, “Blue painted doors and windows are a folkloric tradition, and the color’s exact meaning depends upon whom you ask.”
Most New Mexico abuelas (grandmothers) would tell you that the color wards off evil spirits. But because this is an oral tradition, it probably has many local variants. Cordelia Snow, historic sites archaeologist with the New Mexico Historic Preservation Division, says blue doors and windows are found around the world in many cultures. “They are found throughout the area settled by the so-called Pennsylvania Dutch in the eastern United States, in Germany, and elsewhere in Europe,” she explains. Blue as well as other colored doors are also found in Morocco, an Islamic country with deep historical ties to Spain.
Blue has long been associated with the Virgin Mary, and a common explanation is that the color invokes her protection of the home. “But one account I read said the color was a fly and pest deterrent,” Snow says. Likewise, the particular shade of greenish blue may have no special meaning. It could simply be that the color was widely available. Dark blue also is common, and you’ll see many window and door frames in red, green, and even yellow. But whether the tradition is about religion, pest control, or just artistry, it is an important element in Southwestern culture and style.
I found these well-worn doors at the rear of a building along the main road in Encino, New Mexico.
When I was recently in Santa Fé, NM a tourist guide told me that the blue door- and window-frames were a Muslim tradition brought to Spain by the Moors (from North Africa, that is Morocco) who were is Spain and Portugal for 700 years. I plan to ask a Professor of Arabic, from Morocco, that I know about the matter. A friend of mine from Northeast Brazil said that her childhood home in the countryside had blue window-frames.
Thanks for that comment, Kenneth. Let me know what your professor says about it.
I just read it was a Jewish tradition brought to Morocco by Jews fleeing the Inquisition in the 1500’s. Since many of New Mexico’s early settlers were also Jews who had fled the inquisition, this would make a lot of sense.