Miedo

Lesvy
Lesvy Osorio was killed May 2016 at UNAM

Don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid, don’t be afraid. I repeat these words to myself as I walk the streets of Mexico City’s Centro Histórico at night, as if to beat them into my body. I’m back in the city for a short reporting trip to continue my coverage of feminicide in Mexico State. It’s been five months since I’ve been here last, but my apprehension about the violence, and how vulnerable I am to it, has grown substantially. I feel afraid to walk alone at night. Fear, a response to months of fieldwork on violence against women, shapes how I navigate Mexico’s giant capital, my first real love. I see the threat of violence everywhere. Walking to a close-by cafe chino for dinner seems much more dangerous to me than it did a few years ago.

Alone, like Mariana Joselín Baltierra was when she stepped out of her house on a late July morning and walked approximately two-hundred meters to a corner store for groceries. Young, like Lesvy Osorio, an aspiring writer and musician. A woman, like Nadia Muciño, Mariana Buendía and the more than fifteen thousand women killed in the country in the last six years. I’m acutely aware of how women that look like me have been kidnapped, raped and killed in Mexico City and Mexico State. Their bodies thrown into rivers, left in empty lots or torn apart and left scattered by men that destroyed their bodies so that no one would remember them. In Mexico I see the threat, or the capacity for people to be this violent, everywhere. Disillusioned, angry, tired and cynical, I wish I could soften my heart and see more of the beauty of this place I love so much, but the stories are so terrible.

A few months ago, Mariana Baltierra left her house and walked past a local butcher shop at around nine in the morning. She never returned home. Instead, she was found later that day lying dead across a butcher’s table, her stomach ripped open. She was raped and killed by a twenty-eight-year-old man that worked in the butcher shop called Carnicasa, or meat shop, in eastern Ecatepec. Lesvy was only twenty-two when she was found dead last year with a telephone cord wrapped around her neck at the National Autonomous University of Mexico campus. She was found lying against a telephone booth in the middle of campus, killed by her boyfriend Jorge Luis González. Killed by men, forgotten by the government offices and laws created to help bring justice, grieved by families.

As I coach myself to try to be brave while I walk, men verbally harass me, beating my body with the reminder that I do not have complete control over my safety and agency in this city. I walk firm and relentless through the shadowy streets as to affirm that this is my body, my city. Walking alone as to defy the fear and despair that has stricken me during the past months. Beating the fear out of my heart, resistant and brave to mourn the women killed.

amar a méxico

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I love Mexico. I love how Mexico is resilient. I love Mexico, aware it is hurt, violated and terrorized, contests and affirms itself in light of so much erasure and destruction. I love Mexico multifaceted and shifting. Mexico in Los Angeles, Mexico in New York City, Mexico within and beyond all of its borders. My time in Mexico pushed me to detest how the state has destroyed people’s lives. But seeing how those who that has hurt, from Ayotzinapa to the thousands displaced, continue to fight for the Mexico impunity, racism, misogyny, corruption and profit have tried to erase, wills me to love a Mexico resisting.

En lo que te convierte el amor

En el amor, en estar enamoradx, exploras y confrontas tus inquietudes más profundas e invisibles. Te das cuenta de tu impaciencia, de tu naturaleza inquebrantable, y de tu certeza. Que para nada eres perfectx. Siendo fuerte, hechx irrompible, por tus maestrxs, experiencias y sueños, tu fortaleza se vuelve un vínculo que te une con otro ser implacable, valiente.

Siendo fuerte, te das cuenta que puedes llegar a ser rígidx e insensible. Tu fortaleza también es mecanismo de defensa y se presta a alejarte de tu amor, de la intuición y sensibilidad hacía otrx ser, su felicidad y sufrir.

Pero, tras años de desarrollar un amor propio, tan profundo como el pleno conocimiento de sí mismo, un amor por el conjunto de todo lo que te exalta y alegra de la existencia, el amor te obliga a regresar a tu punto de partida y ver como amarte mejor a ti mismx, como a tu amor, como a la vida.

El amor te convierte en tu version más vulnerable, más susceptible a dolor y sufrimiento. El amor te convierte en alegrías que se tornan pleitos, en fiestas que terminan en atacas de cólera, en el pleno ejercicio de todas tus emociones.

