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

Entre mariposas y viajes: Crónica de una mujer y su reencuentro con la felicidad

Viajes y andares hace unos ayeres. Playa Santa Maria En Los Cabos, BCS.

Viajando de aquí a la felicidad es una travesía que abarca toda una vida, años de vida, miles de vidas. En este viaje que experimentamos un sin fin de estaciones y pesares. Cuando por primera vez me fui de mi casa, partiendo a la Universidad de California de Santa Cruz, un total de 515 kilómetros de distancia de Los Angeles, recuerdo buscando la felicidad entre la inconformidad y tristeza. Estando tan lejos de todo lo familiar, de la música, de los abrazos y la seguridad que sentía dentro de mi nido, me sentía despojada. Recuerdo lejanamente que en una charla con nuevas amistades acertaba que buscaba la felicidad. Tranquilidad.

Mi compañera de cuarto, una muchacha tierna y detallista, me regalo para esa navidad un cuadro del símbolo chino de felicidad. Mientras me pareció gracioso y un bonito detalle, de golpe obtener el cuadro me provoco a penar que en realidad uno siempre viaja acompañada con la felicidad y que solo era cuestión de descubrirla en el entorno para saber que ella te habita, que ella viaja contigo. Mientras aún guardo ese cuadro preciado como recordatorio, desde es primer viaje ha habido momentos en que he perdido trazo de ella, tanto en mis viajes y retornos como reposo y contemplación.

Pues algo muy curioso ha sucedido en los últimos tres años: he ubicado gran parte de mi felicidad en un lugar tanto mágico como trágico. La Ciudad de México para mi habita todas mis inquietudes, anhelos, deseos. Es un amor que ha producido tan grado de inquietud que cada unx de mis amigxs, compañerxs y familiares pueden atestiguar el trastorno que me ocasiona. Cuando no estoy en la ciudad me siento incompleta, triste, y durante el primer año, deprimida. Siempre he reconocido que ubico mi felicidad en este lugar y como resultado he menospreciado lugares, sentires y amores ajenos a ella. Mientras amo, profundo y completamente a ciudades como Los Ángeles, he sentido una conexión tremenda con esta ciudad y este país.

Estos últimos años me han permitido explorar este amor, descubrirme, cuestionarme, desgarrar, comprender y amarme dentro de ella. Pero a medida que me he amado y alimentado de esta vida, voy descubriendo, quizá desde mis tiempos en la universidad, o quizá por la primera vez, que estas lecciones y saberes las he practicado desde que hace mucho tiempo. Que canalizo esta energía de vida y me alimento de esta felicidad. Y que estos saberes habitan todo lo que veo, interpreto, amo, contemplo. Que no se podrán despojar al menos que yo elige. Esta felicidad es transcendente, la puedo vivir y compartir en donde sea que viaje.

Y me dio cuenta que este año he viajado con la felicidad. Cuando viaje a Durango con mi madre, a pesar de la tristeza de un abuelo ya envejeciendo, recuerdo contemplando la impresionante presencia de mariposas amarillas, tanto en el jardín y patio de la casa de mis abuelos como en la carretera que nos conectaba con la ciudad. Mientras bien me influye la historia de amor entre Mauricio Babilonia y Meme las he adaptado como marco de buena suerte, de aliento y felicidad. Desde que llegue a la Ciudad de México hace un mes, me he sentido con el valor de habitar esta felicidad. Me he reencontrado y conocido a personas que, en sus propios viajes, van trazando su propia odisea, no hacía, pero acompañadxs de la felicidad.

Hace una semana viaje a Baja California Sur a participar en un taller de periodismo con estudiantes de la preparatoria en La Paz. Mientras fue una hermosa experiencia trabajar y aprender de lxs estudiantes fue durante nuestro viaje de San José del Cabo a la Paz que percate la presencia de mariposas amarillas durante todo el camino, asombrándome del reencuentro con mi compañera viajera. Desde el coche vislumbre una viste increíble, en donde mariposas amarillas nos acompañaban en el camino que trazábamos entre nubes púrpuras que enmarcaban montañas hermosas y verdes suspendidas sobre una infinidad de mar azul.

En mis viajes no solo viajo con mi cuadrito y con las mariposas sino también con la certeza que tengo todo lo que tengo para ser feliz, para ser felicidad. Y que aquello no depende de algún lugar, ni circunstancia. Es el compromiso que pacto conmigo misma que dentro de todo lo que yo hago, todo lo que yo vivo, todo lo que contemple, puedo, y encontraré, la felicidad.

México’s Mourning

November 8, 2014: Estoy destrozada. Camino por los andenes del metro y percato como la gente camina muta, tranquila, como un oceano impenetrable de humanidad y silencio, agobiados, de luto perpetuo. 

