". . . 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, October 20, 2017


     . . . . I've finally gotten it straight, probably because we are on the ground hereWe are in the state of Veracruz, in its capital, Xalapa.  This is not the port city of Veracruz, which is on the Gulf Coast, about an hour and a half away by car.  Xalapa also functions as kind of the equivalent of the Xalapa county seat: the muncipality government, which isn't the same as 'municiple'.

It is also the university town -- 20,000 students enrolled in Veracruz.  So government and students are its chief economy (and agriculture!) -- very like Austin, TX.  It also has three connected lakes, that to unknowing eyes appear to be a river, as does Austin.

But this is very Spanish, as the non-indigenous settlement began in 1519 with the arrival of Hernán Cortés, most definitely not Tex-Mex.  The city twists and winds, goes up, and goes down along steep grades.  Only the most dedicated here bicycle.

We came from Mexico City yesterday, via the Ardos bus line's Platinum (Platino) bus service.  The steps up to the coach, like the coach floor itself, is of polished wood.  There is enormous leg room.  The seats are double or single. The seats recline.  The footrests are adjustable from high to low.  The wifi is free, if one signs in with fb, linked in or twitter.  The movies, etc. are also free, and one does not need to sign in with anything.  One can charge all ones devices right there as well.  A lunch is provided.  The coach was filled up, but it felt otherwise, there is so much room.  Excellent, since the trip was 4 1/2 hours, of which most of it felt as though attempt to escape Mexico City.

I read Diana Gabaldon's Voyager, but mostly looked out the window.  The state of Veracruz is endlessly varied: volcanic mountains rising abruptly from the plains and valleys, forests, farming of all kinds from corn (lots of corn) to produce and fruit.  Lots of horses, cattle and even sheep.  The mountains are very high. It was like flying, one's ears were constantly stopping up and unplugging.
We were met at the station by Patriciá (how she pronounces it), a student who first studied architecture, graduated and started law school, and now is in the arts.  She decided she wanted art, not law, not architecture.  She's smart and nice, and our faciliator.

We're staying in the lovely and well-located Clara Luna Hotel, which has been refurbished and renovated to hark back to its heyday -- Mexico, the Caribbean's and South American's heyday, the 1930's and 1940's.  This was the musicians' hotel back then, so there is a lot of that sort of memorabilia but its integrated into the decor and furnishings, not something to look at.  Out room is huge and the bed is very comfortable.  This is good as we need to sleep a lot because we are still quite high above sea level, and our sea level systems are not used to this, particularly with all the going long stretches down steep grades and up steep grades.

The food is as wonderful as expected.

Luis Mario Moncada
And, now the most important thing.  We have been to a rehearsal of The American Slave Coast with the director, Luis Mario Moncada, who is Mexico's most respected adapter of English into Spanish language productions, as well as her most famous director.  His theater group is the oldest in modern Mexico, founded back in the 19th century.  He's on the faculty here, and the theater group's home is here, when not on tour.

Part of this morning's university's route to the rehearsal.
It is wonderful what they have done with Slave Coast.  We couldn't be more pleased and TASC couldn't be better served.  The actress who reads the letter from enslaved Virginia Boyd to the slave trader who is sending her and her pregnancy to Texas to be sold does it (in Spanish) with grace, pathos and just tears the heart out of one's body.

Everyone is so nice to us!  It's embarrassing as we're aware at all times of how intensely mean, nasty and contemptuously the USA is treating Mexico and Mexicans.  Paul Krugman gave a lecture in Mexico City the night we arrived (that was only Wednesday, two days ago!), which, hugely attended, got written up in all the media.  The gist, that all the newspapers (real newspapers and books are everywhere visible in Mexico!) stressed, of what Krugman said was -- very roughly translated:

The system of the US was designed by men who assumed that it would only be in the charge of sane men.  If someone was elected who turned out to be mad or a criminal, he would be impeached.  Thus the system would survive.  However, the system cannot survive a madman when all the powers of wealth and politics are being served by the madman.

After the rehearsal, and then lunch (4:30 PM, was lunch) Ned and I went back to what is one of the main shopping districts.  He bought and Italian suit for less than $300 in US money.  This morning we got the news a check is waiting for us back in the US, the last installment of our share of the profit for investing in the items from Morocco that DH brought back last year.  So a suit, that is altered in the shop for trouser length, etc. for less than $300 -- and gorgeous – El V looks so good in it! -- seems about right.   

El V would never have gotten it though, if I wasn't with him.  He picked out trousers first, that I thought were not of the quality he should be getting.  The young sales person was terrific, he kept bringing jackets.  I’d say the jacket, though very nice, its fabric didn’t harmonize with the fabric of the pants.  In the end we got a suit!  About damned time!

I'm skipping the music tonight.  Lunch was so late, I doubt I'll be hungry for dinner, which comes after the music, which will be around 10 PM, but maybe I'll join them.  This is all so Spanish -- and  different from Cuba, Puerto Rico, the DR, or the French Caribbean or even New Mexico.  But it isn't Spanish either, not quite -- it's Mexican, and one can see and feel it, though the differences are subtle and I haven't been here long enough to understand in any kind of detail.

I'm fortunate and privileged to have this experience, even as difficult as the last few days of getting ready and traveling have been.  For people with our infirmities mixed into the TSA regs and the airlines' determination to make it as ugly for the average person as possible, and then the wreckage of urban sprawl and traffic to get to and out of the airports, it is increasingly difficult but we're always treated so well when we arrive, and we learn and experience so much.

I'm still running at least 24 hours behind, in attempting to process and remember everything since arriving in Mexico.  It's a lot -- for one thing, it just suffered a terrible earthquake, and I don't forget that.  Here in Xalapa, they had weeks and weeks of rain and flooding -- then a hurricane.

This end of summer has been awful for so many.  Hopefully things finally may settle some for a while -- at least weather-wise . . . .

No comments: