Ella Está Embarcando: The Retreat Forward

The soft lavender hue of my notepad makes writing this a pleasant visual experience. A compliment to these feelings of tranquility and peace affirmed by the music and conversation of the last few hours, of the last few days. Everything that surrounds me at this precise, building, fleeting moment encourages me to retreat ahead in the construction and expression of my creative desires. A shift, a recalibration, a decision. A choice in the direction to do what I have always wanted to do in the places I have always wanted to be.

It has been a long and agonizing accumulation of pain and heartbreak, this life and becoming. As I’ve probably expressed in my writing and in conversation and in silence, I am who I continue to become because of Mexico City and the traversing of physical, spiritual, emotional, creative terrain that it has entailed.

Navigating the intersections of these has challenged and strengthened every inch of my spiritual and physical body. It has broken me down and built me up a hundred times over. Destroyed and inspired an identity faithful to the emancipation from a spiritually, culturally, physically, creatively bordered existence. And the embracement of it. I am a child and inhabitant of the borderlands. They have birthed and destroyed me. Crossing them and inhabiting each edge, each crevice, has strengthened me.

Four years ago, at twenty years old and during my first return to Mexico City, I crossed the physical terrain in search for the affirmation of an authenticity of the self. I returned to Mexico, a symbolic and deeply spiritual journey masked as a study abroad opportunity, to demystify what it meant to live and be and perform as a Mexican from within its political and ephemeral borders. I sought the authenticity and approval that I never received. Because of my language, skin, lived experiences and condition as child of both the diaspora and the transbarrio, I experienced the violence inspired by nationalism and cultural and social distance. I wasn’t Mexican but Pocha, not Spanish but Spanglish, not authentic but foreign. I suffered but eventually relished in it all. I began to look for the unique and non-conforming in Mexico City and I found it at every corner, found that I belonged there because of my love and passion, because of my difference. I learned there that that is precisely what this world depends on.

I fell in love with that city and during my second and third returns, I began to more comfortably occupy this new and different position and perspective, felt the opportunities to reflect and discard, better understand and build anew. The liberty and opportunity of traveling to a new place unfamiliar with your past and who you have been before. A place that attracts people in search of this opportunity. Here I studied, I researched, I worked, and I became.

My fourth return was pure and exhilarating escape. I proved that DF has always been mine, it has always been within my grasp, just a plane ticket, a phone call, an email, a decision away.

This realization was a long time coming. For four years, I felt deep pain when for different circumstances, I have had to leave DF behind for the US. It is when I have felt furthest away from these feelings and visions I mention inspired by the city, from the superior passional quality of absolutely every detail of rising to live another day, from the prospect of recreating this just one more time, that I have retreated into depression and pain. A physical pain inflicted by denial, negation, and distance. My own negation and the impossibility of finding the encouragement and affirmation from my surroundings.

Yet meanwhile this suffering may very well have been self inflicted, it was my reaction to this sudden shift and recalibration into a different terrain, one that I felt and knew was hostile to everything that I had loved so deeply in Mexico City. Being in the US, I felt frustrated and oppressed with the apathy and alienation that inspires people to prefer material well being versus poetry. How this preference informed social interactions, a hug, a kiss, a glance was drained of the desire to truly connect and acknowledge – two exercises I learned to do while living in the city of my dreams. Social and public distance charted out my navigation of space and I hated it so deeply. I made the resolve that my only escape was back to Mexico. And I saw it as an escape in the direction of the fulfillment of my happiness.

This dream that still holds true and that is perhaps more mature with experience and steadfast with conviction, is one that has made many people uncomfortable and has solicited critique, and even spiritual violence, from people I deeply love and have surrounded me all my life. This violence was me denying this for myself. Retreating backward to nostalgia.

Yet everything that surrounds me at this precise, building, fleeting moment affirms that if I continue to obey an environment so unfamiliar with what i love and propels me forward, I will probably never transcend any challenge and pain. Never create of it, use my vision and love to express this experience. This life.

All of this movement and migration has liberated my spirit in such an irreparable way: it can never be undone. I can never retreat backward.

The only option, my only opportunity to continue to live and love, is to move forward. Yet, what I have recently learned is that the pain and suffering that has characterized my life for four years must now be what propels me forward.

In my past, I had refused to accept that I had to expand and deepen and express myself and my vision, to be and use what I had lived to create, to understand that this was another way of living, that it wasn’t anyone else’s say but my own, and that I had to faithfully inwardly listen to this truth. Pain because I couldn’t and was not ready to decide for myself. Pain because we are constantly told to follow the path of obedience. Because to choose sometimes means to challenge those who so desperately seek to preserve the integrity of their decisions, choosing differently means breaking away, building anew.

