Mexico City: Mujeres Que Viajan

As I travel through life I am met with subtle blessings and encounters in the form of lovers, friends, and cities. As my most recent reality and context, Mexico City has been the incubator of many friendships and conversations woven amongst mujeres pajaros, womyn poets and travelers who defy borders to find themselves and others in a city that is both hostile and nurturing.

Throughout the last three years I have met many mujeres who have fallen in love with Mexico City. As I reflect and contemplate each story I realize that this group of mujeres have individually and collectively nourished an energy for life that sustains my personal hunger to return to the city. They inspire me to contemplate what it means to return and how returning is a journey that I have the power to perpetually reinvent and remap, as if each return takes me in the direction of a renewed and different sort of love.

As I write this to them, I am writing to myself. Because reflected within all of them I recognize all of my dreams for happiness and fulfillment in their excitement and their anxiousness. In this way, todas somos una mujer, mujer que espera y mujer que trabaja, mujer que anhela y mujer que alcanza:

Mujer, con alma que canta, espiritú de viaje, sueños imperturables, who dreams of creation and expansion, from you I learn that patience and dedication is what sows the strong roots of our creative projects. That although time may pass and distance resembles borders, our imagination coupled with the encouragement of transbarrio pen pals serve to give life to our dreams of returning. That our hunger for creation and growth make our dreams within reach.

Mujer pajaro who dreams of connection and innovation, of returning to a love born out of one of her first encounters with the city, I recognize your energy and constant strive to occupy your own place within every city, every circumstance, every challenge. You are one of my earliest inspirations, mujer who first described the marvels of the city, of the lessons and the passion to defend and live up to them. 

Gran y hermosa mujer that dreams of the sights and landscapes most sincerely adored, who dreams of family and antiquated love, you teach me to recognize that love does last, that the city always welcomes back those who have loved and known it. That nostalgia is something to nestle my best memories in  and where I can incubate my most sought after dreams.

Mujer, amiga que piensa y que ama, who dreams of love and companionship, perpetual viajera que transita fronteras por amor, de justicia y de libertad, you teach me that love has never succumbed to borders and conventions, and that distance is not a border but a circumstance. That love can overcome it.

Ultimately, the yearning to return and to visit is inevitable, as it is a residue and remnant of all things beautiful and inspiring in life. And returning and visiting can mean many different things to each one of you. But it is part of the journey. In between our going and returning, we grow and are nurtured by a journey that serves to inspire all who dream and who live collectively. In that way, we all serve to encourage each other’s coming and going, each (re)encounter with the smallest and largest examples of life and love. It so happens that each and every one of us have been given the opportunity to intimately come to know one of the largest examples of love. Mexico City is this, or has been this, for us in the past. May our journeys to and from it be filled with more opportunities for growth and love.

Tijuana, conociéndote

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Tijuana, ciudad fronteriza, te voy conociendo por primera vez…Este finde pasado, reí, soñé, abrasé, embarnecí, descubrí y recordé que por el otro lado de la frontera, mucho fluye mucho permanece mucho vive. 

I toured, ate, and dram my way through Tijuana this past weekend. It’s been a while since I traveled through a Mexican city, and in an impulse and urge to feel the sensation of crossing into a space different from the climate of alienation and distance, I so much associate with U.S. living – where the saludo de besito is unheard of and where everyone values and protects private space as something so easily usurped by anything and anyone – I made my way south to the city where the sun sets over iron gates that sever both seas and linguistic, cultural and political terrain.

When writing about cities, I gravitate toward the gigantic and perturbed urban spaces created within and because of Mexico. Among them is Los Angeles, my beloved transborder stomping ground, which I consider one of the best and most outstanding neomexican cities I’ve come to know. Here life is animated with the aroma of atole and tamales, the colors and themes of ice cream trucks and neon signs along avenues that feed the pochx-mexi-central american appetite and spiritual sustenance, and the sonorous backdrop of elote (wo)mens’ horns and hollers that fuse with the banda cumbia and occasional punk melodies along the East LA suburb. And maybe by Mexican city, I mean where harmony and dissonance meet in colors and sounds that seduce your soul – and can I have 2 tacos with chile on the side – kinda city.