El amor te presenta la oportunidad de ver como seguir amándote a ti mismx como amas y esperas amar a otrx. El amor te presenta la oportunidad de empezar, o abandonar, todo de nuevo. Es un proceso que te obliga a destruir todo y empezar desde el punto que creas necesario, de curación total.

Tú decides en lo que quieres convertirte. Tú, en un acuerdo y compromiso con ti mismx, en sintonia con el amor propio de tu amor, con la poesía que escribirán, que experimentarán, que transcenderán.

El amor, nuestro amor, tu amor, contiene promesas infinitas para ser feliz, para crecer, reintentar, empezar de nuevo, empezar de cero, abandonar, y olvidar.

Al fin de todo, de cualquier amor, te podrás re-encontrar. Enterrado bajo todo el amor agotado, podrás coger y empezar de nuevo.

El amor te regala la hermosa oportunidad de ser plena, apoyar e inspirar amor en otrx, constantemente empezando de nuevo.

Quiero seguir amándote, amándome, siendo sensible al amor, y todo lo que nos brinda.

Mexico City: I moved here to write…

No longer there, I look back and invent the reasons why there was the only place to become me, la escritora. As I move East, my attachment to Mexico City is weaved by gratitude:

Put simply, that’s all I want to do. A privilege, a dream, a luxury, a far fetched idea made reality by pure conviction and stubbornness. Here, the mid-afternoon rainfall that purifies my lungs is unwritten poetry, the urban marvels and wonders nestled at every corner is untapped inspiration, the moonlight and silence and noise is inspiration for prose and ode alike.

Here, lives courage, defiance, struggle and the resistance of people and movements that must and will always make themselves present. Here, for me, journalism is as important as the personal essay because they are one in the same. Survival, resistance, love, and homage. What inspires me irremediably and that I know I must write for myself and for others.

Here, inspiration and love seeps into my pores, fills my stomach, perfumes my hair, salts my michelada, and lets be frank, even pays for my cab ride.

This inspiration is as old and decaying as the baked lake bed beneath my feet. It is also new and flourishing…

todo cambia

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Forever indebted to you, Negra.

me siento débil ante el peso del cambio, del tiempo transcurrido desde que escribí palabras ya muy lejanas. busco desesperada la inspiración que antes me inundaba. busco las flores radiantes que ya parecen esconder sus caras del sol. busco llenarme del deseo implacable que me llevó, y obligó a regresar a la ciudad de méxico: convicción irremediable. inspiración casi celestial que llena el cuerpo y hace los extremos de tu ser pulsar en afirmación de que eres, aquí. es observar, de lejos, los caminos que has trazado por Borderlands/La Frontera, queriendo, desesperadamente regresar a dónde estabas más feliz. el incesante andar te lleva por dónde debes viajar, por un dolor que es crecimiento, nostalgia que es lejanía, sabiduría que es aprendizaje. no hay paso atrás. no puedes ser la mujer ni escritora que antes fuiste. transfronteriza, pasajera en trance, mujer indomable: tu camino queda adelante. el ciclo empieza de nuevo, los retos y oportunidades de renacer marcan el camino que empieza con tu primer, nuevo paso.

Mexico City: A Transfronteriza’s Last Days

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“Tengo nostalgia de un país que no existe todavía en el mapa.” Chinatown, Downtown Mexico City.

I’m sitting at Muebles Sullivan surrounded by a few bags stuffed with clothes and toiletries, my dry cleaning, and an incredible lightness of being. As usual, the coffee is delicious and life passing me by beyond the lemon trees brings me a subtle sense of satisfaction. A lemon scented, caffeinated gratitude for Mexico City.

My journey continues and the time has come to lug my clothes and emotions back home. Before this moment I feel I had wandered around burdened by the heavy weight of suffering, anxiety, and the overwhelming desire to live, stubborn and strictly, in Mexico City. I fought for it. Unceasingly, I fought my family, the world, and myself for this moment of fulfillment and sense of completeness.

