Tag Archives: mexico

Reflections

6 Jan

The four of us walked along
the cool night air gently biting our cheeks
Laughter and mirth filled the air and nothing else was there

Surreal to look around and see the crystal like sharpness of this new reality
A gift, really.

The smiling, silly, quirkiness of Iza as she contorts into a hundred personalities: she makes me believe in things beyond what is here and tangible, the unattainable becomes feasible with her, she IS magic surrealism.
She’s a dream all in her own.
She makes waves of laughter; raining bubbles of giggles wherever she waltzes through.
And that is her: etheral in her magical purity – untouched by the gray all around.

The balance of her comes bounding by – her sister – so logical and angular in her gist of existence.
She’s kindness measured by well-meaning. She pulls you up and makes you see it for what it is but never unkind. She is loving and profound, deep in her perceptions, observant and uncanny, real and steady. A beauty that runs deep.

And now I see the charge I have been given. No longer a child to begrieve what may have fallen; I am now a witness to beauty that unfolds for all to see.

Hope.

They endlessly give me the desire to go on to the next horizon. To reach for that line where the sky meets the distance of the land.

__________________

I tailed my dad wherever he’d go. I was his shadow whether he cared for it or not. The best times spent were when he found himself among his native land, his native tongue, his learned ways.

The small town where the sun comes down hard, making the top of your scalp prick up and take notice; where the arid wind blows red earth onto your skin, your clothing, and sticks to your tongue.

He would sit around the kitchen table with my abuelito in the morning, the horizon an hour away, drinking a cup of the oily black cafe de olla. Eventually he would make his way to the labadores where he would find his childhood friends drinking and retelling stories I grew to memorize verbatim. After a few more refreshments their thirst for adventure grew until they were finally moved into action. This day as I crouched behind a walnut tree I heard as they prepared to go on a hunt for rabitts to test their shot.

They hastily stamped out their fire and scurried over to their horses where they mounted the remainder of their drinks, food, and the long tantalizing metal of a gun.

The desert laid before me as I walked about 30 feet behind them, keeping a slow quiet stride so they wouldn’t notice Pepe’s girl trailing them.

When they stiffened, I knew this was the spot and my muscles were so frozen that I soon began to ache in every unused muscle of my body. My father turned and looked directly at me where I lay pressed to the ground and motioned with his finger to wait and remain still. One of his friends took aim, shot, and was rewarded by the dust cloud of the wild hare kicking up its last step and laying down to later bed fed to a family. A chorus of congratulations and hearty manly laughter broke out and when I looked up, my father was there, with his hand outstretched for me to join them properly.

We spent the evening walking and following a scent/trail and when they would relax, I would run to and from them as fast as I could with their cheers giving me fuel to pump my little legs even faster. I looked out onto the furthest point where land seemed to kiss the sky and I thought if I ran fast enough I would be able to jump onto the clouds from that point. I spent the day running at full speed trying to reach the blue sky but it kept slipping away from me.

As dusk came it brought colder temperatures and a change in the group’s mood with it; everyone said their goodbyes and parted their ways, my dad and me walking hand in hand back home with a conejo and his rifle hanging over his shoulder.

________________________________________

This memory comes to me as I walk with my girls and I see some of my qualities in them; how amazing it will be to see them grow up with love, patience, encouragement, and nurturing.

How far they will go.

Hope for Happiness. But no longer just for them, for me too, for us. Hope for us all.

Santa Comes to Mexico?! First time meeting my family in Chihuahua, MX

28 Nov

I was six years old, flying to Mexico – that country that my father always whistfully spoke about – to meet my father’s family for the first time.

Memories of that trip come in bursts: arriving at the airport, the chaos of a Mexican airport drowning out the sound of my father’s voice, staying close to them, fearing getting lost in the crowd. 

In the plane, my dad sat between my older sister and I as my mom sat with my baby sister in another row.  I remember her being nervous while my father acted calm but I could feel that he too was nervous, wondering how he could protect his family 30,000 feet in the air.