But cities like Tijuana and Mexico City are of a significantly different nature. Meanwhile all are cities of hybridity and culture produced by multiple and contradictory migrations, all unraveled within distinct urban spaces, Tijuana is a city that expands far beyond the great wall of Mexico. It twists and flows above it and below it, and flows at the rhythm of the more than 100,000 trans-border workers, lovers, and transients who cross everyday – with these numbers increasing during the weekends, when tourists and seekers of the Tijuana nightlife stream south to revel in the mezcal and tequila of the burgeoning and decaying nightlife of downtown – making it the busiest border city in the world.

During my childhood in LA, I grew up surrounded with this sense of uprootedness, displacement and yearning. I yearned to return to Mexico, inspired by Los Tigres del Norte at backyard family parties, the bi-monthly conversations with family in Durango, the realities I knew that the realities I felt and confronted everyday were informed by this strange and mysterious entity that was simultaneously very present and far away. However, traveling and living through a few days in Tijuana, I had the sense that these removed cultural and social dualities were far closer and more interconnected.

The cultural, political, social, linguistic, and urban cityscape are completely united to the life that flows through the border to the north, and the flows of life and breath that are segmented and left stagnant along it to the south.

I was able to discern Tijuana from atop a hill in Colonia Altamira, where the rolling hills of people and life lay nestled below, sunbathing. There is still much to learn about Tijuana, to travel and move through. It is a cityscape of constant movement. It moves and grows despite decay and despite broken dreams, as if it serves as its sustenance and resilience.

A Viajera’s Manifesto: Ella Está Embarcando

Spiritual travels, intellectual journeys, and endeavours in the pursuit of capital and consumption: which to embark? Do these come in a certain order? Or do most people, who live in the first, third, or between worlds who are able to leave their cities for leisure and in the pursuit of discovery, restrict the former (spiritual) to the beginning years of their lives? Are our first study abroad experiences the only opportunity we have to engage and abandon ourselves to the construction of consciousness and spirituality? Do we need to conform to a spiritually and physically sedentary life once graduated from college?

On the one hand, the unearthing of this conversation makes me uncomfortable, mainly because these concerns remain restricted to a sort of existential crisis of the first world, along with all the other spiritual crises born out of living in a world dominated by those infatuated with capital and with money. But I can’t help but feel that digging a bit into the subconsciousness and subtext of this dilemma. I think in doing so I scratch the surface of something widely shared and unsettling for people of my generation – and people in my transbarrio communities who are (sometimes barely) able to live and experiment life in another reality and place, only to return to the reality of student debt, underemployement, and capital crisis par excellence.

A friend recently published his insights about the topic of maturity. According to him, what we have come to understand about maturity as a concept and reality that we fetishize, worship and struggle with is simply the acceptance and succumbing to the state of the world  – or as he says, la mierda – of today and a relinquishing of our belief that this world could be better, that we could be better people in this world. We blind and benumb ourselves by making a pact with “maturity” that in turn impedes us from working toward alternative and better ways of living. These meditations articulate part of what I am perturbed by when contemplating the transitions of life and becoming; the perpetual pressure to “ground” yourself in the reality imposed upon you, the pressure to cease entertaining possibilities that stimulate the mundane and oppressive: poner los pies en la tierra no es más que aceptar ser un punto gris más en la mancha gris. As pointed out by my friend, resisting this imposition can bring upon solitude, which doesn’t perturb him, but that is a reality for some who make this decision. And I wonder whether solitude is the rule and whether solitude should necessarily involve loneliness and isolation. I can’t help but think so many people identify with these sentiments and have actually already worked for the alternative ways of living, of inspiration and of creation.

Yet my personal curiosity has turned into a sort of creative life project: I want to perpetually recreate those meditations and sentiments inspired by my first experimentation with life and love elsewhere in all possible ways and realms. This has so much to do with my time traveled to and from Mexico City. As an ever growing gift of these travels, I begin to articulate and string together my mantra to inspire a life of travel and growth:

I want to be mobile, flexible, movable. I want to construct (and join) communities of intersections and dialogue. 

