Using a word dating back from the 1860′s, the casita might just be the original tiny house. The Spanish diminutive of casa or house is used to describe a small Latino style home, usually sharing space with other homes its size. My husband and I spent a portion of the holidays in Baja, Mexico, and stayed in a casita near the marine sanctuary of Cabo Pulmo. Each of these tiny houses are part of a small village that is completely off the grid. The villagers’ power comes from solar panels, generators and propane.
These types of Baja casitas are typically made out of cement blocks and are coated with a few layers of cement, which is rounded over the corners of the blocks. Other casitas in Mexico are made of adobe brick and coated with layers of mud and straw. The cement blocks help to keep out the desert heat and block El Norte, or the heavy winter winds that come from the north.
Some will have flat roofs that can be used for summer sleeping, storage of a water catchment system or solar panels. Others will have a palapa or palm frond roof. This is more than just a romantic idea. If a hurricane hits the area, the owner of a house with a palapa will only lose a fairly inexpensive roof rather than having to replace the tiles or shingles of a more expensive roof. Palapa roofs are surprisingly watertight and still let in fresh air and let out heat.
Usually some sort of deck or veranda will extend the casita’s space and will be used for cooking, eating and sleeping. Simple overhangs of vigas and latillas or branches and twigs will be used for blocking the sun, but still letting in light.
Due to a casita’s open relationship with the elements, a low wall is sometimes built around the house to keep out unwanted critters, but occasionally you might find yourself sharing a casita with a happy cricket and a lizard or two.