When we landed in Chihuahua, we walked outside, lugging our luggage, only to find that the last bus to Villa Coronado had already left.  We waited in the dark street with the smell of fried dough emanating form the street vendors.  My father was able to coach a taxi driver into making the five hour trip through the backroads of the desert.

We had brought a lot of luggage, at least two of which contained clothing, home goods, and other gifts for our relatives, so much that they didn’t fit in the trunk where the taxi driver kept his spare tire.  “La dejamos!”  My father shook his head, rejected leaving it behind in case we got a flat and would end up stuck in the cold night out in the middle of nowhere. 

So he offered to carry it with one arm hanging out the car window.  The driver looked at him incredeously, “Apoco la puede cargar?”.  “Used no se preocupe, yo la cargo.” 

So we all piled in.  My mother and sisters quickly fell asleep and though I could feel my eyelids growing heavier and heavier, I wouldn’t allow myself to doze off.  I had to stay awake and help mi papi in case anything happened.  I was convinced that if I stayed awake, nothing would happen.  The night was cold, with the wind blowing up a steady wall of dust into the car as my father gripped on to that spare tire. 

It was dark as the black of my eyes, the headlights illuminated only about a foot and a half of the road ahead.  The crunching of the plants below the tires were accompanied by unidentifiable birds, the hiss of a snake, the howling of coyotes.  A chorus under the blanket of the most gorgeous sky I had ever laid eyes on. I got lost in the stars, the longer I looked, the more I saw, deeper and deeper into an encompassing beauty that hipnotized me.  I grew up in LA, the most stars I had seen in my life were three at once, with a high likelihood that one was probably a small airplane. 

The sound of the conversation between the driver and my dad was a source of comfort.  The elongated vowels, the ssh of the “s”, the drawl of each ending word in a sentence; this form of Spanish was new to my ear and I liked it.

We finally arrived at the wee hours of the morning to this sleepy town charmingly frozen 50 years in the past. 

Unrecognizeable in our dusty state, our hosts – our family in Chihuahua – slammed the door on my father’s face in greeting to his thunderous knocking. 

 Granted, when a hushed voice inquired as to who stood at the door at this ungodly hour, “Quien Es?!”, he cheekily responded with a booming interrogation, “Aqui vive Jose Benavides?!”  He asked for himself, he the son who had not stepped foot on that door in at least 20 years and who had left in the cover of darkness for reasons better left  unexplained in print.

 He knocked again, this time with a gentler touch on the door, a languid caress of leathery hand to wood not touched since he was 19.  The door opened again slowly and he smiled into the dim crack of light and asked his sister, “No me reconoces Ricarda?”  I heard the snap of her inhale and yelp of emotion before she stepped back and swung the door open to reveal an ample stocky frame of a woman smiling up at him with tears in her eyes.  She let out a loud shriek of joy and grabbed him and then smacked him for scaring her. 

 I looked around and I saw two girls around my age, brown-skinned like me, dark hair, almond-shaped eyes still heavy with sleep but shining with curiosity.  I saw adults all around me hugging and shoving, crying and laughing, kissing me, hugging me.  I went along with it all, so much so that my sister asked if I knew who they were.  “No, I have never seen them before.”  She stared at me with feigned annoyance until she too became part of this rotating human touching machine. 

 I crouched down and crept away, searching for air and a respite from all of the affection from strangers.  And I saw him.  Mi abuelito.  He was a giant, with graying hair below his cowboy hat, a face so full with wrinkles that they seemed to form the Chihuahua sierras across his broad forehead and hatchet sharp cheekbones.  I stood dumbfounded before him, my greatest love affair about to begin with a man who will always hold a reigning place in my heart.  He looked down at me and as I gulped I could feel the saliva slowly trickling down my throat and the shivers covering every inch of my arms.

 “Tu eres Susy?”  His low but booming voice asked me.  I didn’t know whether to cry or laugh, so I stood there silent and immobile. 

 I felt the gentle but firm shoving of my father’s hand on my back and it broke my stupid-like trance.  I walked to him shyly.  He held out his large hand and when I took it, it felt as if it has been molded to hold my own.  His rough farmer hands gripped mine and I stood there silently next to him knowing that I belonged to him.