I want to work for (and alongside) alternative ways of living, breathing, communicating. 

I want to build a sustainable life for myself, where creation through my hands, mind, and soul can provide me with spiritual and physical nourishment to inspire health not only in my being but sustenance for those who surround me.

Mexico City: Mujer Se Enamora de Ciudad

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Falling in love with something as vast and intangible as the most enormous capital city of Latin America, one with increasingly blurring boundaries and delineations, is a strange notion.

So is the confession of feeling heartbreak when you’re away, love sickness when you wish and yearn to indulge in its street food and afternoons in the company of its cityscape. As absurd and – as dfeñxs, mexicanxs, pochxs and us chilangxs sintéticxs might say – cursi this may seem, I am certain of having experienced the different stages of courtship and love, enamorment and lust, growth and wisdom through and because of my times living in Mexico City. These experiences continue and flourish regardless of time and logic – the stages are repeated over again and in different patterns and with different lessons.  As if Mexico City, as a complete and enigmatic whole, has been the most nurturing and lucid example of lover and teacher.

I first moved to Mexico City three years ago, a college senior on a mission of immersion and authenticity. In 2011, I studied in UNAM and threw myself into as many experiences and many perspectives as possible. Consequently, I’ve left and gone back twice after, and thus perspectives and lessons have fluctuated but throughout all of these I’ve reflected on the experience of being young and naïve and living in a beautifully brutal global city: growth through pain, consciousness through contact, reality through experience. And there is something about being brown, being of once Mexican undocumented parents, of being poch@, of being mujer, of being a breathing and loving and seeing person traveling and encountering this enormous city for the first time.

Here I have discovered, abandoned, and recognized many parts of myself and others – from my understandings of identity and place as a daughter of Mexicans who forcefully abandoned their rural northern mexican pueblos, to the power of resiliency and action and survival – from my research on #YoSoy132 to the observations and intersections with communities that create new realities for existence. These lessons have all been born out of my time spent with people, walking and flirting with the wonderful cobblestoned streets, lamp-lit plazas, huge avenues, beautiful universities, and fragrant mercados. The city itself is a loyal and always devote companion.

And when I’m back in Los Angeles, there are certainly mornings when I wake up yearning to breathe in the smell of fresh bread mixed in with the smell and sensation of a busy city street, the noise of a bustling morning of Avenida Hidalgo on a Sunday morning. And I reflect and wonder about the duality of nostalgia and love.  At times the memories and loves of Mexico Citys’ of my past inhabit so much of me that I feel tied to it, as we so often feel attached to loves of our past, out of nostalgia.

But then in oscillating between love happiness and nostalgia, I find deep within myself a love for the vision of life and justice first inspired in me while in Mexico City. A vision of life in all of its complexity and dualities; of injustice and resilience, charm and brilliance, solitude in multitude, and solidarity in collectivity.

Mexico City in many ways is representative of the deterioration provoked and aggravated by the unfettered  and destructive power of capitalist accumulation and modernity urbanized, as well as the perpetually reproducing racisms and classisms – realities unraveled over and over again against a backdrop of a concrete cityscape and a smog shrouded horizon. In this way the romanticism of such a cruel existence seems not only out of place, but insensitive to the subtext of the suffering silences of the urban city.

Yet the intersection and accumulation of all these realities, which, when first contemplated where painful and spiritually oppressive, have inspired in me the most enduring lessons about how people exist and create within, despite, and inspired by urbanity.  I love Mexico City as I am learning and growing flexible in my understanding and love of life as resiliency and complexity. Meeting and living in a place like D.F., the intersection produces a synergy that strengths you, leaves you with lessons and encouragement to break down or build yourself the way you need and feel inspired to – which certainly is also a self love, reciprocated in a love for a beautiful city.

