". . . 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

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Cuidad Juárez - Sunday, July 13

A dear Albuquerque friend drove in to see Las Vidas Perfectas this evening at the Museo de la Revolutión en la Frontera in Juárez.  He and his girlfriend

stayed overnight in the Camino Real. So I got to drive over the bridge to Mexico with L.  -- and did not have to hang out all day while tech went on.  The LVP people took off for Juárez early in the AM.  My back couldn't have taken that kind of all day hang, even with breaks for the mercados. On the other hand, I'm not able to buy anything because getting it home -- American Airlines! and I am also getting cowboy boots this week and they sure do eat space and poundage -- and that would be frustrating. I do love exploring markets like this, whether or not I buy anything. There is always jewelry ....

Going across the border to Juárez was quick and easy.  Coming back was something else.  You can feel the vibration change in the middle of the bridge approaching the admittance gates to the U.S.  For one thing, at some point a U.S. border cop, on foot, appears, nonchalantly strolling across the lanes, for no particular reason at all. The peddlers attempting to sell mops, kitty art, bottles of water, popcorn etc., the people determined to wash your windshield, have gone poof into thin air. Traffic crawls to a halt.  It can easily take 5 more hours now to cross those -- what? 1500 feet to the gates.  We were lucky.  It took us about 35 minutes, but very stressful minutes.  Imagine the New Jersey Turnpike and the turn offs to the Holland Tunnel, but with armed military everywhere you look.  One strolls over and peers for a long time into the backseat where H and I are sitting.  We don't bother to interrupt our conversation to look back at him.

Yet it is a very distressing, particularly for H, who was born in Hidalgo Mexico, but has been a U.S. citizen for years and years, and lives in Albuquerque. One gets a much deeper sense of how truly awful all this is when traveling with U.S. citizen who is of Mexican descent.*

We have our "documents" at the ready as ordered. The guard who takes our passports asks "What were you doing in Mexico?" The implication is only creeps, criminals and other undesirables bother with Mexico. He  doesn't  attempt even the rudiments of politeness.  L is pumping George Jones on his car speakers. El V and L had been singing along.  As el V's the one at the window on the guard's side, he answers, "Attending the opera.  At the museum." The guard snickers, "Was it any good?" El V smarts back, "It was very good.  I was the star."  L groans.  The guard laughs, takes away our passports to run them through the scanners and databases. He quickly returns them.  Now we're allowed to return to the U.S. It takes three minutes to get back to the hotel and have dinner.  Except for el V, none of us have eaten since breakfast and now it's nearly 10 PM.

I did get to spend time in the Museum of the Revolution on the Border itself. Juárez had a huge role in the Mexican Revolution (the Revolution's armed conflict began in 1910 and lasted roughly through 1920).  Morever, like so many museums everywhere, part of the institution is located in the old Mexican Customs House (see: el paso del norte -- trade route!). As much a role as they play in history, I've come to collect visits to customs houses like I've been doing visits to castles.

Among the many interesting things observed about the audience in Juárez is -- it was entirely "Mexican," with the exception of the couple from Ft Worth - Dallas, who scheduled their vacation in order to attend every performance of Las Vidas (they are coming to the Marfa performances as well). However, the earnest, attentive, pretty and very young Japanese women, ubiquitous at anything like this anywhere I've been, in Europe, the U.S. and the Caribbean, particularly Cuba -- they were conspicuous by their absence today. There were three present at Saturday night's El Paso gig, but none at all at el Museo de la Revolutión.

52 women were killed here back in October, 2013, when a bomb was thrown into their place of work.

An image for Majorie Agosin’s book of poetry, “Secrets in the Sand: The Young Women of Juarez.”
The buildings all around us in Juárez were so interesting, so attractive, despite many of them being so run down.  Street signs are not generally in evidence though.  All this the consequences of so many tens of thousands killed there in the drug gang wars, the exploitation of the maquilidoras and the violence there, particularly against women.

I would liked to have explored more, but L, who has spent quite a bit of time in Juárez due to his activist work, says it's really too dangerous.  If L thinks it's too dangerous, then it is.  L goes everywhere, anywhere.


*The Mexican born member of the Las Vidas Company had a nasty return as well.  He walked back with several of the other performers because it is so much quicker than driving.  You still have to show your passports and prove you are who you are.  The border patrol guard who took R's passport snickered about his hair -- it's very long, very beautiful and he had braided it into one his lovely signature braid designs.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, you creeps.

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