Sunday, March 23, 2008

A jewel of interest

It was Semana Santa (holy week) this past week, so everyone rushed out of the city to the little surrounding towns, or to the beach to join hoards of drunken American spring breakers. I'd been dreaming of sun and sand, but hadn't made reservations in advance because I am poor, so I wound up sticking around Guadalajara. I spent the first few days with my new roommate Andrea, from California, and we went running and hiking in parks and fields. It was wonderful, and I felt this strange comfortable, elated feeling as I bounded through the trees. Out in the fields of parque primavera, we found ourselves climbing up a trail through the woods, and I remembered running through some similar looking woods in Colorado, and that same feeling of comfort and happiness that I always feel running through trees returned.

Come Thursday morning, I'd been frugal enough to justify a trip, and my curious mind conjured ideas of myself alone, scouting out hidden towns, talking Spanish to everyone I met. I decided to go to Queretaro, so I left my new apartment with a backpack and some money and hopes of discovering an open bed in some hostel.

In Guadalajara, I notice the noise, the crumpled sidewalks, the way the cars scream down the street in their narrow little lanes with seeming death wishes. I notice how, in my new apartment, the walls vibrate at night when the nearby clubs get hopping. I notice the mohawk-style gelled hair on the men and the tacky high heels on the women, and the way their bright blue earrings match their bright blue jumpsuits. I notice how everything is modern but breaking down, and how people are always talking about new music and the way the world is changing. Sometimes it feels like Mexico is a chaotic place where everyone is always trying to catch someone's eye.

But I gained a deeper sense of Mexico in Queretaro, possibly because I was there alone, with one goal only, and that was to understand the place. Lacking distractions, forced to take an interest, I experienced Semana Santa as a Mexican, attending all the various attractions with the hoards of families.

I discovered the procession of silence twice by accident. First on my run that morning. I heard their music before I saw them coming up the cobblestone street, led by a man with a pointy red cap covering his face. The people walked past in reverent seriousness. That night, the procession continued, and I discovered it by accident when I stepped outside my hostel and found myself in the crowd. They were holding their little children above their heads and watching the procession walk past, carrying plastic statues of Jesus with blood all over him. There was Jesus nailed to the cross, his ribs poking out and his back arched painfully, Jesus in his coffin, Jesus looking pensively out over the people. So many statues of Jesus that the people watched in with their families and friends. Everyone was with someone, sharing the moment with someone, and thinking about their lives. There were also those with the shifty eyes, glancing, looking, glancing, looking all around. I started to feel really itchy then for some reason, and I wanted to leave so badly, like a five year old in church, but I was crowd-locked. Strangely, the kids were intent on staying, watching, thinking sweetly about the meaning of easter. I was pretty convinced that this day is legitimately meaningful for them, unless its an entire town of actors.

So the discovery of Mexico continues. There were museums too, and I discovered there that Mexico began as we did, minus the mutilation of the indigenous people, in a nutshell. Their ideals are so alike, and somehow we've constructed this idea of them being so different in their ideas about life. But in reality, they're not.

Until next time...

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