Friday, October 29, 2010
Fall in central Mexico lacks the colorful glory of turning leaves and blazing sunsets. Here, nature's palette is more subdued. Green fades to yellow, then to a pale burnt khaki, dropping silently from branches to lodge amongst the litter on the street below. Pale blue skies, crisp and brilliant, offer only the slightest hint of a coming winter.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
Thousands of planes trace the flight paths of Mexico City's airspace every day, silhouettes slipping between the buildings and billboards. From a distance, their passing is a reminder of the inevitability of movement, and the need to explore. This week I have left Mexico City for Queretaro, trading familiar archival routines for new intellectual pursuits.
The solitude of traveling alone, of wandering without a map and without a purpose, is both frustrating and thrilling. To fumble through dark and winding streets in a city you do not know in search of a taqueria unmarked in a guidebook--this is perhaps the essence of living abroad. And to find, at last, the signless door of the place, to savor something authentic, to feel the exhilaration of an unsharable experience--this is perhaps the essence of life.
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Research in Mexico is a lot like a paddleboat. You splash around a lot, discover that you've got no real way to steer, try to avoid drinking the water, and ultimately end up back at the dock. Most of the time, you don't really know where you're going but you do know that you're not moving real fast. Ultimately, if you manage not to drown, you've done alright.
Sunday, October 17, 2010
After nearly 8 months in Mexico, I have succumbed to a peculiar strain of homesickness. It is partially the nostalgic hollowness for familiar people and things left behind. Yet it is also the sense of the impermanence of my life in Mexico, a feeling that I should just hold on another month, that if I put my head down and keep going, I will get to the destination. Often, new discoveries buoy my research and the thrills of living abroad are welcome challenges. But there are still days when the longings don't fade, when the sense of itinerancy becomes more acute, and the city around me slips into a blur of frustration and tedium.
Today marks the 5 month anniversary of this adventure in bloggery, and after 50-plus posts, I am, as ever, curious who reads them. So, if you've used the blog to procrastinate, distract, or otherwise occupy your time, I'd love to hear from you.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
There is something corrosive about fall, in the crisp winds that toss dead leaves down the streets and the long shadows of shortened days. There is beauty in this inexorable movement, but melancholy in the reminder of decay. Autumn has arrived in Mexico City, dry and cloudless, the slow rhythm of nature overlaid on the bustling rhythms of the city.
Saturday, October 9, 2010
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Historical research is a solitary pursuit. Alone in the venture, as when climbing, the elation at success is indescribable. But when a foot slips and the world spins, a sense of exposure grips your stomach like a fist. This week, as I reached for a handhold I thought to be secure, I found only sandstone that crumbled away. Without a guidebook to the climb above me, and only the distant voices of encouragement from those on other mountainsides, as I ponder the next move isolation presses in and the fear of falling gnaws at my core.
Sunday, October 3, 2010
Remembering is more than simply not forgetting. Commemoration is a process that inherently recreates, distorts, and defines history. Personal experiences are extruded through the mesh of collective memory and ideals are refracted through the lens of contemporary events. Remembering consists of creating new meaning, and for the participants and heirs of past struggles it is by investing symbolism in a sacrosanct reference point that identities are created and sustained.
Saturday marked the anniversary of the 1968 massacre of protesting students in Mexico City's Plaza de las Tres Culturas. The march that flowed down central avenues and into the Zocalo was not a memorial for the victims but a living affirmation of a protest identity. Students intermixed with campesinos and miners, chants of "no se olvide" ("do not forget") combined with diatribes against yankee imperialism and a sell-out government. Nearly every social movement that had clashed with the government carried a banner, while chanting universitarios attempted to claim the mantle of 1968. Bandanna-covered faces and an overwhelming police presence created an ominous atmosphere, yet ice cream vendors rolled their carts along the side of the march and puzzled children watched from the crowd, asking their parents if the protesters were supporting Emiliano Zapata.
The 1968 movement, and its tragic denouement, are often cited as the birthplace of Mexico's democratization. While this perspective radically exaggerates the long term importance of the student movement, the protest identity that congealed in that moment remains an actor on the country's political stage. Yet wrapped in the flag of past struggles and faded icons, it is unclear where these groups fit in the country's future.