Encuentros aleccionadores

Hoy es luna llena,  and tonight we witness the particularly grand spectacle of the blood moon, un eclipse lunar. Astronomical and historical nights like this one serves to remind us of the grandeur and immensity that engulfs us.  For while we indeed live, suffer and enjoy in excruciatingly complex ways, we occupy a relatively minuscule place within greater forms of existence. On a stroll around my neighborhood in Los Ángeles,  the brilliantly illuminated night sky is a reminder of this astronomical truth.  This lunar lesson remits to lessons of a more spiritual kind, product of intersections with people  who have taught me lessons on simplicity, gratitude and fulfillment. While I may suffer and hurt through every transition, I am reminded of my place within greater celestial, corporal and spiritual positioning and alignments. The following is a lesson gifted to me by a friend in Mexico City regarding happiness within place and living and companionship with life itself:

¡La vida es bella! I just finished having coffee with a lovely mujer, Sindy, in Café 123 by Metro Juarez. I had the most sincere and sublime conversation with her, on living in Mexico City and the pursuit of passion and our right to be inquietas and noncoforming. Sindy has lived in Mexico City for about six years now and her decision to stay and live in Mexico parted from her experience as an exchange student at UNAM.  I see much of my passion and love compatible with hers; she appreciates the culture and creativity of the city, the intimacy and comfort emanated from its public space and imbued in its people.

She explained her conviction and commitment to the life she lives in Mexico City as both struggle and perseverance.  She had the graciousness to offer me her experience and inspiration for my own journey and struggle in Mexico City.  As she so lyrically and philosophically put it, the pursuit of happiness and fulfillment is a great effort of resistance and justice because it not only channels our impetus for fundamental change inward but inspires us to transform ourselves into people capable of inspiring others.  For Sindy, her decision to live and struggle in D.F. has imbued in her the power of inspiration and creation. It has allowed for a transformative state of freedom: to find, create, pursue and channel all of my beautiful capacity to be free and to be happy.

I am grateful for Sindy and to life for facilitating my encuentros with people like her. As one friend poignantly stated, inspiration must come from within and that we are capable of finding it within ourselves. I think this is important and necessary, and an absolutely great compliment to inspiration transmitted from others as a beautiful synergetic exchange of life and strength.

Y como se lo comentaba a Sindy, me comprendo como una mujer eternamente acompañada y, a pesar de todo, consolada viviendo en la ciudad de México.  Es a menudo cruel pero cuando voy caminando por sus calles, o sentada en alguna plaza e incluso viajando en el metro, siento una profunda y sincera solidaridad con la gente que me rodea; comprendemos la belleza y fealdad de nuestro entorno y de nuestra ciudad.  El susurro de la guitarra, el flujo de los fuentes de agua, las charlas coquetas de las parejas y el silencio tranquilo de la muchacha que comparta la banca conmigo: todo me acompaña y me conforta.  Es sutil y placentero a la vez que conmovedor y a veces incomodo.  Me acompaña la ciudad pero mi eterno compañerx es la vida misma.

Cursilerías bibliotecarias

The Chicanx Resource Center in East L.A. is like the Biblioteca Vasconcelos of the barrio; it’s both grand and epic and impeccably stocked with books on Mexican and Latin American History. Though it is quaint in size, I can walk and contemplate the books on all seven aisles and feel as if it is a complete and impressive collection of history, of the border, of the barrio and of the inspiration inflicted by all of these on the humyn spirit and our struggle to translate our struggles in order to transcend them. While I was walking down the aisles I was overcome by the urge to cry, to let my tears intertwine with the wonderful rivers of words and letters I saw form all around me. I was suddenly and quite fatally overcome by the realization that I, along with the thousands of authors here featured and their millions of readers, was witness to the grandeur of life and experience, and of the quest to capture life within the both hard and soft covers of books. I realize my current heartaches have been translated before and thousands of times over and that my struggle isn’t completely unique in the struggles among the children of borderlands. My solitude was not only shaken but I quickly rediscovered the beauty of writing, of the power transmitted by a collection of borderless voices, and the importance and beauty of a Chicanx Resource Center. It is a place where feelings and words converge, to wake us of our pain in solitude, our perturbing loneliness and our untranslatable experiences.