I will use this pain and life and ultimately love and inspiration to propel myself forward and not to oppress my decision and vision. There is only one way left to escape alienation of present day society, to retreat ahead of it. Wherever the retreat forward takes me.

Advertisements

Mexico City: Muse

Chad Santos Photography

It is difficult to explain this even to myself.

A wave of emotion overcomes me upon admiring this beautiful picture by Chad Santos of the Valley of Mexico. Burdened with euphoria and bliss, I am surprised to deeply feel and validate a truth that’s lived inside of me for such a long time, a faithful companion in all of my journeys in the past four years.

In my frantic desire to be within and be surrounded by this city, I realize that although physical proximity is and will always be a priority for me when in comes to DF, what I have deeply yearned for is to absorb as much of its essence in order to mold my spirit and being after the beauty of its vastness and its absolute singularity.

A mujer in love with a city. Dozens, hundreds, thousands of people in love with Mexico City. Out of so many of us, constantly growing and multiplying, sharing and encouraging, I wonder how many love it so deeply and so differently as to want to imbue their life and their being with some of its best, most spiritual, most haunting and thus most human qualities. I find myself contemplating how many of us begin to think and feel that this overwhelming love is the beginning of a process of root shaking growth, of emotional and spiritual cultivation.

I entertain this new revelation: I love Mexico City in order to become more like it.

To imbue each detail, each part, each morsel of my days with the qualities and characteristics that have irremediably enamored me. Its restless nature. The love and warmth of its public space. The millions of opportunities to share a smile, a drink, a poem, a sunset with absolute strangers. The sonorously rich cadence of twenty-seven million people rising with the sun and moving through the entirety of its surface, swarming in beautiful choreography of the every day bustle both above and below its concrete lake bed. The opportunity to share anything and everything with it and with its inhabitants, relishing it all in the solace and solidarity of solitude. The scenes, the films, the music, the sunrise, the Sunday strolls, the Saturday café con leche y chocolate croissants, the freedom inspired while on the brink of a kiss, on the brink of a taxi collision. The marvelous of the everyday, the quotidian of the surreal. The fluidity of life within chaos, hope comforted by unpredictability, resting and growing within the unfamiliar, expansion of the self and of the spirit within endlessness.

All of this has inspired me to write profusely and ceaselessly. It has inspired fleeting and soul-searing love affairs. It has inspired my activism, my journalism, my voice, my political and spiritual commitments and expressions. It has inspired such a shift in my cosmovisión that not one thing I do upon rising and upon laying to rest has remained unaffected by my connection to it. It has inspired such profound irreparable change. An unleashing of an incessant river within me, that nourishes my spirit and sprouts the creative projects that serve as ode and poetry to its inexhaustible capacity to inspire this sort of love in us.

What I carry with me, what nourishes me on my journey that is this life, is the affirmation that I am as great and expansive as that city. Of looking within and seeing a reflection of that which I love without measure. A reminder to live and love in homage to this gift: I am serendipity. I am unpredictability. I am vast. I am endless. I am alive. 

noches de neón discotequero

Tijuana desde Altamira, fotografa anonima y chingona
Tijuana desde Altamira

Es increíble.  Me corazón se anida en esta frontera borrosa. El asombro del fin de semana vive en mi, tan lejos de aquellas calles, de la rockola, de la pista de baile más bella del mundo.

Entra por mi ventana el mismo viento que movió y desordenó mi noche y día en la frontera. Es un momento en donde el tiempo por fin refleja un mundo interior, siempre enérgico, feliz, fluido.

Baile en pistas de baile que pulsaban con vida, alumbrados con la energía fluorescente de cientos de cuerpos. Camine por calles sin rumbo ni nombre, pero con un destino fijo.

Movernos sin cesar, comer, ingerir, beber, abrazar. Guiadxs por un apetito insaciable por el arte en cada encuentro y rostro, por el gozar y la fotografía de lo presente e imperceptible. Por el tacto, la reunion, y la aventura.

Son contados las noches que nos entregamos al alboroto de todo lo vivo, a vivir sin sosiego, donde el descanso se vuelve superfluo, y los cuerpos sobrehumanos. Tijuana nos lo cede y regala. Lo gozamos hasta ver el cielo púrpura del amanecer de un nuevo día, la espera de una nueva noche.

¿Sin rumbo, a donde podemos llegar? Interminables noches de neón discotequero. Alimentación y recuerdo.

oaxaca nocturna e incandescente

As I unwind from the inebriety of a dance
and music-filled weekend in Los Angeles,
a force of habit and nostalgia transports me to
these scenes of our nights out on the cobblestone
streets of Oaxaca de Juárez, political epicenter
of a beautiful state in southern México. My
spiritual destination every día de los muertos
since two thousand and twelve.

