Mexico City: Ciudad de la Nostalgia, Ciudad que se extraña

El Centro, Mexico D.F.

The process of forgetting feelings versus the process of forgetting people and place; could it be that although you never truly forget a person, because of time and space, you induce yourself or are forced to forget how you felt about them, and so that when you see them, you remember them, but you no longer have present those feelings that once inspired you to think you’d never feel anything like that for anything else ever again? Or are these resolute feelings authentic, but their passion is so strong that it astounds and clouds doubt of love over us? Could this be true about a city?

Or could it be that they rise up in you again once you have them close to you? Is it a matter of proximity or of time? I think it’s a matter of proximity. These feelings of love once exploding inside of me, are becoming dormant, but I know upon first contact they will explode, re-emerge and pour out of my soul…

When it comes to Mexico city, both person and place, my dilemma of love is in no way new. It’s been about seven months since I stepped on chilango soil last, and as I contemplate the urban sunsets over it’s downtown through virtual means and relish in the memories of it’s tastes and sensations, my love remains steadfast as I continuously live in a different context, in a different city.

Considering that Mexico City has always been a city of flux and migration, both internal migration from rural areas to the urban center, and international migrations, from Latin American professionals who flock to the largest city in the hemisphere in pursuit of opportunities for work and international tourists in seek of leisure, many people are perpetually arriving and leaving, always consuming and exchanging a bit of themselves with the city.

As an exchange student-turned-tourist-turned-adoptive-denizen of the city, I’ve met and encountered many people from all of the world who’ve migrated to the city in pursuit of opportunities to become more themselves – from writers to graphic designers from Venezuela, young students of politics from Colombia, musicians from Puebla, and free spirits and world-class mezcal drinkers from Sacramento. I’ve met people who, like me, are in pursuit of something distinct from the sameness found in U.S. cities, who plan to make Mexico City a more permanent home.

And in my journey from and between my many homes, I’ve met both lifelong and adoptive dfeños who always speak and refer to Mexico City as a city to miss. From pict(oral) histories exchanged in person and internecticamente, with stories that illuminate Mexico City of the past and present, from childhoods in Parque Alameda and nights out in El Centro, the sounds and smells and tastes are always preserved in synesthetic memories of once transients of the city.

These memories, this nostalgia, ultimately turns into a yearning and desire to return. In many ways, upon experiencing the city, the writers and designers and lovers and travelers are willing to, and ultimately do, return. It’s as if Mexico City marks you. It marks you with a love and an inspiration to love and live in a way that parallels the intensity of its urban life. It’s the simple things in the city that inspire a greater and more permanent, life-long love.

And it is despite the distance and despite time, that a love for a city subsists. Because however small and however remote the happiness remains remembered of our time living in Mexico City, it is the conjunction of all these that make for one of the most sublime lessons on love and life.

As the lyrics go for one of my favorites songs by La Negra Sosa and interpreted by Chavela Vargas, ultimately, uno vuelve siempre a los viejos sitios donde amo la vida. One always returns to the places where they loved life most. In that way, we are always returning.

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.

A Viajera’s Manifesto: Ella Está Embarcando

Spiritual travels, intellectual journeys, and endeavours in the pursuit of capital and consumption: which to embark? Do these come in a certain order? Or do most people, who live in the first, third, or between worlds who are able to leave their cities for leisure and in the pursuit of discovery, restrict the former (spiritual) to the beginning years of their lives? Are our first study abroad experiences the only opportunity we have to engage and abandon ourselves to the construction of consciousness and spirituality? Do we need to conform to a spiritually and physically sedentary life once graduated from college?

On the one hand, the unearthing of this conversation makes me uncomfortable, mainly because these concerns remain restricted to a sort of existential crisis of the first world, along with all the other spiritual crises born out of living in a world dominated by those infatuated with capital and with money. But I can’t help but feel that digging a bit into the subconsciousness and subtext of this dilemma. I think in doing so I scratch the surface of something widely shared and unsettling for people of my generation – and people in my transbarrio communities who are (sometimes barely) able to live and experiment life in another reality and place, only to return to the reality of student debt, underemployement, and capital crisis par excellence.

A friend recently published his insights about the topic of maturity. According to him, what we have come to understand about maturity as a concept and reality that we fetishize, worship and struggle with is simply the acceptance and succumbing to the state of the world  – or as he says, la mierda – of today and a relinquishing of our belief that this world could be better, that we could be better people in this world. We blind and benumb ourselves by making a pact with “maturity” that in turn impedes us from working toward alternative and better ways of living. These meditations articulate part of what I am perturbed by when contemplating the transitions of life and becoming; the perpetual pressure to “ground” yourself in the reality imposed upon you, the pressure to cease entertaining possibilities that stimulate the mundane and oppressive: poner los pies en la tierra no es más que aceptar ser un punto gris más en la mancha gris. As pointed out by my friend, resisting this imposition can bring upon solitude, which doesn’t perturb him, but that is a reality for some who make this decision. And I wonder whether solitude is the rule and whether solitude should necessarily involve loneliness and isolation. I can’t help but think so many people identify with these sentiments and have actually already worked for the alternative ways of living, of inspiration and of creation.

Yet my personal curiosity has turned into a sort of creative life project: I want to perpetually recreate those meditations and sentiments inspired by my first experimentation with life and love elsewhere in all possible ways and realms. This has so much to do with my time traveled to and from Mexico City. As an ever growing gift of these travels, I begin to articulate and string together my mantra to inspire a life of travel and growth:

I want to be mobile, flexible, movable. I want to construct (and join) communities of intersections and dialogue. 