43 Ayotzinapa normal school students murdered, burned, destroyed, and thrown into a river. Disappeared. In such a surreal an disgusting context, where 43 students from southern Mexico were burned and killed, where only their jaws and teeth remain remnants of the violence, I search to understand how this society as a collective, makes sense of this violence, not only in thought but in feeling, in attachment and empathy, in compassion, in anger, in mourning.

What does this society feel? What do they grieve? Walking through the city, in the metro stations, every profile, in every child’s gleaming brown face, in every silence, I discern a deep and old mourning. How can a society be used to such sadness? Or how can we exist when tragedy is everyday’s news? Born in Los Angeles, born in Chicago, born in Ciudad Juarez, born in Iguala, Guerrero. Born brown? Born poor? Born a womyn? Born in such deep and enveloping oppression that your life has lead you to work, feel, think and hope for something different? Born in Iguala, a student, a protester and you are burned and thrown into a river of oblivion that runs blood and is quickly overflowing with bodies, no longer able to hide the thousands of lives destroyed and disappeared within its riverbed.

Walking in Mexico City, a day after the government’s admission of the killing of Ayoztinapa’s students, I truly feel we live in mourning. The mood that has enveloped me informs my perception of my grey, concrete and overwhelming urban context. A sad and melancholic view of the city and country. Only that I believe that this mourning is not fresh. It is an old and ancient mourning. A mourning that is embedded, sown, embroidered, and consumed by this country’s people since long before the student massacres of 1968 and 1972, since before the Dirty War, since before the disappearance, killing, and sexual violence against womyn in Juarez, the State of Mexico, and Atenco. This mourning precedes the unfulfilled utopia of the Mexican Revolution. Since before, long before, the consolidation of the putrid Mexican state that has agonized and lived so proximate to death since its inception. The Mexican pueblo has always lived in mourning. It has lived, loved, rejoiced, resisted and been repressed and murdered within perpetual mourning. Why does Ayozinapa not stir us from this trance, from this state of desensitized and lethargic state of mourning? In the small and vast injustices we must mourn, but not in silence and lethargy, but in catharsis and resistance:

Basta. Ya me canse. De luto a resistencia.

“Todo se acaba”: Rural Lessons on Life and Survival

Returning to my mother’s pueblo in Durango, a state in northern Mexico known for its Mennonites and picturesque skies, is a voyage through the grandeur of a familial past and the decadence of a present that proves that if everything doesn’t end, it certainly changes.

During this journey, I reflect on a book that has accompanied me for most of this year. Having read Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude three times this year, I find myself meditating on the influence of the passage of time over the memory and imagination of the past. For me, each journey to our pueblo is thus a new attempt to both read over and write anew the story of our family.

In Nuevo Ideal, gorgeous and crystal clear skies frame the mountains that surround the bustling town. Amidst the internet cafes and pick-up trucks that blast hip hop and corridos that together compose the soundtrack of those familiar with el otro lado, there remain few people who saw the town at its earliest.

My grandfather is Pablo, an 87-year-old man born in the hacienda La Magdalena. As my last remaining grandparent, his beautiful face shows the wear and richness of a life working and living as a campesino. As I greet him and ask how he’s been, he wearily responds that he continues in good health and says, “pues aquí dando guerra.” Here, still waging war.

This strength is characteristic of our family. The patriarch of our family was Pilar Barragán , my great grandfather, a man almost legendary for his ability to work the land and establish the familial wealth out of the seasonal crops of apples, chiles, beans, squash and corn. Having worked within the La Magdalena, they were early inhabitants of Nuevo Ideal, a town that has just recently reached 77 years old, founded very proximate to the hacienda.

Although his forgetfulness and occasional changes in mood are symptoms of a mental illness of old age, which to this day his children fear and are reluctant to name, he still recounts the type of crops he used to tend to and how he learned to work the land.

My grandfather learned “mirando”, “pegandose”, observing his father because, as he explains, in reality that is how one learns.  These knowledges equipped him to raise 10 children together with my grandmother Juanita, solely off working apple and apricot orchards and maize, bean, and chile crops. He became a merchant, buying and selling apples, and traveling the country in order to make a profit off his ingenuity and hard work. This knowledge helped him migrate to the US through the Bracero Program. This knowledge helped him open a meat market, food stuff store, and tortilleria with my abuelita out of their home. This is the strength that has informed to this day the 87 years of a war to live and to thrive. His father and the need to support his family taught him to wage a war to survive, dar guerra.

As he explains his father’s work and his own work he ends by saying, todo se acaba. Todo se acaba. Everything ends. Meanwhile a generation fades away, another flourishes, changes, and remains. Yet the strength of character born within my grandfather is a gift imbued in me through my mother. Despite the distance that severed us for many years, my mother left home equipped with the strength to cross borders and to raise her children informed by this will to survive. Despite time and despite change, I find this incredible necessity to unearth this quality amidst the groves of his decaying apple orchards, from the grooves that mark his worn face, from within the intelligence of his hazel eyes.