 Before long the commotion died down to a whisper and became a chorus of grunted and hummed affirmations.  I looked around at my cousins, four in all, and noticed my youngest cousin eyeing my hand that was held by my Abuelito with suspicious jealousy.  I stepped possessively closer to him.

 My tia Ricarda corralled all the kids into two bedrooms and I slept with that young cousin in one bed as my sister slept with my other cousin on another bed a couple of feet away. We didn’t talk.  A soon as I felt the embroidered pillow cover scratch my cheek, the exhaustion of the day’s travel hit my body and knocked me out until the next morning.

 When I opened my eyes again it was still dark, but I heard hushed voices and followed them into the kitchen. 

 My father sat with my Abuelito, my tia Ricarda, and her husband, all chattering in a quiet sing song way over tin mugs of coffee and homemade flour tortillas as fat as pancakes. 

 They looked up at me and my tia quickly got up to pull out a chair for me, spread a thin layer of fried beans on my tortilla and gave me a tin cup full of leche, creamy on top with nata, freshly milked from the mooing cow outside.  

 My days were spent in this way, observing, nodding, smiling, and staying close to my Abuelito.  Soon the house came alive with the song of morning as kids rise from bed: banging and clanging and howling, as they get dressed for the day’s chores.  I picked up a broom and started sweeping and fell into the rhythm of this new and old country.  

 Soon my primas were our best friends, we, their shadow from El Norte, magnets for friendly waves and questions about Los Angeles.  We followed them to the tortilleria to pick up the fresh corn tortillas milled for the town, to the Carniceria for the day’s fresh cuts of meat, to the Papeleria, for the day’s supply of paper goods for the small store my tia kept at the front of the house. 

