Dec 6, 2006

La Batalla del Pueblo

We went to la Señora's rancho today. 'Cardo’s mother is hesitant to get out of the car at first, but we finally convince her. Later I learn she hasn’t been back to the rancho in 20 years.

Here is the deep well that once had water. Here are the steps Chato used to play on. Here was the casa de las gallinas. Irma wants a shot of a cross on a hill. It’s so far away, I try to hide my disappointment in the ability of my lens, but I take the picture anyway.

We leave the ranch and head toward the capilla. We stop along the way to take a picture of the school, La Batalla del Pueblo. We see two kids who we’d seen on a previous visit. At the capilla, we decorate the cross with a tinsel string boa, the kind one sees on Christmas trees. The cross is already decked out in an elegant white fabric that looks like the fabric of a wedding dress. Someone else has placed 4 mirrors on the cross and flowers. Lupe explains that people decorate the cross to try to outdo other ranchos. She looks into a Jesus statue’s eyes and coos in adoration; she loves Jesus. The three women decide to recite a rosary while we wait outside.

At the end of their prayer they sing and it’s beautiful. Ricardo and I are miles away, even though we're right outside.

I wonder about the land, who it’s belonged to. Who died over this property? How close by do the Huicholes live?

At night, the windows of our bedroom are directly adjacent to the sidewalk. Footsteps and clear voices pass the house at night. A group of Huichol musicians pass by, a car blasting banda music, drunken revelers. A truckload of cars with drunken young men. I heard celebratory screams deep into the night last night, distant yelps and whistling.

Dec 5, 2006


Talking on the phone with Hong, Pancho rides up on his bicycle. He’s in his 30’s, a good looking guy with a thick mustache. He came over to the house the first night we arrived with a present for Don Adolfo. He told me he spent a couple years in Las Vegas doing chrome on cars (I imagined him working on lowriders, but that's just me). He’s got two kids, a wife: he's settled down. One night, I ask him if he's going out to the dance. He chuckles, and says, no, I don't dance anymore. He's got two boys, adorable, happy. There's something that tells me he used to by quite the dancer. He sees I'm busy on the phone and says he'll be around.

Hong tells me she’s applied for a job within HBO Latino, and all I can think about is that the capitalist agenda of HBO doesn’t necessarily fight the exploitation of the Latino community.
A man rides by on a horse. A kid walks by whistling, Hong asks me if it’s me. I get off the phone and make my way to Pancho over at the farmacia. I tell him about my girlfriend, that she's Korean. He tells me to bring her here to Huejuquilla.

I sometimes get the impression that everything is perfect in Huejuquilla. People work, they talk and seem content. I don’t see too much poverty—some Huicholes sleeping in the town square, a man asking for cans. I'm sure there's poverty...but people seem so much happier here. They don't seem discontent, they don't seem to be tortured by everyday life...

But am I not experiencing the town through some grotesque prism? I’m an outsider, people know that I didn’t grow up here, I'm treated differently. It occurs to me that I am, in many ways, still a tourist.

Dec 4, 2006

An Evening in Huejuquilla

Leave the house to go the cyber-cafe to check email. Stop and talk to the dude outside of El Nene, a tiendita that sells music, dvds, car stereos, miscellaneous electronics. Talk for a minute, tells us that too much technology isn’t good for you. A friend of El Nene rolls by and gets out of his car. Talk for a minute more. Leave, round the corner and stop at the family farmacia. Cardo’s father is there, we chat for a minute. Go next door with the intention of stopping at the cyber-café, which turns out to be full. The lady next door, distantly related to 'Cardo, stops to talk to us. Asks us how we’ve liked our stay so far, what we've seen. We tell her about Huejuquilla, Guadalajara. She recommends a natural thermal spring outside of Huejuquilla. She also tends an art gallery right next door to the cyber-cafe, which she opens for us and shows us. Say goodnight and head to the public internet café, run by the pueblo, or the government. Check email, but they’re about to close. Manage to finish right before. Outside we look at our options for stores to buy some cigarettes. I want a beer so we go to the liquor-store nearby. We’ve been there before, and the man there asks us how we’ve liked Huejuquilla so far. He tells us he’s been to the USA, that he’s retired now. He worked for years in San Jose before it turned into Silicon Valley. He knows Chico, Lodi--even Gridley. We tell him we’ll be back to pick up a couple of bottles of tequila. Outside Cardo spots the man with the laptop he’s seen around town. It turns out he’s the engineer doing work with 'Cardo’s father on his property. We talk for a minute about the laptop, his work, etc. We leave, go across the plaza to the other convenience store, but they don’t have the kind of cigarettes i want. We head back toward the house, stop at the farmacia again. Maria is there with her father, along with Betty and Norma and Tia Goya. We say goodnight. We drink a beer outside of the house. Ricardo’s father walks up with someone. He's tall and lanky, has a family in Huejuquilla, but used to work in Gridley, thousands of miles away. He talks to us for a bit about working in the United States, throws out some English words. We say goodnight.

It's late!