Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Earth from Tejamulco
Filing a little report from San Cristobal de Las Casas, a city in Chiapas, Mexico about which I know pretty much zip, and in which I plan to stay just long enough to rest my head a few hours and brush my teeth--call it snap-judgement, but hearing the strains of B. Marley's Redemption Song emanating from a gringo bar is pretty much a deal-breaker as far as I'm concerned.

I didn't particularly want to leave Xela! I was developing fond feelings for the place. But, en el mismo tiempo, the western highlands were beginning, after two weeks, to make me feel penned-in, claustrophobic--the literal crunch of a valley-town, bounded by misty-mountains, but also a more general claustrophobia: the obscenely-crowded buses, the markets so thick with humanity that movement is hardly possible, the sidewalks that can't accomodate even two simultaneous pedestrians. This trapped feeling came to an appropriate head on my way out of Guatemala, when our bus got mired in a traffic jam for the ages, the road from Huehuetanango to the Mexican border closed by a mudslide, apparently a chronic problem in the area--cars immobile for miles, and, tipicalmente, the logjam used as an impromptu open-market, vendedores by the dozens hawking Pollo Camparo and peanuts to marooned drivers. When finally the road was cleared and we pushed through to la frontera, the change was sudden and dramatic--crossing the Mexican border, the land seemed to open up with a great sigh, with room at last to breathe.

Also, to be honest, certain aspects of Xela were starting to turn on me, after only two short weeks; the slimy pupusas were beginning to make me queasy, the local firewater, Queztalteca, was making me even queasier, and my beloved student protesters, La Huelga, who seemed to be in the park every other day, were starting to make me a bit uncomfortable with their unrelenting provocation--for all their high-minded ideals, every other word they uttered was a puta or a verga, and my feelings were admittedly hurt when one of their orators singled me out of the crowd and mockingly addressed me as Mr. Jones, as in You know something's happening here but you don't know what it is/Do you, M.J.? (R. Zimmerman). Hurt my feelings, because, I'd actually put a great deal of effort into understanding what was happening, spending several hours painstakingly translating their obtuse boletines. I mean, anyway, singling gringos out of the crowd is too easy, shooting crabs in a bucket or whatever.

But, for all that, what a thrilling final few days in the highlands! A bizarre sex-encounter up in the hills (right in the shadow of Cristo Viene, in fact); a grueling and invigorating two-day hike up Tajumulco, the volcanic peak that is the highest point in Central America; an almost-equally grueling + invigorating crush on an adorable Belgian boy on said hike (unfulfilled!); and the dramatic return of normal bowel functions, after a long stretch of inoperability. Needless to say, wholly new and different adventures await me in Mexico City, after God-knows-what kind of bus trip, and I'll try to check in again before terribly long. 

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