I will journey back to my family in about ten days. The map of my retreat forward is as follows: I will walk through the National Mall in about two weeks, saunter down the streets of Jackson Heights and Bushwick in about three, sleep in my childhood room in five, roll round La Cita’s dance-floor in six, lay out in Rosarito’s beaches in ten, and move all of my hopes and dreams to New York City in seventeen.

Even from here, it all seem so far away from Mexico City. The retreat forward is decided on and the start of graduate studies at New York University is imminent. It’s wondrous and I’m thankful. Especially to this city. For the inspiration and conviction it inspired in me to try ceaselessly to be here. To explore then destroy my fears, doubts, and anxieties. To tap into my intuition and prioritize self-love.

It taught me to be flexible, to flow, and embrace my condition as a transfronteriza. To push my own limits, extend myself across all the borders that had asphyxiated me since birth. It subjected me to deep suffering, an experience that threw me into depression in senior year of college but one that eventually became the catalyst for my self-sufficiency and independence.  And it taught me to navigate the sometimes volatile, sometimes deeply deeply magical terrain of my own emotions. I explored my spirit and self fully and deeply these past five years because Mexico City enlivened an inexorable hunger and inspiration to live, to feel, to be.

I was heavy with all of these experiences. I held on to that truth, to Mexico City, to the possibility of fully and beautifully being. Because it is such a beautiful lesson and experience to have. And I think it was necessary, to feel the weight of being–to feel how it physically and emotionally imposes itself, reminds us we are alive, and inspires us to navigate the world aware of ourselves, our life, and our creative promise.

Now, I feel light with that lesson. I feel grateful for that weight. I feel happy because this city deeply shook me, woke me, and loved me. It inhabits me and will continue to inform who I am to become. I will be bound to it as long as I remain committed to letting it go, to exploring myself, as I propel myself forward.

Mexico City taught me to be, my beloved teacher and companion in these perpetual journeys as a transfronteriza.

Forever grateful, and in love.

Mexico City: San Rafael

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Muebles Sullivan, Colonia San Rafael

The shadows of the tree branches sway on the smooth white walls of the cafe, creating patterns of fading sunlight across the temporarily out of service expresso machine. The power is out so for the first time in eight years, I’m alone with my self and with this overwhelming sense of disconnectedness we used to call rest.

Behind me engines rumble and wheels screech to a halt every minute. The microbuses and taxis shuttle several hundreds to the north south east and deep west of the city.

Clouds gather and humidity begins to lightly coat car hoods and the leaves of surrounding lemon trees. We’re experiencing a winter storm in the middle of March. Suddenly the sky is muddled a dirty brown color that warns of fast approaching rain.

The wind feels sweet. Unburdened of its toxicity, it wraps already bundled bodies that hustle in every direction, home bound.

Behind me the sun quickly sets. The sunlit patterns are fading away, and still no internet.

Decirte que te extraño

 

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Mexico City-Los Angeles (Let’s Meet in the Middle) by Susan Logoreci

 

To confess that I miss you is to admit that we are bound.

To recognize that the 1,548 miles between us
are threads that traverse mountains and plains and tether us together
pulling us close in a tight embrace

It’s to temporarily suspend time and space to acknowledge a closeness that distance doesn’t permit

To keep you alive within me
An immediacy that keeps my skin sensitive to your warmth
to your vanilla scent
the smoothness of your shoulders
and caresses

I miss you
the way i love early mornings and late nights in Centro Histórico
the way I love the coolness of advancing dusk on my skin
the way I love the smell of lemon trees in my hair
the dancing
the music
all that is
life

When I say I miss you I suddenly become aware
that what I am really saying is that I love you
That I wish happiness and presence upon you

To encourage you to love and celebrate where you are
To remind myself to be grateful and alive where I am

Far apart and still thriving
Displaced but rooted
Separate and fully alive

Decir te extraño
es decir te pienso
te quiero

Es decir que me quiero a mi misma
reconocer que me alimentas
mi haces más viva

Es reconocer que en cuanto más te extraño
más siento amor por la vida
por mi entorno
y lo que esta en mi

I miss you
because I love myself

Why Gentrification Will Never Kill Barrio Magic

The rough-and-tumble streetscape/ abandoned factories/ warehouses/ scrap-metal yards/ sidewalks still largely devoid of life/ metal gates and barbed wire/forbidding allure
/desolate/

“It’s all about discovery and taking chances and hopefully finding something revelatory”
“The social aspect is essential for artistic innovation”
“There’s a sense of Peter Pan’s Lost Boys around here.

