My heart is with the United States of Mexico today. Especially the state of Chiapas, with it’s jungle hills that echoed gunshots all through the night. The kind, round faces of ex-pat German family that took us in. We played Boggle in Spanish and my aunt frowned at the lyrics to a favorite pop song. I had never heard it that way and she was right. The Amber everywhere, rub it on a soft cloth to see if it’s real. The sarcophagus of the ancient beetle, perfectly preserved. The hippie vendors at the artisan market, creations spread across colorful cloth, chicken English to my pigeon Spanish, we just smiled at each other and I wanted to stay with them, here, in the dusty heat. I widened my eyes in admiration so they knew it. The mayan women’s cooperative: A woman begins to wrap my aunt in the traditional waist sash and mutters,”oh! muy gorda. muy, muy gorda” My aunt chuckles and speaks and they laugh knowingly together, these two señoras, these old friends. She sees my horror and embarrassment and tells me “No, no, mi hija. It’s not like that here.”
The United States of Mexico where I saw my mother everywhere. Where I understood her in a new way just but being saturated in the air and the earth and the people and the food and the smells and the languages and the ghosts. The layers and layers, decades and centuries and millennia of ghosts. All there. The dullest, grayest, dirtiest areas lit up by the brightest reds and blues and yellows and greens and whites all woven tightly together in geometric patterns and draped and wrapped and tucked.
We would drove through the mountains, no guardrails, no signs explaining “peligro!” because it was obvious, your imminent death just feet away, down the precipice, into the canyon as the mountians rise above you. No “cuidado”, one lane used as two, lights off at night so they can better see a car coming towards them. We drove only during the day. . Our little Honda, laden with bodies and suitcases and worn out shocks, we would come to “topes” or giant speed bumps at the border of each small village. All but the driver would haul out of the car so it make it over the hump. We’d load back in and rumble down the road until we came to the other end of town and perform our ritual again. Once, a boy came running up a hill toward the road yelling “Mida, Papi, mida! Gringos! Gringos!” We laughed and waved at the spectacle of us. We drove through those mountains, our eyes searching for and finding the right angles and clear lines of yet to be excavated ruins at their peaks and edges. Yet to be excavated ruins. Mexico quaked and crumbled and fell yesterday. People are lost and trapped and shocked and scared. And this heart of mine, that is with them, it knows how they especially will come together. with next to nothing and with everything. Fuerte.
In Mexico City, pronounced “day effay”, D.F. Districto Federal , the federal district, we walked only during the day, especially my young cousin, La Rubia. We ate chilaquiles, last night’s tortillas drenched in salsa verde and queso fresco and crema and scrambled egg and I found heaven in this little diner in the middle of this huge city. That golden angel, towering in the middle of the main road other perch (I saw it swaying n a video yesterday as the earth quaked) with cars speeding to fast around and underneath her. She watches over. They drive fast and make their way any way they can. Once we were stopped on a wide highway in rows of traffic for construction. Soon, the cars were flying past us on the shoulder, in the median, in the (mostly) empty opposite lanes. All to get to the work being done and create a wider traffic jam, with nowhere to go. And yet, we all got to where we were going. In the chaos, in the rule breaking, in the disorder. Along we went.
I thought I might die form the humidity along the gulf coast. Dripping and drenched anon air conditioning in the sand colored Civic. We listened to cassettes and Marko, a musician of many talents, told me he didn’t like Sean Colvin’s voice and I didn’t even know that was a possibility. I pushed in the black fast forward button. On to the next.
Pan dulce. Paletta. Penafiel. Helado. Hielo. Tortas. Corn on the cob on the side of the road: grilled in the husk. Open it up and squeeze the lime, grind the pepper, crumble the cheese. More heaven. And the woman selling it in the middle of nowhere smiles so kind and proud. I want to take her with us.
Mary, Mother, La Virgen, Maria, Madre. In huge city Basillicas and tiny village churches, we prayed to her. None of us believers, except there, because it was infectious. Because we believe in motherhood and women and sacrifice and loss and persistence. We bought candles and rosaries and oval shaped charms bearing her image. She was everywhere, always with us. Years later, she would visit me in a hallway, sharing my grief, she and I, the bereaved mothers. She and I would later come to understand each other. The Great Mother. In the Mexica style, I tattooed her image in the crook of my elbow, where my baby’s head was when he died. This is sacred space. She stood at her son’s feet and bolsters an entire country. Generations of the living and the dead. La Madre, te agradecemos, we thank you. One of the three: Jesus, Mary and Joseph. I think somehow you got lost in the Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. But we’ve got the first two covered, so that just leaves you, there you are: The Great Mother. The Holy Spirit. La Señora, oiga nuestra oracion, hear our prayers.
All of Mexico calls to you tonight (Even the Mayans. They call you by a different name.). Chiapas, Oaxaca, Tabasco. It’s good thing my heart is broken, so that it can be scattered around this North America: on fire, under water, blown apart, shook down bricks and rubble.
These United States. My heart is with you.