Don Juanito Cafe, breakfast, part one
It’s been challenging to consider writing post-election. I am not intending to write this to any one leaning group or other but to share my thoughts and views from this vantage, south of the border, hopefully never having to say “south side of the wall.” Yes, apparently he won but that doesn’t mean a wall will be built. The concerns for Mexico are much greater than a wall, it’s NAFTA and tariffs and the economy. It’s about potentially receiving hundreds of thousands of Mexicans back into their birth nation that have been living in the U.S. for decades. Today I saw the first menu updated from $20 pesos for a torta to $28. Good for them, why wait much longer – the peso crashed November 9th and hasn’t started correcting much since then.
The first two days proved difficult to leave my apartment and walk among people who seemed to be looking at me as responsible for their worst fear becoming reality. I had waves of shame walking past a group of folks waiting to get on the bus, a block further I reached a group of men hauling cement bags, it seemed everyone who normally announced a cheerful “Buenos dias” could only look down. I wished I had a T-shirt that simply said “I’m sorry, we tried”. A few days in I realized I needed to get back in the day to day manner of things just like all of you are. The best I can do is be kind and participate in ways that feel useful, such as going to the Intercambio conversation group where Spanish and English speakers help each other. My sweet landlady who is also no pushover said “Well, there’s still some time between now and January, wink, wink.” Uh, ok. I saw some graffiti stating “ZAPATA VIVE” and chuckled to myself thinking, yeah, if Zapata were still alive, I think there’s an hombre in the USA who would no mas vive.
To the title – Mexico, part dos. I’ve left Merida. After much consideration over the past month, I decided 3 months was a good stretch to live and teach in Merida and when I found out they had a teacher on standby for substituting that could take over my position, I decided it was time to move on. It was a bittersweet feeling as I left; mostly for the apartment and dusty little back streets I so enjoyed observing around my modern home. The students I will miss as well and know they are in good hands to keep moving forward. My mixed emotions were short lived as I boarded a plane for Mexico City last Saturday, where I then caught a flight to Oaxaca City, where I am now.
I am in the heart of southern Mexico and it is phenomenal. I woke late Sunday morning and made my way down the 3 flights of tiled stairs and across the cobblestone street to find the vendors in the market laying out chiles and coffees and plastic tubs of mole alongside woven baskets full of nuts and coconut treats. I wandered through the maze of stalls, bins full of dried herbs and tables covered with pastries piped full of cream and chocolate paste. Feeling too much of a delirious fog to buy anything I exited the far side and found myself in the Zocalo which had been turned into the International Book Fair, an event going on for the next two weeks. Large canopies covered stands full of novels, non-fiction stands by categories on plants, music, cookbooks, philosophy, every literary category imaginable by authors from around the world. Wrought iron tables lined the perimeter of the plaza and were filling up with groups of 20-somethings ordering coffees and toasted flatbread covered with fresh Oaxacan cheese while families gathered in the center where indigenous women had laid out blankets and wooden toys for children. Fresh squeezed juices and chocolate milk were being passed around, balloons bought and let go into the air too soon. I saw a sign on a column announcing the live music events that will be held each evening and the announcement that the “invited country” is Chile and authors and musicians will be here sharing their works.
And so I stood there, looking at that overflowing plaza, and wiped away a few tears that caught me by surprise as I smiled so wide at nobody, and everybody, feeling so content.
I’m tired. Packing, unpacking, getting settled, feeling ungrounded, getting re-grounded. It’s of my own doing, and it’s feeling worth it, the opportunity to get these slices of life in new places. I’m grateful for the support on this journey that continues to weave and wind.
I feel for everyone in this struggle to accept what has transpired and continues to unfold politically. I am admittedly slightly buffered even though I am checking my news sources regularly and it’s the topic of conversation everywhere. I know the full blown reality awaits. Yesterday I met a woman from Denmark that lived in the states for years and has retired in Oaxaca. We talked about feeling like we want to do something, but what? After some silence she said “I got it, I’ll donate to the ACLU, that’s what I can do today. They won’t stand for this mentality, and certainly won’t let it be carried out, they just won’t.”
Paz, salud y abrazos fuertes a todos / Peace, health and strong hugs to all
36th Annual International Book Fair, Oaxaca City
Downtown Oaxaca and Sierra Madre range