Disappearing In Mexico
Today, I'm informed by The Writers' Almanac, is the birthday of Ambrose Bierce. In December, 1913, Bierce, who was then in his 70's, crossed the boarder into Mexico at El Paso. In Juarez, he joined the army of Pancho Villa and participated in the battle of Tierra Blanca. He stayed with Villa's army at least until it reached Chihuahua. After sending a last letter to a friend on December 26, 1913, he vanished without a trace. Investigations to ascertain his fate were fruitless and, despite many decades of speculation, his disappearance remains a mystery.
In one of his last letters, Bierce wrote:
"Good-by — if you hear of my being stood up against a Mexican stone wall and shot to rags please know that I think that a pretty good way to depart this life. It beats old age, disease, or falling down the cellar stairs. To be a Gringo in Mexico — ah, that is euthanasia".
Which brings us to Carlos Fuentes' novel, The Old Gringo. Fuentes was deeply influenced by Bierce and the novel is his speculation on Bierce's travels in pursuit of his death in Mexico. It is a great read and has a lovely twist. I highly recommend it.
And then we have the more familiar matter of my repeatedly being "a Gringo in Mexico." In the past century it has obviously changed. It's not Pancho Villa's army now, nor shooting Felipe Carrillo Puerto against a wall. No. Far from it.
I had the pleasure a few weeks ago on a Sunday morning at 10 am to be one of 400 people in Champions, a sports bar in Cancun, to watch Mexico play its first Wold Cup game. What a remarkable event! Even though it was Cancun, I was clearly the only Gringo. No speaking English at this event. Extremely loud music blasting, people drinking beer after beer, chanting and cheering even before the kickoff. After the game started the excitement and noise crescendoed. A huge amount of beer and food. When Mexico scored the first goal of the game, the din and celebration was deafening. Then Iran (whom I love to see lose) scored to tie the game. There was only a brief silence. Thank goodness. Mexico rallied the the second period to score twice more. People were still there late, late in the afternoon watching other, irrelevent games.
Watching the Mexico-Argentina game this afternoon at home in New York (3 pm ET on ESPN HD) just cannot compare.