In the past year I've had three friends visit Mexico City and come back raving about it. They talk about the food, the museums, the art, the shrines, the history--and they all use the same word. They say, "It's magical." Color me intrigued.
Despite my deep and abiding love for Mexican cuisine and it's fusion child Tex-Mex, I have never visited the land of my gustatory bliss. That's especially strange since I was raised in Texas where words like "pollo," "queso," and "caliente" are part of your oral birth right.
My friend and MFA pal Gabrielle broke our cohorts' Facebook chat one day when she told us about the amazing overseas fares that were available for March 2017. She thought we should all go somewhere for a week to work on our thesis in the kind of quiet stimulation you can only get when you're away from home. Forget doing any work for the next several hours--all I did was google-search flights to destinations all over the world. Gabrielle found a place in Italy, Michelle pondered a good fare to London, and there--dangling like the most perfect naranja you've ever seen--an insanely cheap ticket to Mexico City. After sorting through hundreds of airy and modern apartments on AirBnB I found the sweetest place near the zocolo and booked it. I was going to Mexico.
This was all before the election. Everything now is separated into before and after, as if there's a wall that was built overnight between the future we thought was coming and the reality we are now facing. When I needed to change my reservation dates (I'd been overzealous in my booking and then had to push everything back a week) I emailed Alejandra, the woman I am renting from in March. I couldn't help but add to my date change: "I am heartbroken by my country this week. I want to apologize to the whole world--but especially Mexico. Disculpe."
I had learned about five words through DuoLingo by then, and disculpe was one of them. I probably didn't use it right.
When she wrote back it was with the greatest of kindness. Besides not correcting me on the niceties of the Spanish language, she said: "I thank you for the apologies, but I can tell you, they are not needed, I know that not everybody in your country think and act from fear and ignorance, I know that hate is not going to win, and I want you to know that you are welcome in my country and in my house."
I know that hate is not going to win
Those were the words I needed to hear two days later after the election, just when it felt like hate had won. I was so touched. It made me even more eager to go to Mexico City (and Puebla too, which is now also on the itinerary). And it put me in mind of the Monarch butterfly migration which passes from Canada through Texas to Mexico, arriving in the central highlands just in time for Dia de Los Muertos. The butterflies are welcomed at every stop along the way, crossing borders with simultaneous abandon and purpose. That's how I want to focus my own social activism--be driven and far-reaching, in the company of others determined to transform themselves and the future, without losing sight of joy and wonder.
I also take immense comfort from kids like the one pictured below who are pledging to make a difference now and in the future.