Mexico City: A Transfronteriza’s Last Days

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Forever grateful, and in love.

Mexico City: Exhaustion

Cansada. The traffic jams have become knots on my back.  But then, looking back, I wrote  seven articles, twenty-six blog posts, and nine magazine submissions. I wrote the most, wrote what I wanted inspired by the city I had to be in, in my entire life.

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Contours of chaos, a view from above (1972).

Three months after beginning this blog post, I’m inspired to begin, experience, and complete this post on how hard it has been to thrive and succeed in my decision and commitment to writing. In a commitment to a city. In commitment.

It’s been exhausting. Working full-time within the journalism world has kicked my ass. Working full-time and secluded in Mexico City’s deep south has been fatiguing. The toll of stress: anxiety of falling short, of being inadequate to begin with, of overcoming the fear of actually and really being brilliant. Urban inspired exhaustion: traveling 1.5 hours just to have a latte at my favorite cafe with its perfect view of city life, of asshole taxi drivers annoyed that they had to drive me to my place in Tepepan, a colonia just north of Xochimilco and a community a friend and I jokingly coined “the country.” Of the stress of car horns, traffic, and anxious and impatient masses filling metro cars.

I grew impatient. With challenge came great expectations and my flexibility, fluidity, love, and ability to discern  beauty and poetry in my surroundings and even life shrunk to a minimal tolerance. It’s as if my high-stress life suddenly blinded me from seeing that I was doing exactly what I wanted, exactly where I wanted.  Recalling and re-reading earlier prose and odes to the city, I was reminded that I appreciated the chaos of it all, its impatience, lust, and possibility. I was enthralled and even propelled by it. But in a state of unhappiness and stress, it became too much.

What finally allowed me to reflect on all of this was the space, calm and contemplation I had denied myself previously. Assigning blame to the city that has always inspired me, its noise, its chaos, its defiance to grant me one single moment of repose and silence to calm my reeling, anxious, impatient mind. The city and I seemed to be competing to see which would self-destruct quickest. And my love and patience for it during those long metro rides home, the love and gratitude for the immediacy and inspiration of an unapologetically and painfully alive city, fell victim.

Because exhaustion and short-sightedness is impairing and fatalistic. Because poor and neglected rituals of self-love make drowning in despair all the more probable. Because I sometimes may want to run away from a place I love so deeply and thoroughly I have defied everything just to feel myself embraced by its nights and mornings. Because nothing is permanent, finite, and unchanging. Because loving and learning means understanding that the process of loving and learning can be difficult, challenging, and exhausting.

That the poetry and beauty I discern on tired and drowsy faces of Mexico City’s poor denizens that I forget about once I reach my destination doesn’t end there. That deciding and choosing to be a writer and journalist isn’t the final published product alone. That traveling south, with all of my belongings, anxieties, hesitations, dreams, inspiration, and love isn’t easy. That not everything is grand or fantastic, doom or death.

Codex and Give Up The Ghost, the only two songs on my phone, on repeat non-stop on the MetroBus ride home, from Alvaro Obregon to Camineros. To feel, be present, and muster appreciation and gratitude for the city lights and life that zooms past me at the end of another day fully living and thriving in the city. For a pasajera en trance in the face of her dreams, this is the enduring commitment and gift from the beloved city that inspires and gives to me fully and to exhaustion.

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. 

“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.

Mexico City: Hope

Silent Protest for Ayotzinapa 43 El Zócalo, Nov. 9, 2014
Silent Protest for Ayotzinapa 43 El Zócalo, Nov. 9, 2014

Silent Protest for Ayotzinapa 43 (with translation):

Guerra es cuando tu gobierno te dice quién es el enemigo. Revolución es cuando te das cuenta para ti mismo. Ya basta México, NO te quedes callado.

¿No te da pena que nosotros dos estudiantes de 15 años tengamos más huevos que tu para alzar la voz? Por que en estos tiempos es más peligroso ser estudiante que delincuente. Ya basta Mexicano, NO te quedes callado.

War is when the government tells you who the enemy is. Revolution is when you realize this for your self. Enough Mexico, DO NOT remain silent.

Does it not embarrass you that as two fifteen year old students, we show more bravery than you in making our voices heard? In these times it is more dangerous to be a student than it is to be a criminal. Enough Mexico, DO NOT remain silent.

In this city, I fully and deeply exercise my emotions on a daily, even one block basis. Walking through El Centro to get to a coffee shop a few minutes ago, I made sure to walk past the Palacio Nacional to see the aftermath of the protest and civil disobedience I was able to see in the flesh last night. The graffiti is gone, the police are present, the palace stands impeccable: absence. I walk east, and all along Madero, and witness the presence of people who live hunger, necessity and poverty and beg for a few coins to feed their family: helplessness. Jazz notes flow from a sax and drum duo, and this strange and out of place sensation is born in me: joy. But then I continue to walk and find a pair of fifteen year old students, who in their thirty minute demonstration of pure and sublime resistance inspire a warm and healing feeling inside of me that nurtures me in the city and the country’s perpetually cold night: hope. I thank them, deeply, and keep on my way, rejuvenated.

