". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Friday, July 11, 2014

El Paso 1 - Thursday

The flight from Dallas-Ft. Worth to El Paso is over  some of the most desolate arid landscape on the planet.  You see dried to the bone river bed after river bed. twisting and twining like bizarre, ancient reptiles.  It is said, or it used to be said, "The West begins at Fort Worth."  Maybe what was meant that this is where the water ended.

However the last 35 minutes of the flight, when you begin to hit the mountain landscape of the Chihuahuan Desert, is a spectacular sight.  Bluffs, cliffs, passes, an occasional peak thrusting far above the surrounding bedrock, sand and river beds, which here though dry now, still have greenery running along them, This is particularly so along the Rio Grande, which still has some water down here.

There used to be grass on the flats and mesas in season between the mountains, canyons and cliffs. Now the flatlands are bare,

covered with creosote bushes a/k/a greasewood in English, and chaparral and gobernadora in Mexican Spanish,

or  mesquite.

These days the Otero Mesa Grassland of the Chihuahuan Desert, straddling both Texas and New Mexico's border (which is why El Paso, TX and Las Cruces, NM, are considering themselves part of "the larger El Paso-Las Cruces metropolitan region), remains as the largest grassland left on American public land (though the cattlemen have done a damned good job of about finishing it off -- their cattle eating your grass for a nominal fee, which they don't bother much paying).

Easy walking distance from the hotel (wearing sunscreen and a broad-brimmed hat) is Mexico, over the bridge and through the pass to Ciuadad Juárez, which gives El Paso its name: the pass through the Franklin Mountains into el norte, through which, when it was all still part of the Spanish Imperium, and Mexico, traders, military and migrants traveled what was named the camino real -- the royal road to New Mexico, Colorado and California.  Los Indios were using it long before the Spanish arrived.

Historic view of the bar-lobby from ye grand olden days.

Our hotel, on the registry of historic hotels, is thus named el Camino Real, and has been around in one form or another since the Mexican Revolution.  It's gorgeous in that late nineteenth century way of opulence (like the Hotel Nacional in Havana, where the bullet holes in the walls are preserved from the days of the Cuban war of Independence -- mine and many others' favorite Havana hotel). The pool is beautiful, the breakfast is anything you want, literally from fruit to nuts to oatmeal to yogurt, to toast-eggs-bacon, to refried beans-sausage-red or green chili salsa, etc.

Our company of traveling players is made-up of superb professionals, all of whom are more than socially competent and have good personalities. Everyone already knows each other well already from previous Las Vidas Perfectas gigs.  We even have the requisite child who is experiencing all this for the first time with a child's sense of wonder and excitement, the five-year-old son of one of the producers and his performer-costumer wife.  He has his nanny too, so when E has to work she's free to do so.  The Son flew for the first time yesterday, got his photo taken with the plane's captain, got to go swimming and play monsters with one of his favorite playmates (el V).  Glory be though, he slept through almost all of both flights, waking up for bathroom visits and orange juice only.  In other words the Son is a really good kid, and, as per usual for me these days, seems far more mature in his use of language and in social interaction than kids used to be.  That includes me when five, that's for sure.

The producers are immensely pleased with the performance spaces, the tech crew, the sponsors and the way both cities are supporting the performances of Las Vidas Perfectas. They are proud to have this program in their cities, and show it in every way they can.  The producers -- who arrived some days earlier to organize matters for set-up and rehearsals in El Paso and Juarez -- told us last night that the professional theater tech crew are more professional and do things better than in NYC -- and they care more. This all bodes well.

Last night when we gave up walking around due to exhaustion and altitude, it was still 90º.  The moon was hanging over the southern tip of the Rockies, the Franklin Mountains, which cut El Paso in two (el paso del norte), and surround El Paso and Ciudad Juárez on three sides.  Huge, white and nearly at the full, July 12th's full moon is the third of 2014's five super moons.

Today, people are, working on their parts for Las Vidas Perfectas, getting haircuts, depositing their per diem checks into their accounts, resting, perhaps exploring a bit, shopping.* Tomorrow it's rehearsal, spot, sound check and so on at the historic Tricky Falls theater.

I'm working on The American Slave Coast, re-reading again and making editorial comments, even though it's with TW.  Besides Las Vidas, el V's also working on Afropop Worldwide HipDeep proposals.  Hopefully, by tomorrow morning, we'll be acclimated enough to get up early while the sun's in the right part of the sky to do some photography.

el V got himself a dashing pair of spectators, black and white, at one of the Mexican tiendas along what used to be the main street, and now is a zócolo.  And pairs of superfine sox!

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