I want to work for (and alongside) alternative ways of living, breathing, communicating. 

I want to build a sustainable life for myself, where creation through my hands, mind, and soul can provide me with spiritual and physical nourishment to inspire health not only in my being but sustenance for those who surround me.

Living beats

Today I’m in the mood for some jazz, Duke Ellington, Monk, Nina Simone and café con leche.

 Reading about jazz musicians of the past and on the essence of jazz immortalized in the writing of James Baldwin (among others), I have the notion that this music is about sentiments and feelings buried deep inside that only jazz notes can communicate. It is a product of genius and tragedy.

I find so much beauty in and appreciate people who make music, people who are music, and people who live life as beats and melodies.  Some people I’ve met are as troubled and tragic as Thelonious Monk but just as brilliant.  In the past it has troubled me to think people can think and desire so differently than me, that their sense of purpose and creation is so different than my own.  But like everyone, they make internal compromises in order to get by – metaphysically, philosophically, spiritually.

In order to survive – that is, to live the lives of their choosing, as drummers, as musicians, as challengers, artists, and performers – they come to a sort of agreement with themselves in order to turn and confront the world as they are, as they have chosen to be, intending to occupy as much space in the world, as they are. Sometimes the world decides you’re crazy or dangerous or stupid and does away with you.

But sometimes because you create a jazz album, a book or writing – conversation and enlightenment in all its forms – you become impossible to destroy.  You transcend your fear of death, of destruction and termination – the fear of yourself, your vulnerability and temporality – through your power to create and inspire. Perhaps that is one outstanding reason I adore music.

It is a remnant of that amazing power of creation, a testament of sorts. Music from a time far gone, from a present very proximate and dynamic, and of a reassurance that this creative force that slumbers in many people, is very capable of influencing wonderful interpretations to inspire us all.

As with music, so it is with dancing, and with words, and with ideas, and with smiles, and with love.

Ruptures and reencuentros

There is a strong overwhelming sadness when you begin to let go of something you love; sadness and anguish seeps into you, winds and spins down into your soul, to erupt, para derramarse, to flood your entire being.  There is so much that ties me to people and to places.  There are certain places that I love beyond measure and beyond articulation, it astounds me.  It overwhelms and inspires me.  When it comes to a place and experience like Mexico City, I have become so enamored that the thought of having to relinquish my plans of establishing myself there more permanently frightens and overwhelms me.  But what else is there?  What comes next?  What happens when I let you go?

I don’t know what to work for, other than for my own happiness.  I am living now, I lived yesterday, I will -maybe- live tomorrow.  I am only aware and present that I am living this exact fleeting precise past instant. I am here and I have everything here, with me. When it comes to ruptures, sometimes I prefer to block people, hoping they’d forget me, so I could forget them.  I think it becomes easier not to feel certain people so present if they themselves separate my image and smell and taste from their senses and memory. And that scares me also.  Because, once they forget me, who will I be?  What will I be? This is always possible.  This always happens.  And we still exist.  They still exist, too.  You exist separately, like you did all along, always independently.  No one belongs to any one, somewhere along the time shared and given, we forget because at a certain point we seemed to have fused together.  But we all live parallel lives; we all exist independently; you were someone before you met him; you were someone before you visited Mexico City; Mexico City was Mexico City before you; he was himself before he met you.  This is the law of history and destiny since always.  You are now a different person, perhaps more beautiful perhaps more enlightened perhaps more aware.

But then there are people you adore and love and although you may  not see them often, you adore and love just the same.  So why is there a need for a rupture?  Perhaps because it is more like a departure. Depart but leave the goodbye open for new hellos, new convergences and renewed embraces.  Sometimes I oscillate between goodbye forever or be with me always but perhaps life need not be so extreme. Leave it open to new encuentros.  El amor es eso; they will return, you will return, love always returns.

Dulce Esperanza

What’s in a name?  A bit of investigative work and short conversations regarding what’s behind my name, my parent’s explain that it means “dulce esperanza”.  This, along with all of the symbolism encompassed with being a daughter of two mexican migrants now living in Los Angeles via way of Durango and Sonora, and who I am becoming, has prompted me to write this short piece in Spanish.  Espero que les guste, muchos besitos:

Yo tengo alma de ave, me seduce el viento que acaricia mi piel, como si animarme a tomar vuelo.  Desde pequeña me gustaba correr, brincar y jugar sin fijarme ni preocuparme hacia cual rumbo me dirigía, sin importar que me tropezara o me cayera, y un día de jugar era todo un éxito cuando terminaba con moretones en las rodillas y en los codos y empapada de sudor y tierra…a la angustia de mi madre.  Jamas me he dejado vencer o desanimar por miedo a causarme heridas, tras años de deporte de baile de viaje he aprendido que tengo un cuerpo muy fuerte y resistente.  Sí temo defraudarme a mi misma y esto me causa enfrentar retos con temor de ser insuficiente, de no creerme digna de lograr aquello que tanto me asombra, pero persigo aquellos sueños con tremendo empeño y cada día con más paciencia y amor y valentía. Porque me fascina la sensación de volar, de percibir la inmensidad del hermoso entorno; de vistas nuevas viejas y antiguas que se vuelven nuevas con cada día.  Me gustaría discernir las rutas por las cuales puedo volar, con amor y esperanza, para navegar por el mundo con la curiosidad y confianza desarrollada de niña y con el amor propio que voy desarrollando como adulta.  Y con la esperanza engendrada en mi por mi papá y mi madre, por mi familia y comunidad, por el mundo hacía mi y yo hacía el mundo.  Me gustaría navegar el mundo volando, con valentía y con la mira hacía el horizonte perpetuo.