I swim amidst words that spell out meXicana encounters and bind together the profoundness of thought of chicanx poetisas like Gloria Anzaldúa. I swim among the waves of letters of borderlands and historias y nostalgias de las patrias. It has revived the feelings and saberes that my Mexico City querido is with my everywhere I travel and my pochoteca spirit has been reignited by the resilency that emanates from books and from these mahogany tables as if to remind me of the buoyancy of translated feelings. Resisting the urge to cry all over a hard copy of John Ross’s El Monstruo..¡Me siento viva!

Ruptures and reencuentros

There is a strong overwhelming sadness when you begin to let go of something you love; sadness and anguish seeps into you, winds and spins down into your soul, to erupt, para derramarse, to flood your entire being.  There is so much that ties me to people and to places.  There are certain places that I love beyond measure and beyond articulation, it astounds me.  It overwhelms and inspires me.  When it comes to a place and experience like Mexico City, I have become so enamored that the thought of having to relinquish my plans of establishing myself there more permanently frightens and overwhelms me.  But what else is there?  What comes next?  What happens when I let you go?

I don’t know what to work for, other than for my own happiness.  I am living now, I lived yesterday, I will -maybe- live tomorrow.  I am only aware and present that I am living this exact fleeting precise past instant. I am here and I have everything here, with me. When it comes to ruptures, sometimes I prefer to block people, hoping they’d forget me, so I could forget them.  I think it becomes easier not to feel certain people so present if they themselves separate my image and smell and taste from their senses and memory. And that scares me also.  Because, once they forget me, who will I be?  What will I be? This is always possible.  This always happens.  And we still exist.  They still exist, too.  You exist separately, like you did all along, always independently.  No one belongs to any one, somewhere along the time shared and given, we forget because at a certain point we seemed to have fused together.  But we all live parallel lives; we all exist independently; you were someone before you met him; you were someone before you visited Mexico City; Mexico City was Mexico City before you; he was himself before he met you.  This is the law of history and destiny since always.  You are now a different person, perhaps more beautiful perhaps more enlightened perhaps more aware.

But then there are people you adore and love and although you may  not see them often, you adore and love just the same.  So why is there a need for a rupture?  Perhaps because it is more like a departure. Depart but leave the goodbye open for new hellos, new convergences and renewed embraces.  Sometimes I oscillate between goodbye forever or be with me always but perhaps life need not be so extreme. Leave it open to new encuentros.  El amor es eso; they will return, you will return, love always returns.

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“No acumules silencios, grita de vez en cuando” – filosofía digital y anónima 

I love exploring words, creative ways to weave desires and pain into words, dreams into projects,  and poems into inspiration.  I love the way words are flexible and ever-changing but also impressively precise.  This love is probably born out of with my own cosmovisión and sociopolitical life perspectives.  We’re asked all the time: “Why did you choose to study X?” or “Why have you chosen to pursue Y?”  “Why are you organizing with Z?” These questions, sometimes innocently posited for the purpose of  small talk, welcome us to share  sublime and lucid insight on our life experiences.  For me, it comes down to the bareness of words and meanings.  Much of what I am inspired by are words and palabras: spoken, written, silenced, protested.

Ultimately, I think our passions as writers, singers, dancers, lovers, actors, and travelers arise from a conjunction of life experiences and encounters. We are products of the millions of intersections and encuentros that mark our minds and spirits and memory. Personally, I associate social justice with writing, with communication and voice, with power through spoken and written word, with palabra.  Born and raised in Boyle Heights, the move to Santa Cruz at age 18, graduation at age 21: through the constant movement, I have seen how my transnational transbarrio and translocal communities oscillate between silence and voice. It’s difficult to pinpoint exact experiences but I remember growing up, witnessing the subtle discrimination imposed against my father, a very well spoken and elegant man with dark brown skin; being pulled over on a California highway by a highway patrol car, my father’s speechlessness and inability to respond to the police officers aggressive questions and inquiry. The –  quickly shattering – silence of thousands of undocumented Latin American migrants in the U.S., my mother’s constant struggle to learn English, to communicate eloquently with a physician. I have felt a rabid, lingering desperation to scream this silence into extinction. I’ve felt a desperation tugging at my vocal cords, pleading to articulate the injustices my communities has faced for years, decades and certainly even centuries.

