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.

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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. 

cities for creatures of pure wonder

From the film, Los Angeles Plays IItself
From the film, Los Angeles Plays Itself

“A single step into the past is enough for me to rediscover this sensation of strangeness which filled me when I was still a creature of pure wonder, in a setting where I became aware of the presence of a coherence for which I could not account but which sent its roots into my heart.” –
Louis Aragon, Paris Peasants 

After traveling home through a daze of side-eyed glances and murmuring strangers casting shadows under neon street signs, I collapse exhausted onto my bed. Intoxicated off a seemingly endless weekend of living. Hallucinating on the thrill of traveling within and beyond the city limits. A city that’s my home, that I know, that I have tried to flee and fight a millions times over.

This physical repose allows me to become overwhelmed with the inebriation, conversation, music, faces, and sights blessed upon me by amazing company, still palpable through tact and memory. Pressed upon my whole being is an affirmation that I am, and have always been meant to be, an unceasing traveler of and for life. For four days, I shared life with a kindred traveler spirit first befriended in Mexico City, and with new and old friends.

For four days, we abandoned all will to excess and serendipity. Propelled by the energy of the collective wanderlust of our borderless party crew, I partied the way I have rolled around and danced in dozens of dance floors in Mexico City. I voyaged through streets so intimately familiar to me with luggage the way I walked through the cobblestone streets of Oaxaca, Mexico for the first time. And from high above, I overlooked the limitless horizon of a city, stretching in every possible direction, a vision so new yet so familiar to one discerned from the balcony of the Torre Latino in DF.

Yet this inspiration that permeates my spirit with bliss feels like the result of all my travels and experiences concentrated into a mere weekend. As if the overwhelming happiness I experience is the sum of hundreds of days of travel, of four years packed into four days in Los Angeles. Because while these moments transport me to a different physical and temporal terrain, I feel newly aquatinted with the beauty that resides in the familiar and the possibility present in the everyday. Through celebrating with friends who also yearn for art, love, and punk rock midnight living, I learned about how thrilling it is to travel even when home, even when neither there nor then. But in the living, breathing, exhilarating moment.

The abyss of nocturnal revelry and the luminosity of daybreak peering through windowsills reminded me that it’s possible to feel the intoxication inspired by traveling anywhere and everywhere. As the clock relentlessly winds and begins again, inspired by the sun and moon’s cyclical voyage across the city’s sky, people move through this city often overlooking opportunities to connect with and contemplate each other and their surroundings. To do so is to miss the opportunity to peer into worlds that affirm our connection to far away places while also helping to deepen our connection with the place that physically sustains us, the concrete urban incubator of the mundane and intoxicating existence of our everyday lives.

This is a lesson and a truth unbeknown to thousands of people too afraid to share a conversation with a pensive Kenyan smoking on the steps of the Los Angeles Public Library. Of lying on the grass following the trail of a hummingbird that flutters through swaying branches of the jacaranda tree. Of sneaking up high-rise lofts to discern the waning sun reflected on the diaphanous and translucent arrangement of rising structures and deepening human silence.

During these last few days, I felt incredibly overwhelmed with the certainty and gratitude of fully and wildly living in the present and expansive city of LA. It’s as if in living intensely, I was finally able to travel enough to connect to hundreds of places, sensations, perspectives, simultaneously. In my search and hunger to travel, travel as a place to get to, I had never offered myself the opportunity to occupy and live within that journey. To feel it permeating my skin, in the surf and garage punk tunes rousing a dance floor, in the collective satisfaction of living.

Arriving to the all too familiar place, neighborhood, home, bed, I am physically and spiritually reeling with the highness of living and traveling. Meditating on the assertion that all of us are capable of perpetually exploring and navigating both new and old terrain in search of wisdom and stimulation of the senses, mind, body, and spirit.

To travel, in the measure that it transports us to our past, is to step forward stringing along each sight and person that has inspired wonder, searching and accepting this in every place. And as I write, and as this dazed and delirious feeling leaves my body, left in its place is this lesson on travel and place. Something I have searched for yet is what the city now whispers and what its denizens struggle to keep silent.

The affirmation flows through my bedroom window. The hum of human activity and wind blowing through the tree branches kindles what’s born within all of us. The certainty that life, expressed in our perpetual travels, is not a destination but an unceasing journey, that deepens, extends, animates and awakens.

 

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.


“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

Transitions

My heart trembles as it threatens to shatter into a million diaphanous specks of light.  Yet the outcome does not matter.  Because love must be indiscriminate.  I must share and be generous with the bountiful love that slumbers inside me because to deprive anyone of compassion and understanding is to be selfish and violent, it is to capitalize and  deny spiritual nourishment, to limit the healing power of love, the elixir of life. And it is to waste away my soul’s capacity to regenerate love. My sole expectation is to learn from and love the smallest and grandest occupants of this universe. I do not demand love or reciprocity but understand that it will flow to me naturally as I give and offer love. I do not expect, I participate. I do not take, I offer.

Mexico City: Descenso

Alex Neyra

Peaking through the window, I searched for signs of life as we lowered deeper into the abyss of pollution and morning fog.

As we penetrated what appeared to be an endless sea of grey foam, I began to discern patches of light. A million spheres of light suddenly peaked through the thick layers of pollution and I realized that the enormous slumbering creature had been tracing the trajectory of our plane as soon as we began our descent over the fringed edges of its endlessness.

I suddenly realized Mexico City slumbered below me and my heart jumped. It was five in the morning and I had finally arrived to the city that has been my destination ever since I first arrived almost four years ago.

It is precisely that moment of exaltation inspired by my palpable proximity to it that characterizes its entrancing nature. I arrived to Mexico City two days ago and I find myself adjusting to how it awakens, its palpitations, its breath, its restlessness. Returning means a natural and fluid synchronization, matching energy and breath.

Regreso al monstruo, y me arrojo a su mar de luz, de caós, de vida.

Brotando Frutos: Lecciones del Campo

Roads that lead to apple orchards, Durango Mx.
Roads that lead to apple orchards, Durango Mx.

“Hubieron temporadas cuando tu abuelo cosechaba muchas frutas y frijol, él jamas dejo de trabajar la tierra ni de prepararla, pero hubieron años cuando el helado o la granizada les arruinaba la cosecha, pero la tierra estaba preparada. Ellos jamas pasaron hambre, ellos jamas dejaron de trabajar. Tú eres como aquella tierra preparada, cuidada, lista para brotar frutos.”

There were seasons when you’re grandfather’s land would reap lots of fruits, beans, and a bountiful cosecha. He tended the land year after year but there were years when the winter cold and granizada would ruin the harvest, pero la tierra estaba preparada. Ellos jamas pasaron hambre, ellos jamas dejaron de trabajar. Tú eres como aquella tierra preparada, cuidada, lista para brotar frutos. But you, just like the land, are prepared. You’re used to getting everything easily, you’ve been blessed with opportunities more readily, more steadily, more in the past, but you must work hard now and in the future. Good things will come Meli, you must work for them, and maintain all of the work you’ve put into yourself, the time and love and care you have taken to tend and nurture your being and your life. You will be able to reap flowers and life once again. Be patient and work hard.

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: 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.