The smoky taste of mezcal suddenly becomes
palpable. The kindness warmth and love of
families friends and strangers there befriended.
The celebration ensued during the most spiritually
important and revered days for thousands, actually
millions, of people all over Latinomérica.

A place that taught me to respect and rejoice with
equal measure. Dancing in streets illuminated by the
orange glow of life, rain-cooled winds blowing
through my hair.


Mexico City: Performativity a lo Chilango

In Mexico City, everything is performative. The dress of denizens reflect social positioning, sub-culture loyalty, political affiliations and both economic privilege and injustice. The majority of Mexican people, like individuals and entire communities globally, use clothing to express themselves – fresas flock to the gigantic malls of the city that house transnational clothing chains like Zara and Bershka, rockeros punkeros and goths do their shopping on Saturday mornings at El Chopo tianguis, and autonomous and revolutionary minded students and people opt to thrift, recycle and trade clothing in direct resistance to the mass spending that characterizes Mexico’s consumer habits.

But there are also people who are not given this option of personal and social expression through dress: a large population of Mexico City lives in severe poverty, surviving off the pocket change of the millions of transients that pass them by on Metro station entrances, intersections of major avenues, and important pedestrian streets in the city’s center. Meanwhile many people live without the choice nor the ability of economic consumption, their presence is an important part of Mexico City’s collective identity. It is a city of contradictions, where abundance and scarcity live in the same neighborhood, walk the same streets, and struggle to make themselves seen, heard, and noticed.

Performativity encompasses not only dress, but many aspects of cultural expression such as language, social relationships and especially in Mexico City, corruption. Just like people work on sidewalks to gather change, many police officers, underpaid and unscrupulous, often ask for mordidas or pay-offs from young folks caught drinking out in public, from motorists accused of traffic violations and from unsuspecting denizens identified as srewable. This performance is intimidating as they menace people with arrest and if you’re a foreigner, deportation. Witnessing the performativity of corruption and poverty of Mexico’s police force is not cool at all, trust me.

Yet for me, the most aesthetically pleasing and insightful example of urban performativity in Mexico City remain to be the hundreds of street performers, mimes and movie characters brought to life on weekends in el Centro Historico. Panhandling is turned into a ritual that involves entire families and public life in the city and is a view into this society’s perpetual hunger for constant entertainment, a direct result of unceasing consumption of television and mass media.

The pictures that follow, taken by the talented photographer and chronicler of Mexico City, Chad Santos, illustrate the faces that both symbolize necessity and epitomize the happiness of many of the city’s children: the Joker, Neyteri, the Rocker, el Payaso, y la Catrina.

chad santos_joker

The Joker, impeccably cynical, attracts both young and adult boys alike. The eery shadows and contrasts between grey, blue and black hues of the growing night in El Centro frame his stage: limitless urban space.

 

 

 

chad santos_avatar

The research, time and artistry of DF’s public and street side celebrities represents the DIY attitude that characterizes DF living. Yet there is something deeply beautiful about it all, the crafting of the faces of Mexico City, los rostros de la ciudad, adapting and transforming them, the limitless possibility of becoming something and someone else.

 

chad santos_kiss

Their faces, perfectly crafted and painted, pay homage to contemporary norteamericano culture, a lo Chilango. But it seems that even street performers themselves are capable of believing that they can become these idols. For minutes, hours and entire evenings, he is Gene Simmons.

 

 

chad santos_payasoLos payasos, clowns, are among the most widespread streetside musers in DF. Exhausted and often overwhelmed faces are costumed in bright colors. They share jokes in the metro, juggle on Reforma and offer balloon animals and smiles in el Centro. Happiness to momentarily lighten the ceaselessness of everyday life of an often overwhelming city.

 

chad santos_catrinaLa Catrina is a quintessentially Mexican expression of beauty, immortality and pride. It is an aesthetic inspired by Posada and appropriated worldwide, especially on Nov. 2 (Día de los Muertos). In Mexico City, children gaze upon el rostro de la catrina,  an admiration and assertion that lo Mexicano, us mexicans, us too, are beautiful.

“No nos queda más que luchar”

Acción Global for Ayotzinapa en Los Angeles, enero 27 (Andre Medina)
Acción Global for Ayotzinapa en Los Angeles, enero 27 (Andre Medina)

Bajo una llovizna rociada pero persistente, la voz de Saira Rodriquez, hija de Nestora Salgado, fundadora y coordinadora de la policía comunitaria de Olinalá, Guerrero, reverberó entre decenas de velas y claveles afuera de la Catedral de Nuestra Señora la Reina de Los Ángeles, en conmemoración y protesta de los cuatro meses desde la desaparición de los jóvenes, indígenas, estudiantes normalistas de Ayotzinapa, Guerrero.

