Thursday, November 8, 2012

Worshiping Death

Enough slacking and back to writing after over a week of silence.
I crossed the border into Mexico last Friday, six pounds heavier on account of the fear I carried in my body after every single person I encountered all the way from New York City warned me about the conditions in Mexico. Contrary to what all those stupid commercials want to sell us, it is not age that’s heavy, only fear. My expectations were none other than cruel torture and decapitation as soon as I crossed the Río Bravo. Unless I am actually dead and living in some parallel dimension, like those suckers from LOST (I confess, I watched the whole thing), I am alive and kicking considering I’ve had breakfast, felt the earthquake in Guatemala and I am now writing about my little adventures.

I’ve been in Mexico for a week, and so far I haven’t witnessed any shootings, my motorcycle hasn’t been stolen and my precious little ass hasn’t been desecrated. I have, however, chatted with a lot of locals and they all have told me about the sense of insecurity they experience in the streets everyday.

  "Most of the people here, they have to go straight home as soon as the sun goes down.
Because of the fear… the terror of Violence.
Bad people who don’t think that people in the street, having a drink or having some fun, have children. They work hard everyday and that’s why they’re taking a break.
They come… and… they don’t care... they start… killing.
They start shooting. It’s happening at bars now. We’ve seen it at a few bars.
And it’s definitely… It’s not right. "

The truth, apparently, is that Violence has escalated substantially in the last few years. But it also seems to me that there’s a big game of  ‘broken telephone’ going on, in which someone whispers something onto someone’s ear, they whisper it to someone else and by the end of the line the story is completely altered. Yes, drug-traffickers kill each other all the time. Yes, some guy can go into a bar and start shooting. Yes, there are pickpockets running around. Yes, there’s risk of being stabbed, raped or decapitated. But unfortunately that can happen anywhere, not just in Mexico. And when the media keeps feeding people Violence, because we know it sells, facts tend to be exaggerated.


It seems that the further down the line of whispers you are, the worse the story gets. It is not my intention to trivialize the problems caused by drug-traffic in Mexico. It is indeed a very serious matter and one that, in my opinion, could be easily fixed by legalizing drugs in the U.S., but let’s not discuss that here. The Violence is real and suffered by many, but this doesn’t mean that you have to avoid going down the streets of Mexico at all costs because the U.S. Official Bulletin of the State more or less implies that the whole country is a war zone.

Here, just like everywhere else, people work, feed their kids, struggle to make ends meet and get together on Fridays for a couple of beers. The Police may be more or less corrupt, but so far I haven’t had to use the bribe money I keep strategically stashed in a secret pocket. I was stopped at a checkpoint yesterday, mainly because they were wondering where I was going and coming from. We talked a little and my only concern was to look them in the eye instead of at their submachine guns.

[   Good morning.
- Where are you coming from?
 I come from Tufla (?????). I come from New York.
- Ok, what are you carrying?
Clothes and some repair tools for the motorcycle. I’m driving down the Pan-American Highway… to the end.
- Where does it end?
 Tierra de Fuego in Argentina.
I have tools, a tent and clothes.
We’ll see if I can make it! So far the motorcycle is running well. We’ll see if I have luck and can make it.      Right now I’m heading to San Cristobal.
-       Is that where you are from?
No, I’m from Spain. I’m from Spain.
- But, where are you riding from in the motorcycle?
From New York. You can see the license plates.
- How long have you been riding?
Around… 20 days.    How is this area, Chiapas? Any complications?
- No, peaceful.
I was told that it wasn’t so good.
- No, no, it’s all fine.   ]

It is possible, and quite probable, that there are political interests in keeping people frightened, specially Americans, so they don’t come and spend their precious dollars in this country. It is a sad reality that the media sells more when advertising sex and blood. It is also true that the drug wars take hundreds of lives every year. But about the assumption that it is safer to live in the U.S. than in Mexico, I’m not too sure. It very well may be that I am a really lucky guy, but then there’s a lot of luck going around as the other travelers I have encountered have also come unharmed. It’s not too probable, but definitely possible.

The worship of ‘Death’ in this country is not only spread by the so-called informative media, but it seems to be a constant in this society. The observance of the Day of the Dead is a perfect example.  Death is accepted and the life of the deceased is celebrated instead of mourned. The souls of the dead come out to interact with the living and not to frighten them. The connection between life and death intensifies as both worlds merge into one, sharing space and time. There were no tears at the cemetery I visited in Oaxaca. I saw a lot of love, happiness and a couple of confused tourists.

[   And the Cemetery doesn’t scare you?
(Boy) Noooo.
No? The souls, and all that.
(Lady) Tell him what the souls mean to you
(Boy) Death!
(Lady) Death. But what do we ask of them? Help… with our difficult problems.
(Boy) Yes.
And they help?
(Boy) Yes.
(Lady) That’s what we instill in children since they’re little.
(Boy) And some of them sometimes bother us, but they’re asking for help.
Ok, Thank you so much!   ]

I do regret not spending more time in the Northern part of Mexico. Roro flew right through it under the weight of fear, and if you’ve seen the luggage she carries you’ll understand that any extra weight is a hindrance.

I swear there's a bike under all that gear.

Without becoming irresponsible, I have asked Fear to go take a walk. Roro and I are feeling lighter and way better. Now we are free to enjoy this wonderful country and its people.
In my opinion, it takes a little effort to connect with Mexicans. This only means that you have to take the first step and smile first. I have seen a lot of taciturn faces with a speck of hostility in their eyes. And I’ve also seen those faces transform into the most hospitable of smiles. Coming from the United States where kindness and smiles come easy, it’s taken me a little time to adapt. But it’s understandable that when your people have been looted, devastated and fucked over repeatedly since the Spaniards first decided to turn this land into their gold mine and private whorehouse, you don’t have the best context to develop hospitality. What never ceases to surprise me is when those same people open their hearts asking for nothing in return. It is in those moments that I’m ashamed to descend from the fucking bastards who came here five centuries ago. I know that the Spaniards didn’t encounter innocent saints, but this land was theirs and it was taken from them… theirs was their time and it was stolen. Theirs was their knowledge and Science and it was set on fire… And theirs were their gods and their brains were beat with the Bible. Anyway, this is nothing new and this entry is starting to be too long.

From San Cristobal de las Casas, this was Don Solaris sharing his mid-morning thoughts.

Darling, would you care for some tea?

Quinceañera meeting Jesus in San Luis de Potosí.

He gave me some tangerines when I run out of gas.
He brought me two liters of gas riding his horse

Great host, and great talker.

Zapata and a very joyful friend.

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