– Gentrification, a study by The New York Times.

When white gentrifiers suddenly appeared sauntering down Boyle Height’s sidewalks
turning heads of abuelitas sitting on sunny porches
my neighborhood became important.

Important destination for bicycle tours featuring artisanal snacks
organized by developers for urbanites
with enough courage to venture to Los Angeles’s eastern frontier
in search of charming little Mexican homes to buy flip own

Important incubator of vanguard art hosted by emerging art galleries
the kind that boast of grimy freeway overpasses
city garbage and poverty providing
great dramatic contrast to their gallery’s impeccable white interiors

Important business endeavors for breweries serving up pale ales, saisons, porters
to patrons clueless of the brown bodies surrounding the renovated warehouses

Important because when gentrification sprang up in talks around dinner tables
we suddenly feared losing what we thought had always been and would always be ours

Safe space
where eating, laughing, bridging, organizing, and caring
are ways to heal our collective spiritual wounds
where we hold space to be fully ourselves

Presence defines us here
where we are more than just those who crossed the borders barefoot
the people who trim your yard
prepare and serve you your ramen, steak, or burger
More than just your maquila worker
your nanny or token Latinx voter

More than just those who were displaced from their campos
gunned down by police
ignored and pushed to the fringes of invisibility
beyond the reach of accountability, respect, and justice

Here we have nurtured a life filled with marvelous moments of
brown brilliance and barrio magic

What our parents carried on their backs
and imbued in us
what makes our lives
exceptionally beautiful and us
resilient

Barrio magic like
the morning strolls looking for the tamale lady
like that’s all the soul searching we’ll ever need

It’s the little brown girl posted alongside the raspado lady
digging through the mountain of 50-cent chips
holding up bag after bag to momma

Her moppy black hair frames her bright eyes peeking above the bag of Doritos
pleading to her momma too busy with the chisme

It’s the street-side food hustle that fills our bellies
with the blue corn quesadillas and deep-fried garnachas that remind us
of cities and pueblos that some of us have only been to in our dreams

The grandkids riding inside their abuelita’s black basket shopping carts
blabbering their Spanglish adventures to the wind
happy, invincible, and impeccably groomed
warmth between the little loves and the worlds that embrace them

Barrio magic is filling public space with our presence
musicians, migrantes, paísas, metalerxs
niñxs comiendo sus tostilocos on a plaza bench a luz de día
a luz de las nubes

Chambeadores, cocinerxs, gardinerxs, estudiantes, madres, abuelxs
seres who find home, space, and the rest
expressed in the beautiful word my momma always demanded
of my younger desmadrosa self: resollar, rest.

Rest in a world that is violence without cease,
toward the people who fill my community
means resisting in the way our communities have done all along:
inhabit and exist.

We recognize what gentrification means for us
not because it makes us suddenly visible or important
to those who will never see our magic

But displacement has followed us across
Mexican, Salvadoran, Guatemalan, Honduran, Peruvian, U.S. borders

Unbearably important when we feel that stinging anger rise from the pit of our stomachs
as we witness whiteness and power
discover
purchase
occupy
colonize
anything it wants to and map it on Yelp.

The power to build, as if nothing was there before

Revamp as if structures, homes, life, and cultures crafted by the displaced into art and love are lives to be torn down by developers

Revitalize, as if life lay there listless, absent, and invisible

Rehab structures but shoo away street side-beggar plagued with cirrhosis
that take up space on the bus benches in front of their galleries

Overwhelming fear of seeing all the magic erased forever
what we love buried and built upon, torn down and redesigned

Our parents and ancestors forced to leave pueblos
have gone back to only find maquiladoras where before stood their apple orchards
where before beautiful soil persevered their memories, love, and life like shrines

Ensuing gentrification make me feel desperate to preserve the physical
structures
the places that nurture all that is love and presence

But this presence and magic lives in shrines within us
magic that whispers
We will not let them erase us.