Unparalleled epiphanies

Listening to Manu Chao and reading over LALS readers and lecture notes, después de tanto tiempo asegurándome que sólo sé que no sé nada, me pregunto: What the heck did I learn as an undergrad? Today, as years have come and gone, there’s still so much to remind myself of, to reflect, and to learn.

Keeping tabs on all of the theoretical morsels, sometimes bitten off in chunks too big for us to chew much less digest, the discussions, debates and epiphanies, is difficult. And these lessons are erased by time and distance as we take to our present context, new countries, new cities, new deadlines, and the flux of our realities.  Having studied Latin American and Latina/o Studies and Politics at UC Santa Cruz (please take note of the “and” “Latina/o” and the banana slug reference, these are all necessary to contextualize the experience of a brown womyn studying and deconstructing social science) I remember a few things more vividly than others.

I remember that sublime thrill – the feeling I can only associate with that deep, long, desperate breath of air you struggle for after you’re doused with ice cold water or deprived of air for a few seconds too long – it was to study Latin American and Latina/o studies.  What is globalization? What is a border? neoliberalism? injustice?  economics? migration?  my father? my mother?  my community?  myself.  This struggle for breath and air is at once painful and desperate, reviving and invigorating.  It was the most painful and illuminating period of intellectual development of my young life (only to be rivaled by the learning and un-learning inspired by life in Mexico City, however, this has been much less intellectual).  This, of course, was complimented by my aggravating study of Politics.  I would sit in a classroom, obviously out numbered by white students, outnumbered by voice, by confidence and upon further reflection, deprived of the platforms for discussion and intellectual debate that reflected not only experience beyond theoretical constraints – experience as telling of state institutional policies and deprivations as violence, for example  – but the opportunity to express fundamental and powerful critiques of the Political Science and Politics model of the U.S., born out of Latin America.  I always felt, as a student of Politics, that I was doomed to perpetually build the monster I so ardently deconstructed as a student of LALS. Torn, disarticulated, left without a language to speak to these two parts.  I understood, and still do, what Politics is and represents and that it is why I wanted to train my intellect and spirit – because how ever hard you try, your spirit is part of the being that creates these thoughts and compels you to intellectual debate – to the language of the deciders, deliberators, creators and destroyers.

But I also learned that this way of knowing doesn’t easily welcome your language and voice: the struggle of the classroom reflects many struggles, your voice is shut down by non-verbal, unspoken, deeply rooted assumptions of who should do the talking.  I’ve traveled, I’ve lived in Mexico, I’ve studied in UNAM, where I’ve studied politics, philosophy, and latin american studies.  As I corporally, intellectually, and spiritually distanced myself from that time of great growth, it became less present, it’s as if I almost unlearned those theories and forgot that frustration.  But it’s still there, isn’t it?  Slumbering and sulking and awaiting to astound other students, the silent of the social sciences.  But these students, I, will always bellow.  In so many ways, their clamor wields potency and power.

This is what I remember from undergrad: simmering in this creativity, power, and articulation. And there is so much still to digest and reflect.  And somehow, as soon as I take moments to breathe and tune into Manu Chao, it’s as if it all rushes back.  The all nighters at Stevenson Computer Lab and the feeling that this epiphany on neoliberalism and cultural production for my term paper will have no parallel, ever again.

Amorcito mio

I GUIDE MY LIFE THROUGH LOVE.

 Through the love that emanates from my body and simmers within my soul, through the love of creation and inspiration for justice and transcendence, love from within myself for myself and not the love I wish to see in the eyes of others who look at me.  Self Love, which  for so long I sought to find in others as a validating sort of love, radiates within me for life, for my lovers, and for love. I do not guide my life through fear, but through love. I love those who come into my life and those who part from it, because through the synergy and intensity of our love, we grew stronger, leaving each other with the lessons to continue, breaking down or building ourselves the way we need to.