Mexico City: An Ode to Self-Love

This is the city where I first began to appreciate solitude as a necessary fortifier of self-love. In waking all over the city, enjoying a late evening film screening, and reposing on a park bench on a Sunday evening by and with myself, I began to appreciate the importance of abounding within my own company: of enjoying my whole being within the greater scheme of existence.

Through witnessing and participating in a city characterized by poverty, disparity, excess, beauty, resilience and ingenuity, I spiraled down a path of introspection and self awareness. When I began to navigate through the city I was struck with semiotic, verbal, and silent affirmations of injustice. I noticed how the hierarchy of race and class informed the ways in which people interacted and existed in the city. Indigenous and non-Spanish speaking people beg for food and work for incredibly low wages all over the city meanwhile the richest people lavished in lifestyles of excess and leisure in the secluded, almost segregated, neighborhoods. The colonias would be divided and organized among patterns of class and social positioning – walking from comfortable upper middle class living to poverty was only a matter of about six meters. Although I was familiar with racism and discrimination from within the U.S., as a person of modest and comfortable urban poverty in Los Angeles and as a brown bodied muxer, it was a different matter experiencing this in Mexico City.

These silent and withdrawn observations intersected with how the urban locality interpreted and contemplated my existence. In my navigating and moving through the city, I have experienced how my own body and existence has been codified and measured according to the social codes of race and class. As a daughter of rural and poor northern Mexican roots, my skin color is the shade of what the racial and political elite consider poor, naca, chaka: a dark and luminous shade of brown. And as soon as I broke the corporal silence muted by my skin shade, something interesting would happen: my Spanish oscillated between the perfect chilango spanish and my English that of the “typical American” accent. I was stuck between literally being too brown to be a U.S. citizen and possessed too strange of an accent to be an authentic Mexican. Yet my social positioning as a student and my economic comfort of being what some may consider middle class in Mexico allowed me to lavish and enjoy the privileges of a comfortable apartment, a university education, and many nights out on the town.

This first year in Mexico City proved to be a challenge of my well established understanding of myself, of the existence I had worked hard to reconcile over the expanse of 21 years. As a womxn of color with migrant histories and completely conscious to the injustice and oppression imposed on my communities in the U.S. as a student and activist, living in Mexico I was challenged and questioned for my assertiveness and self-love. I learned to see myself in a different light and in a different context, and I learned to deeply value and appreciate the reflection I discerned as a testament of my own history and my belonging to greater and more vast history of migration, of resistence, and of love. It is thus that through the experiences of living and interacting with the city and the people who inhabit it that I learned that people also navigated and struggle with social, cultural, racial and economic codes and barriers like people do in the U.S.. Racism and classism is very present in the national subconscious and is seen plastered throughout the city in advertisements, nightlife social dynamics, street side encounters, and public transportation systems. Yet discerning the ways in which the lack of self-love and the imposition of self loathing are as violent in Mexico as they are in the rest of the world, is a lesson still remains with me to this day.

Although it was painful and challenging, I was able to understand who I was in the slightly greater scheme of things, being flexible with that understanding, while retaining my lived experiences as markers of my history and everything that those symbolize. It is the deep meditation of interacting with people, being a silent spectator and participant in the public life of the city, and being a lover and friend that have taught me to love and be who I am and am meant to be.

Because I have also met many people and forged both romantic and amicable relationships. Meanwhile many of these I have been able to keep and nurture others have fallen victims of the circumstance of distance and time. Meanwhile my past and my memory and my present self will always be informed because of them, I am still able to discern Mexico City as the city that taught me to love. Mexico City is the city that taught me to love myself. That in light of so much existence and so much excess, I was able to become more intimate with myself: with what angered me, with what inspired me, with what filled me with so much energy for life. This is what has thus inspired my journey to find the words to communicate the anger, the inspiration, and the love.

As I write, I prepare myself to return to the city in a few weeks. And as I conjure memories of my favorite streets smells and tastes, a love and excitement bursts within me. It feels as if I am returning to an old friend, returning to someone who has seen me grow and has seen me change. It is the city that taught me to listen to my deepest and most forgotten desires, to contemplate who I am within the endless and expansive and throbbing existence that is life, and has taught me to love and appreciate my place within it. It is the city that taught me to become the poet I was always meant to be.

fronteras: a re-encuentro with the borderlands

I find myself deeply re-reading Migrant Imaginaries, a book by Alicia Schmidt Camacho, that explores the historical and contemporary dynamics of the transborder migratory circuit that traverses the U.S.-Mexico borderlands.

I first read this book back in 2011 while a student at UC Santa Cruz, as part of my favorite undergraduate course of my Latin American and Latina/o Studies major. This book recaps various perspectives from early border scholars like Americo Paredes and late twenty century Chicana feminists like Cherie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua. It overviews what I come to interpret as the fragmented mexican imaginary: México de afuera, México de adentro, México profundo and México fragmentado – or as Americo Paredes once identified it, Greater Mexico: the borderlands.

As I re-read Imaginaries, I prepare to apply to the Fulbright program, hoping to conduct a research project about contemporary transborder solidarity in the context of increasingly violent and hostile domestic policy on both sides of the border.

And much like that time of intellectual and personal growth experienced and endured as a student, I deeply connect these parts as chapters of my perpetual awakening as a I traverse through many borders, through many worlds. Only that today I feel more well versed in the ritual of positioning my experience before theories, of the conversation and exchange of these as spiritual and intellectually healing and enriching processes.

It is incredible how while coming across this literary and theoretical treasure via an on-line search for my literature review, I remember having seen the “luminous Santa Niña de Mochis” as an image by artist Alma Lopez that graces the cover of a book already buried in my bookshelf. Years since graduating, years since first leaving to Mexico City (and the subsequent choreographies of crossborder traversing), and an entire life living within the borderlands, it is a literal and intellectual unearthing. A wiping away of collected dust of the passage of time, the dimming of college-aged epiphanies, and a re-encuentro with the remnants of the intellectual parlance among compxs. Only that now, post-everything that I’ve lived seen felt and experienced since that time of intellectual incubation, everything is suddenly more illuminated, más tangible, más fuerte.

Supongo que de eso se trata la construcción, this is construction. Como las palabras sirven para articular las experiencias que tejen las teorías, que en alguna vez pudieron articular nuestrxs silencios y ausencias, what once was inarticulate even to our own imagination. Y que con la persistencia del tiempo y del viaje podemos borrar hasta las fronteras entre teoría y practica, y fomentar y compartir los aprendizajes del proceso cíclico que se experimenta como andantes de fronteras. The erasure of the borders that sever theory from practice, and the possibilities there incubated:

She inhabits the borderlands. She stays, awakens the dead, and tries to “make whole what has been smashed at this unnatural boundary.” Santa Niña de Mochis, habitante de nuestras fronteras, “she is the maker of worlds.”