There is a place where I go to eat green corn tamales, it reminds me of the Mexico of long ago, the Mexico before there was so much violence. Hats and chiles, garlic and woodcuts, hang on the walls. The waitresses speak Spanish, and the customers, workers, grandmothers and grandchildren, like eating here, they laugh a lot. You will probably say, “I know that place,” because you do. It is in Tucson, it is in Nogales, it is in El Paso, it is in Mexicali, it is in so many places along this border.
On the menu is ceviche, pescado and birria.
There is a sadness in remembering this Mexico, the one I traveled to so many times alone, on the buses to Creel, on the train back from Las Mochis, and in the backs of pickup trucks.
Now the Mexico I see is in police photos, it is not the Mexico I know, not the Mexico I knew and loved on the beach in Puerto Penasco, where they cooked the fresh fish from that day’s catch. The land that inspired me, gave me hope, was Sonora, sweating in the summer sun, as I poured water over my head to keep from passing out, and tasted the sweets from the vendors, who stood next to the Mexican soldiers, when they were only a little feared. Now this desert is the desert of bodies, it is the desert where families search for their loved ones, ever hopeful that they have survived, ever hopeful that my friends who guide them in their search for their loved one, will not find their body here.
The Mexico I know now is the one where the hats hang on the café where I eat green corn tamales. The Mexico I know now is the one where there is a cruel race, fueled by the demand for drugs in the US, fueled by the secret ops of the US military. The Mexico I know now is where two young women, reporters, were beaten to death in Mexico City, and another young woman, a reporter, was decapitated in Nuevo Laredo near the Texas border. All three in the past few weeks. The Mexico I know now is the Mexico where no one is safe.
But sometimes, like today, I hear the old Mexico, I hear it in the laughter, I see it in the hats on the wall, the painted flowers, the bright-colored blanket hanging over the door. I see the old Mexico. I taste it in the roasted green chile, in the fresh ground corn. I hear it in the polite "Gracias."
Walking in the old neighborhood, I hear an old woman wailing, who is she wailing for, perhaps she is wailing for us all.
Who is to blame for this loss. Is it those who demand the drugs in the US. Is the US military, the brainwashing and the security forces, and their coopted media, are they to blame. Is it the corporations who seize the land and push the corn farmers north, to walk too often to their deaths in the desert. Are we all to blame for caring too little and for not trying hard enough.
The music is playing now in the old café, and it is the old music, the music they played on car radios in Sonora long ago, music that made the people dance, made the people laugh.
Who will bring the music back.