Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Guadalajara and on to Oaxaca

I left out some bits on Guadalajara with all the storytelling of our little drama and have decided to continue from there. I lived in Guadalajara ten years ago and have been dying to go back ever since and find the family I lived with, because the fact that I never rang them when I got to London has always haunted me.

On my big return last week, I was constantly looking for signs, street corners, puestos de tacos, places I'd been, but I couldn't find any. It left me a little confused and sad, wondering where I'd spent those three months and if it really was the same place. In a teeny weeny way I could begin to empathise with people who leave their home countries and go back five, ten, twenty years later to a place they do not recognise. In some way I can understand why some choose not to go back. We went on a mission to find the house I lived in, and I was delighted that I found my way, only to get to the house, now empty with a big 'To Rent' sign. We tried calling the number to trace the owner, Uncle of the Dad of the family I stayed with, but they moved to Michoacan six years ago and there was no way of getting in touch. I can't help but feel angry at my younger self for not ringing a long, long time ago.

Another thing I wanted to say about Guadalajara was the presence of DEATH. Yes, Death. Hundreds and thousands of skeletons called Katrinas, and skull heads and faces are everywhere: in bars, markets, shops, homes, offices, for sale, for decoration, made of wood, of stone, of plastic, of sugar. Dressed up as bride and groom, with friends' names on, with family titles on, eg. Tia, Hermana, Amiga. I found it all pretty bizarre and morbid and funny, and got talking about it with Natalia. Death is something embraced, celebrated, remembered. It is part of life. El dia de los Muertos on 31st October is a day specifically to remember the dead, take out their favourite possessions, instruments, drink and food. Although I think it's beautiful, I still couldn't understand it, and Natalia found it hard to understand that I couldn't understand. I explained that death is something that I fear, that saddens me, that I try not to be so afraid of. I do love the idea of celebration of life past, in one's present. That another's life can be celebrated and brought into the today.

Moving on to Oaxaca, where we went to the MACO, Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Oaxaca, where we stumbled across an exhibition called Materia Oscura, by Daniel Guzman. The introduction to the exhibition left its mark on me. It lies much closer to the way I feel about death, about life, about journeys. It was as follows (yes, I took a photograph and copied it out):

Es poco mas de un ano del fallecimiento de mi madre, y el viaje a su pueblo en Oaxaca todavia duele, y todo lo que me rodea ahi: la casa de mi abuela, el paisaje, la gente, la luz, la comida, el olor del campo, me traen su imagen, su recuerdo. Con el paso del tiempo esa imagen y recuerdo se han convertido en materia oscura. Una interrogante acerca del sentido de las cosas que hago, del rumbo que ha tomado mi vida, de como me relaciono con la gente, con mis deseos y mis sentimientos, siempre me he sentido un extrano en esa tierra al igual que en la ciudad de Mexico, pero es algo dentro de mi, y no de la geografia ni de la gente con la que me ha tocado vivir lo que escinde mi ser, nada de lo que haga o diga con mi trabajo o con este texto podra evocar de una manera plena lo que siento. 

It is little more than a year since the death of my mother, and the trip to her village in Oaxaca still hurts,and everything around me there: my grandmother's house, the landscape, the people, the light, the food, the smell of the country, they bring her image, her memory. With the passage of time that image and memory have become dark matter. A question around the meaning of the things I do, the direction my life has taken, how I interact with people, with my wishes and my feelings, I have always felt stranger in that land as in the city of Mexico, but it's something inside me, not the geography or the people with whom I have lived that splits my being, nothing I say or do with my work or this text may fully evoke how I feel.