The Land of the Seven Lamps

As she talked such images gave me great joy. When I got home I’d say: Something is being born inside me, something new that wasn’t there before. I get stronger each time, I’m growing. What was growing was my Mexican being, my becoming Mexican, feeling Mexico inside me…

-Elena Poniatwoska, Here’s To You, Jesusa!

 

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A Conversation In Third Person

               As he bought the plane tickets for Leon, Guanajuato, he remembered this passage from Poniatowska’s book. He often felt this same way, whenever speaking with the descendants of those who died in the plane crash. As they each recalled from memory a Mexico that was unfamiliar to him, he could feel, in his chest, his gut, something rise up, surge even. He was nervous about the trip. Not because of the recent unrest surrounding 43 missing students in Ayotzinapa, or because of the wave of violence that saturated the media, but because he sensed, that over there, somewhere tucked in El Pais de las Siete Luminarias, something new would be born inside him. Perhaps it is the dream of every hyphenated American, removed by three or four generations from the ancestral homeland, to one day return to the source, to witness the origin, and see in the faces of its people one’s own face. Still, the idea that he would be going to Mexico to speak with the families, and in some cases, go looking for them, took some getting used to.

He was undecided whether or not taking his recording equipment was a good idea. Often, he felt, being in the present moment with someone, in a place and time that would likely never occur again, allowing the entire body to record memory of the experience was far more effective than capturing it on some device. In the end, he would decide to take the equipment, but perhaps only use it when absolutely necessary. He prepared as much as one could. Jotted down notes in his small pad, things he didn’t want to forget while there. Began making the proper contacts, checking that his passport and papers were in order, and that his map and itinerary were updated. The local Diocese had given him a few items to take to the families on their behalf: a dozen posters and brochure for the headstone memorial, papel picado, and a standing placard of Jesus Christ rising from the cross, arm extended, reaching for a dove. Along with this, he also packed copies of newspapers, photos of the headstone, and all 28 Death Certificates, one for each passenger. These he would return to the families. For those that were expecting him, he looked forward to meeting them and to hearing their stories. For those who were not expecting him, he looked forward to the unknown. Be alive, he reminded himself. Be completely alive, present as present can be. Avoid, at all costs, being removed from the experience. No third person narrative will do.

I want to tell you this: I’m grateful for the opportunity that all of your contributions have made possible. As I prepare for the trip to Mexico next month (Jan 18-30), I will be carrying all of your good thoughts, prayers, and genuine sentiments with me. I also plan to enter a brief blog for each day that I am there, permitting I have internet access. If you are interested in reading updates, please consider clicking on the subscribe button at the bottom of my blog site. Namaste, amigos!

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