Saturday, January 12, 2013
There Are Places I Remember
I've always been of the opinion that televised sports are a waste of time. While I cannot condone the mass slaying of innocent people, I must admit that I haven given serious thought to which group of people I would systematically exterminate were I to become a ruthless dictator (It is important to note that I am speaking purely hypothetically. All ruthless dictators persecute some group, usually poets, musicians, university professors, and philosophers.). Any variety of people would be worthy of my wrath, but one group really stands head and shoulders above the rest in terms of their sheer vexatious presence in the world. Given the opportunity, sport commentators would go first. They make the already dreary business of television sports watching into a truly painful experience, none more so than football. Thus, I decided to make myself scarce this afternoon as Jake immersed himself in the tedium of the Broncos game which is inexplicably being aired on Mexican television. It is probably best that I begin with the first part of the day, though.
This morning, after a late breakfast, Jake and I got lost. Our destination was the Church of the Holy Family where the mortal remains of Blessed Miguel Pro rest. Fr. Pro was a Jesuit priest who zealously ministered to Catholics in Mexico City during the the bloody persecution against the Church by President Plutarco Elias Calles. His despotism prompted the Cristero Wars during which thousands of faithful Catholics shed their blood in witness to their faith. As it was impossible for Pro to minister publicly, he became a master of disguise, moving about the city under the guise of an aristocratic gentleman, a clown, a beggar, and even as a federal soldier. He was ultimately captured and falsely convicted of a plot to bomb the president. Though the true culprit confessed to the crime, Pro was executed by machine gun. Before death, he was given the opportunity to pray. Upon rising, he spread his arms in the form of the cross and loudly proclaimed before the machine guns fired, "Viva Cristo Rey!" "Long live Christ the King!" Bl. Miguel Pro is one of my great heroes. It was deeply important to me to pray at his resting place. The problem was that I didn't know where that place was. Some Internet research and an examination of my maps gave me a pretty fair notion of where to find the Church. A short metro ride brought us within walking distance. But we walked the wrong direction. For a long time. When we finally came to the end of the street we were following, I threw in the towel and hailed a taxi. The driver also didn't know where the Church was, but I was able to give enough information to give him a rough idea. He got us there in no time - about five blocks from where we left the metro. Oh well. We spent a long time praying at Fr. Pro's relics. I touched my rosary to the reliquary. I prayed for all sorts of people, especially those seeking the virtues of courage and trust. I prayed that I would serve my own people so faithfully.
Leaving the Church as a wedding began, we made our way to the metro. Upon disembarking, we stopped in the city center to watch some Aztec dancers, and then wandered our way back to the motel so that Jake could watch his silly football game. I endured this long enough to answer some emails and the like, and then I lit out.
What a terrible afternoon not to carry my camera, but I wanted to travel light, as inconspicuously as possible, and without anything worth stealing on my person. Mexico City comes alive on weekends. The work week having ended, it is time for pachango. Octavio Paz, a rather significant Mexican author, talks about pachango "partying" as one of the odd dichotomies within the Mexican psyche. Mexicans do not share a healthy fear of death like their neighbors to the north. They live dangerously, they drive dangerously, they eat dangerously. One need look no further than the bull fights for evidence. For them, death is an inevitability of life, and it is likely coming sooner rather than later. It is a a terrible reality, but a universal one, thus giving many Mexicans a rather macabre sense of humor. Death, as an ever immanent threat, inspires within the people of this country, then, the inspiration to live life while one still has life to live. As a result, any reason (a Saturday in January for instance) is a good enough reason to celebrate. Today the streets around the motel are crowded with people and with other people trying to make a living entertaining them. The bars are packed. The restaurants are packed, and in any location big enough to permit it, musicians and other performers have set up shop collecting donations for the amusement they provide. Wandering around, I found a small band playing classic Mexican songs. As they passed, older couples would pause, smile, and kiss for a while. Some would dance. A crown gathered to watch. Further down the street, a team of male jump ropers did amazing acts of acrobatics all while hopping the rope. My favorite, however, was a guitar player equipped with a microphone and speakers. He seemed to specialize in American hits from the 60s and 70s. "Stairway to Heaven," "Dust in the Wind," "Hound Dog", and George Harrison's "My Sweet Lord (Hare Krishna)" were among the songs he played and sang. With a great voice and tremendous playing skill, I could have listened to him all afternoon, but somehow it was clear that I needed to move on after he sang "In My Life" by the Beatles:
"There are places I remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I've loved them all."
I am truly loving my time here, but in a sense it is a goodbye tour. When last I was here, I was younger, afraid, a little radical in my worldview, and desperately in need of an experience capable permitting me to prove that I could do it. Mexico did that. In a way, I conquered her just by surviving for ten weeks without anyone to take care of me. Coming back, Mexico is full of memories, and I feel in some ways like I fit here as a hand in a glove. I am still moved by the charm and the magic of this place and its people. But, my reasons for being here are different. I am using her this time around. I came because she is warm and far from home. Last time, I came not knowing what to expect. This time I have all sorts of expectations. I am, as a result, a stranger here as I was not when I came last time. Mexico, I find, has become a part of me, a part that helped me grow into a man. By returning and expecting her to be equally meaningful simply as a place of recreation, detracts from what happened here the first time. So, tomorrow and in the days that follow, I think I will have fewer expectations. I will walk more. I will linger more where I find people congregating. I will let Mexico be new to me again.