Thursday, December 12, 2013

Miguel Méndez, from Pilgrims in Aztlán

I FELL ON THE PLAINS that divide the border like someone falling into a no-man’s-land. In the desert, virgin in the absence of any will toward the creative, my words threaded their way among the dust storm. The sky became tinged with a black wind that cloaked the dunes with layers of pale sand. I turned to see my tightly spaced steps, and they had already disappeared. Any innovation was answered by nothingness with its dead bell towers. And I was God writing pages in the wind so that my words would fly away. In the mysterious loneliness I sought the traces of His look. I only knew it, like an unspeaking child, intuiting fire in order to form worlds, planets, galaxies, with its little hands, urging on the life with which the clay animates itself, with water the color of the dawn. I wanted Him to say something to me. Now I know that He creates life with which the clay animates itself, with water the color of the dawn. I wanted Him to say something to me. Now I know that He creates life and I invent the language with which one speaks. Nevertheless, I lose myself in the tangle of vocabulary and the words that still are not born of thought and that make one's heart ache. I lost myself among the sand drifts of the Sonoran desert, seeking Him so that he might teach me the language of silence. I sought Him so that He might tell me what He asked the stars, feeling my heart so alone on that surface so full of sand and in that sky so full of lights. I was overwhelmed with feeling, and I cried to see in the desert the dreamed-of fatherland that would take me in its bosom, like a mother who loves and watches over all of her children equally. No more would my soul be wounded by the thorns of scorn and indifference. In the future I would be a true citizen requesting and receiving justice. I was overtaken by illusion, and I saw in Yuma the cosmic solitude of the Sonoran desert, the Republic we wetbacks would inhabit, Indians sunk in misfortune and enslaved Chicanos. Ours would be the “Republic of Despised Mexicans.” Our houses would emerge from the dunes that rise up to look like tombs, and the nomadic race, its feet wounded by centuries of pilgrimages, would finally have a roof crowned by good fortune. From the immensity of the sterile sand, bread would be born like grace. The lakes that magic paints from a distance, as though they had only been lighted by the centuries, would suddenly take on the life that would return them to the reality of the movement that animates the fountains and the rivers. Scourged by the tenebrous winds that roast with the cruelty of pyres, the voices of the deceitful would flee, bearing with them tribunes of hypocrites who betray the trust of both their children and their forebears.  I was overtaken by imagination, and I saw in my pilgrimage many Indian peoples reduced by the torture of hunger and the humiliation of plunder, traveling backwards along the ancient roads in search of their remote origin. They ended up downcast, ceremonious in their gait and with the ritual gestures of beings who know the depths of human secrets. They came to seek life and the worthy embrace of the graveyards. I was overtaken by the enthusiasm of dreaming with my eyes open, and I saw that through the wide doors of the unploughed lands there entered multitudes of Chicano brothers who made paths and roads to peace and tranquility from the immense sandy plains. Their backs were bent and there was bitterness on their faces and the infinite weariness of slaves. They embrace their Indian forebears, and together they all cry in silence, burying those who have been killed, who are so many that no one can ever count them. I began to drown in feeling, and I cried over that warped wasteland with its outcroppings. Sand and moon dripped from their clothes, and driven by the thirst of the winds, the exodus of wetbacks dragged its feet because of the greed of the powerful. And behind them, the life of their families was conditioned to the adventure that they would experience in a strange land. I was hurt by the despair of feeling that utopia is ever a burning coal in consciousness tortured by the denial of sublime aspirations, and I fell to my knees begging for mercy.

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