Just like the innovations of modernity seemed to pale as unimaginative and deceiving in comparison to the knowledge of Melquidade’s gypsies in One Hundred Years of Solitude, there is a value and importance in what my grandfather has to teach me, in what those with a distinct imagination and memory have to leave with us. Much in the same way the Buendía family agonized alongside Macondo’s destiny as a family of simultaneous creation and destruction, we are also presented with the opportunity to discern our growth in comparison to that of our environment. And the importance of realizing that despite any change we remain entitled to pause and find deep within our earliest roots the wisdom we sometimes live our lives to seek.

Suddenly I realize it is not necessary to name any illness, to prescribe more medicine, more wear and tear, more exhaustion upon the shoulders of a man whose inner strength and drive knows no limit. My grandfather is for me, a beautiful and perfect example of strength and dedication. He encapsulates an innocence I can’t completely explain and a kindness and warmth I will cherish in my childhood memories as examples to follow. He reminds me that everything does in fact end. Que la guerra un día la tendrás que dejar de liderar. But in the meantime, we must march on, waging the necessary wars to guarantee our survival and permanence. As my grandfather, mi abuelito, as farmer father and fighter, PabloBarragán will always be my earliest teacher on the lessons of life and resistance.

 

 

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:

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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.”

Escribiendo Los Ángeles: La Música

Ella pisa las estrellas 
todo te lo da y pronto te lo quita 
por los callejones donde nada brilla 
quedan los recuerdos de la Reina..

 La Santa Cecilia, fragmento de la canción “Nuestra Señora La Reina de Los Ángeles” 

En este blog he dedicado mucha prosa y poesía a la Ciudad de México. Aquella es mi musa más grande, fuente inagotable de inspiración para esta viajera. Pero gran parte de lo que me inspira de ella lo asocio a mi experiencia como una mujer y estudiante transfronterista.

To write and understand myself wholly, we must consider all of my experiences relative to borders, and to the ways in which I travel, transcend, inhabit and challenge them.

Before Mexico City there was Santa Cruz, before Santa Cruz Los Angeles, before Los Angeles there was Durango, before Durango…Between all this coming and going, Los Angeles remains one of my more enduring homes. This is the city my parents’ choose to migrate to in the 70s and sow roots, echar raíces, while nurturing a yearning always to return down roads trekked across hills and deserts, rivers and mountains.

Because although I am always leaving, aunque siempre me esté yendo, siempre regreso. Regreso cuando la nostalgia se aproxima en invierno y extraño los apapachos de mi mamá, su olor su cocinar los tamales y el ponche que prepara y escuchar a mi padre tocar el piano y perderme en su colección de records. Recuerdo la letra de una canción de Facundo Cabral, Me gusta andar pero no sigo el camino pues lo seguro ya no tiene misterio, me gusta ir con el verano muy lejos pero volver donde mi madre en invierno…

Porque cuando regresamos al nido, when we return to our earliest home, we receive new opportunities to discern the smallest and most astounding developments, the newness of what we once considered mundane and ordinary, and the beauty and happiness of our most cherished memories.

My piece of Los Angeles is Boyle Heights – un pequeño pedazo de Los Angeles hacia el oriente en donde encontramos mucha gente mexicana, saldavoreña, latinoamericana y todxs quienes se encuentran en medio. This is a community of resiliency where the memory of our pueblos remains preserved in our food, in the aromatic poetry of pan dulce that emanates from bakeries on bright and radiant barrio mornings, in our abrazos and in our music.

The músicxs y música that melodize and fill my community come in diverse melodic and rythmic forms, desde el mariachi al conjunto, del son jarocho al rock  y punk en espanglish. However, the bastions of our musical creative production remain the people who, in their migration and journey through las américas, brought with them their love and necessity. For all of us, music becomes a tool and symbol of personal and collective survival:

© Monica Almeida
Mariachi Plaza © Monica Almeida

Of all ages, de todos los tamaños: trabajando en un oficio ya antiguo, a veces o muchas veces menos preciados, tocando para nosotros los corridos, los sones, los huapangos..siempre en restaurantes coloridos y deliciosos.  The strumming of their guitarras, the plucking of the strings, the loitering, waiting, watching: esperando las oportunidades que a veces nunca llegan. 

 

© Nidia Bautista
© Nidia Bautista

En Los Ángeles, ciudad a veces cruel, es en donde cada vez más los músicos mexicanos y latinoamericanos quedan relegados a la plaza de mariachi y a aveces, al hambre. Los procuramos cuando nuestra nostalgia y soledad lo requiere. Theirs are faces I want to preserve in my heart’s memory forever; las manos envejecidas, mentes lúcidas, miradas agobiadas, melodías dulces.

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.