Magical Realism, Writing, Fiction, Politics, Haiku, Books

sábado, diciembre 03, 2011

Santana, Willie Nelson, Taibo, and Me: They All Went To Mexico

First, the song. Willie Nelson with Santana:

Then, Paco Ignacio Taibo II, who writes in Four Hands (Cuatro manos)(1990):

There is a song by G. Brown on Havana Moon, a Santana record, that repeats the phrase in a country rhythm, "And they all went to Mexico," their friends went, their pals went, even their dogs went. I suppose that is part of the conjunction of two of the healthiest North American traditions: taking to the road (thank you, Woody Guthrie, Kerouac, Wyatt Earp, Bob Dylan, John Dos Passos, Calamity Jane, Spiderman, John Garfield, Ernest Hemingway) and crossing the boarder in search of the South (thank you, John Reed, Indiana Jones, James Taylor, Clint Eastwood, John Huston, Babe Ruth, Carleton Beals, Mike Gold, Burt Lancaster).

I suppose I'd gone south one time or another over the last few years, driven by those two national motivations. But it wasn't easy to go south. Every piece of knowledge brings a dose of guilt, equal in weight and importance to whoever acquires it. To be a U.S.-citizen-born-gringo in Latin America is a pastime for the unconscious, economic gangsters, commercial missionaries, radicals on the verge of jubilation, freaks, dreamers or crusaders. They all furnish the continent south of the border with their own demons. They travel with their ghosts. Then there are the others, us dreamers, those who believe there are no borders or countries, just landscapes and songs sometimes sung in unknown languages. Of all the monsters who travel south, we are the most dangerous because we believe we don't have the original sin that has to be forgiven; because we rationally think that we are not excessively different, that we can coexist with the natives on fair terms: You give to me, I give to you, you smile at me, I smile at you, even though at night we have nightmares in which half-naked, starving children, the live Latin American ghosts, point their fingers at us.

Going south is, as Malcolm Lowry and Joseph Conrad and Ambrose Bierce knew, a descent into hell itself. Leaving the deceptive North American Paradise, the true hell, the demons attack, they attempt to escape from the skin and gush forth. One knows it when traveling south, one knows the Martians who play Ping-Pong inside our heads. And in the end, one is grateful that it is so and not any other way. Anyone who doesn't have hells will be content to die kneeling in front of a television in a place as ludicrous as Indianapolis.

And then, there's me. I went to Mexico. My book Tulum, set in Mexico, is poised on a printers launch pad as I write this. I continue to be one of those dreamers who frequently crosses the border. Maybe that's why the song and PIT II's writing speak so directly and deeply to me. I know it's an essential step for me to go to Mexico. I suspect it's essential for others as well. I only wish everyone understood it as well as Taibo and Santana. And Willie Nelson. And I wish we could all work hard on learning that there are no borders or countries, just landscapes and songs sung in other languages. And that we would all do our part to assist the merging and blending of nations, peoples, languages, songs, and dreams.

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