 Everywhere I was welcome with, “Eres hija de Pepe?”  Like a proud little hen I pumped up my chest and broadly smiled as I answered, “Si!”

~~~~

 As Christmas approached, the wind pierced your body as if with an ice pick, sharp pain that drilled down into your bones.  But every night I ignored the cold and continued to sit by the frosted window and waited in anticipation.  Would Santa Clos come here to Mexico?  Did he know I was here?

 On Christmas Eve, after Mass, we gathered around the living room as the adults toasted and warmed the room with their mirth.  I don’t remember what we ate, I might have been too nervous for the following morning or I might have just been avoiding my tia’s awful cooking. The house was packed, with our other sets of primas and primos joining us for this night, crowding the house with love. 

 As the day grew late and night took over, the adults began to shuttle us to bed.  I clearly remember being tucked in and feeling perfectly warm and happy with my newfound extended family.  I fell asleep with the sweetness of affectionate hands caressing my hair and a smile lingering on my lips. 

 Before dawn I was awake and slightly uncomfortable, something cold and hard was pushing up against my face.  I got up and looked down to find a baby’s lifeless face staring at me.  The plastic limbs were lightly colored to match my skin; the doll’s body was full of water which made it feel like a real baby’s delicate body in my arms.  I looked around and my mouth hung open as I realized that we all had toys by our pillows and slowly, like a leaky faucet, the thought trickled down from my brain to my mouth and I yelped out, “Santa Clos! Santa Clos vino!!!!” 

 All of my cousins quickly leaped up from their sleep as if I had pressed an on button and the sound of packaging tearing and cooing of motherly girls cradling their bebes filled the two rooms.  We ran from primo to prima, comparing what we had received from the dear Santa Clos who apparently also traveled to Mexico after all.  I looked out the window and smiled thinking, what a clever fellow to make me doubt him and then embrace him even more after he found me in this town with oil lamps, unpaved roads, and one phone for the entire community, what a wonderful clever and loving fellow indeed.

My Father – The Magician

28 Oct

They say that little girls idolize their father for the first five years of their life, that they see him as a prince who can do no wrong.

I remember that innocent time when I saw my father as a wise, adventurous, and mystical man.  He was a magician to me; someone who could always find an answer to my endless questions about the world and who could always foresee the future, my only regret is not having asked the questions that burned in my heart or what the outcome of our own family would be.  Shame and respect kept me from asking the right questions.

I adored my father and  placed him on a pedestal for the first few years of my life.  He was my dear Papi and I was his Pozolito, his Chuchi.  Only he could call me so, anyone else would get a red-faced snarl.

I was happiest in Villa Coronado, Chihuahua, a sleepy dusty town that witnessed my father’s birth into a young buck of seventeen before he took off for the states in a haste flavored with broken laws and unexplained trails of pursuit.

There and only there did I feel alive and connected to him.  Only there did I have the courage to speak to my father.  Only in that land of red earth that coated my mouth was I able to look up into eyes filled with kindness and mirth instead of the usual emptiness or anger, and carry on a conversation.  But I always waited in jealous agony for my prima to engage him in a folktale and only when he got going did I feel a flicker of hope and pride that this was my father, and I awkwardly blurted out my observations and thoughts on the story he’d laid out like a crisp white sheet set out to dry on a sunny afternoon.  Of course my words pour out like marbles from a glass jar, falling over each other and spreading out on the ground in random and disconnected directions.  So eager was I to show him that I understood that I ended up sounding like an idiot and when he rolled his eyes at me, the faint glow that warmed my heart from his happiness died inside me.

Mostly I preferred to remain quiet so I could warm myself in the fire that roared inside him when he played his harmonica or got going on recounting an adventure from his youth.  He would look around then and I would perk up when he looked my way and I nodded at him as if I understood his secret meaning, as if I knew all just as he did, in my six-year-old eyes.

My favorite moments that sent me soaring higher than a bald eagle against the red Chihuahua evening sky were when I had him to myself.  When he would be sitting on the white twine chair in the anteroom and I would sidle up to him so his arms would encircle me and “lock” me in.  “What is the password?” would send my little body into invisible convulsions of joy and I would guess at anything and everything that I knew would NEVER be the password so he would never let me go.  I wanted to stay there forever until the dusk turned over and the darkness brought the howling chill of night and made my Papi hold me closer as I pretended to sleep and he carried my limp body to bed.

Or when he acknowledged, seeked me out even, and I experienced his genius as a father and saw him as a clever man of life.

My Tia had a small goods store in which she carried papitas Barcel.  They had a promotion, a lottery of sorts.  You could choose which bag of chips you wanted from the hanging cardboard and when you opened the bag, you could win anything from a sticker to a toy wrist watch.  I always hung around the store with my primos and tia, letting the hours pass me by as I helped weigh and dispense half a kilo of jamon or bagged media docena de huevos in clear plastic bags.  My father rarely came by so it was a  warm delight to see his frame fill the doorway and ask me what I wanted as a treat from the store.  I looked around unsure of what I wanted.  Should I get a Carlos V chocolate?  A Mazapan?  My eyes found the bright green cellophane of the papitas Barcel and I pointed at them.  “Which toy do you want?”, my father asked as he walked over to the chips.  My eyes widened in amazement and slight disbelief.  “El reloj, papi.” (The watch)  My father confidently walked up to the shelf and pulled off a bag of potato chips and asked me, “Do you trust in me that this will be the watch?”  He looked so serious that I nodded vigorously to show my faith in him.  I opened the bag slowly as my hands had grown sweaty from the anticipation, and reached in to look for the prize.  My hand trembled as I pulled out a pink plastic wrist watch.  This plastic toy was cheaper than the town’s hooker but it filled me with awe as I looked at this wonder of a man who was my father.  With that, he smiled at me, “No que no?” and walked away.

I sat down and didn’t know whether to cry or laugh or both at the magical moment that had transpired.  When my primo made a smart ass comment about the cheap plastic around my wrist, I got up and slapped him hard on the face and ran off before anyone could react to my unexpected display of anger.  I went to sleep that night holding on tightly to that watch and dreaming of the magician who came alive in those sweltering hot summers of his homeland.

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Zack Hunter | Phenomenological Fiction

Zack Hunter is the pseudonym of a Californian poet, author, artist, musician, and researcher. He lives on a farm and spends his free time reading and writing about whatever it is he is passionate about at the time.

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