El Regreso Colectivo: Viajando a Durango, Mexico

Nuevo Ideal, Durango
“Los pasos de mi madre,” por la huerta de manzanas de mi abuelo en Nuevo Ideal, Durango.

Preparándonos para nuestro viaje a Durango, entre hacer el equipaje y las compras obligatorias de dulces y demás regalos para la familia, mi mamá me comenta que hoy como cada año se siente triste en su regreso.

Cuando le pregunto la razón por su tristeza, le es dificil explicarlo, pues nace dentro de ella tan naturalmente cada vez que es su tiempo de regresar.

Colectivamente emigramos de Durango hace más de trienta años, ya que mis primeros viajes empezaron cuando ella decidio dejar su pueblo para cruzar las fronteras y establecerse en Los Angeles, California. Desde entonces ella ha podido regresar, contando con toda la autorización burocratica necesaria y con la añoranza y deseo abrumador por el reencuentro.

La nostalgia que ella siente lo he experimentado yo año tras año y me dio cuenta que la tristeza es el deseo de no tener que haberse ido. Dentro de los flujos, retornos y viajes hemos coincidido en el regreso, juntas. Vámos pa’l pueblo.

Mexico City: La Mejor Compañía Viene en Forma de Ciudad

#PaisajeDfeño

Sauntering down the streets of downtown Mexico City on a Sunday afternoon, I’m suddenly struck with the tumultuous and quiet companionship found in a chaotic and multitudinous city.

Here you find company in multitude and in the paradox of solitude within urban conviviality because meanwhile its sheer size imposes intimacy and familiarity, the loneliness and solitude incubated within it also makes for great company. This is a city that I love and relish in enjoying in the company of my own solitude.

From traveling in the Metro, and catching a film at the Cineteca Nacional, to walking through my favorite colonias on any given afternoon and evening, I have always found company in people and urban space. I believe that such a city is made to provide company and warmth to even the most lonely of souls. Because as you rise and move throughout the city, you find yourself moving alongside millions of reposing, gazing, and moving people.

I love to walk down the streets of El Centro during Sundays when it seems almost to collapse under the weight of so much people. People walk down its streets enjoying more leisurely the pleasures of the city and its constant supply of entertainment, from street beggars and poets to massive broadcasting flat screen tvs, to accessible cultural and educational urban gastronomy. The sheer size of the city imposes urban communion.

As the urban days commence and unwind at a hurried pace, as people move and travel always to predetermined destinations and commitments, there are various points in the city where time slows down and welcomes repose. The public squares and shaded urban oasis of green spaces. The poetry of entangled lovers and young poets reciting to each other beneath the shade of trees at Las Islas at UNAM. The city is lived in different gears and traveling at different speeds allows me to multidimensionally connect with and discern the city.

Here I also walk through multiple soundscapes. The organ grinders, out-of-tune street organs and relics of a Mexico City of a hundred years ago, and the musings and soundtracks of the street performers lined up all along the colonial streets, fill the city with a sonorousness that permeates city dwellers’ daily lives, by musicalizing the various neighborhoods and people that inhabit it. It is both the lyricality and the silence, the people and the absences, its density and sparsity that compose the city and thus accompanies each and everyone of us that live and travel through it.

One of my favorite things to do is grab breakfast or coffee at old diners all over the city. On some mornings I walk into La Pagoda, one of various chinese-style cafes in El Centro, and grab a seat at the cafe’s bar. As I relish in the perfect combination of café con leche and pan dulce, I suddenly smile to myself and to my neighbors as I realize I share the same affinity for tranquility, solitude and good coffee with the older chilangos sitting all around me.

Yet it is the perfect example of urban solitude and solidarity: taking comfort and enjoyment in the company of your own self and realizing that however big the city may grow and however agitated and restless it may be, there are millions of people who perhaps also find a solidarity amongst each other and with the city. Existing in their singularity with the comfort and silence that seems to challenge an existence, or an expectation, that homogenizes and restricts these rituals to unfettered consumption and decay, the destiny of massive and global cities in what has been misnamed the “third world”. It is then a sort of mutually inspiring and protecting ritual, between denizen and city, foreigner and primordial.

Mexico City, after all, is a beautifully complex being in and of itself. Some may call it a monster, either loving or disparagingly, but for me it has amassed the qualities of lover, teacher, and companion. Even when its denizens have and continue to mistreat each other, even when its intensity becomes overbearing, the city unveils opportunities and moments of repose and reassurance amidst all of its chaos. In that way it also becomes our best companion.