El asunto era éste: “no nos queda más que luchar.” A través de una llamada telefónica, con voz trémula hablaba de la intimidación y las amenazas que ha recibido por exigir y organizar por la libertad de su madre, presa en un penal de máxima seguridad desde agosto de 2013.

Parada allí, tan lejos de Saira y tan lejos de Ayotzinapa, identifique aquellas palabras con los consejos y saberes que me sigue brindando mi familia, mi hxstoria y comunidad.

Palabras que nacen de una hxstoria y contexto de lucha constante, una lección comúnmente transmitida a través de generaciones y fronteras, de madre a hija, abuelo a nieto, de luchadxs social a joven esperanzado y estudiante hacía su pueblo.

Palabras que nuestras madres recitan para condenar condiciones laborales injustas y patrones que manipulan y explotan. Que se expresan a través de los ojos lúcidos que adornan los rostros de nuestros abuelos, que nos platican de su hambre por sobrevivir y vivir alimentado del campo y la tierra. Las palabras y silencios que decenas, cientos, miles de madres, familias, hermanos y compañerxs usan para denunciar la desaparición se su sangre, para articular su dolor.

Lucha. Memoria y lección que impregna nuestra piel, sazona nuestras lagrimas, nutre los surcos de nuestros campos y ayuda a brotar las flores y los arboles entre las grietas de nuestras ciudades urbanas.

La lucha aplastada, marchitada, agobiada, pero viva. Regenerativa, se resucita en las platicas con nuestrxs abuelxs sobre revoluciones frustradas, manifiestos olvidados, sueños congelados. Sobrevive la migración y despojo, retando corrupción, violencia y olvido.

A falta de tanto no nos queda más que la lucha.

“She is the maker of worlds.”

En donde empezamos y siempre retornamos, Durango.
En donde empezamos y siempre retornamos, Durango.

At the conclusion of a book very dear to me, Alicia Schmidt Camacho reiterates that those beautiful beings who inhabit the fringes of the bordered ambiguity of existence, habitantes de fronteras, are those capable of constructing worlds anew.

After hundreds of years of being relegated to violence, death, abuse, and oblivion, those who have grown and resisted within the borderlands have learned to grow within apparently rigid parameters of existence, to make space where we were told and where we learned there was no room to grow and thrive. It is within violence and ambiguity of desolate weather that desert life thrives and grows.

As I travel through northern Mexico on the dawn of a new cycle and year, I cross deserts, hills, and mountains to reach Los Angeles. As our bus pulled away from my mother’s hometown in southern Durango, I beheld a beautiful sight of milpas and orchards, a reminder of my family’s work as farmers and luchadorxs. And as my bus sped down highways destined northward, through the arid deserts of Chihuahua and Arizona, through my window I perceived the immaculate beauty of life in its extreme and desolate expression.

On the last leg of my traveling on the dawn of the New Year, I admit that this year, I learned about my ability to create, to articulate, to express and act upon my own vision. That in traveling through Tijuana, Durango, Oaxaca, Mexico City, and La Paz, Baja California while voyaging through the treacherous terrain of my own fears, unhappiness, courage and growth, I learned about my resiliency, and my power to reinvent and build myself anew, inhabiting and loving each new environment, each new terrain.

Ella esta por embarcar. She is about to embark, about to leave, about to begin. In the beginning of this year I decided, or better expressed, felt obliged by my creative spirit, to begin to articulate my desires and reflections through the written word via this blog. And much of what has inspired and unsettled me has been traveling, both spiritual and physical. Even from the familiarity of my nest in Los Angeles, I have been compelled to explore and better understand myself; after so much time living with an understanding of who I was, what I desired, hoped for and was compelled to pursue, I realized that much of what I thought I understood about myself was imposed upon and simply outdated.

Embarking, exploring, discovering more about myself by articulating thought into word, curiosity into voyage, has thus been my journey this past, and quickly closing, cycle.

Within the spaces and pauses of each sentence, and within each sublime conversation with the dozens of people I have met in my journey through Mexico, spectacular site of so much of my growth, pain, and reason to hope and resist toward happiness and social change, and through life this year, I find the inspiration to construct a world versed in the language of creativity, fluidity, justice and love. To build a world compatible with the thousands of worlds I hope to meet, explore, and grow alongside with each new cycle.

And with each new road paved through the expansive space that both articulates and severs deserts, hxstories and journeys, I compose the verses and relish the sensation of life as I flow, weather, and choose it.

Ella habita las fronteras
construyendo y fluyendo
habitando y encarnando
sintiendo la vida misma