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Our Mexican, his Americans

Uncles CM-JM,

The only thing I don’t really like about Adrian, besides the fact that he’s so much better looking than me, is that he won’t make beds, sweep floors, or do dishes. Fucker. And we thought we were going to have a Mexican in the house for a week.

On the other hand, he’s disappointed that we haven’t yet paved our sidewalk in gold and that we have cars that are over five years old. iGringos!

Nah…he’s really a great person and we are glad to have him. It’s nice to have someone in the house to provoke questions about Mexico and Mexican cultures. I say cultures because unlike the United States, it has a multitude of cultures.

Of course, we have a number of cultures here. It’s difficult to move from one neighborhood to another without seeing how we are pieced together. On the other hand, we have an overweening and overwhelming monolithic paradigm that all variations in culture are beholden to. We are always, it seems, becoming, whether the new immigrant from Chiapas to old-line aristocratic families. The constant and radical change creates a situation, that, paradoxically creates a stasis. We are always, as Americans, trying to recreate a mythic and nonexistant past. Always looking forward, never proceeding that direction.

We are indeed dynamic, held down only by our own inability to perceive and imagine possibilities that might create a reality and a society different from the one we have now. We believe that things, as they develop, are as they must be. We have no choice. I won’t say and am not saying that other places and societies are better or do not have this same kind of baggage. I just don’t know that. But I can say that, in relation to the societies I’ve witnessed and lived in–most notably Western European and its patchwork and the Mexican cultures I see in my neighbors, read about in books, and see on the television–Americans are the most reactionary and insular.

Adrian reveals a dynamism in Mexican society that we so sorely lack here. The complexity of Mexican society(ies) intrigues me. He met our Tamale Lady, a woman who has recently returned to the United States for the second time. She is a working woman, I believe from a small village. Adrian was surprised and ashamed to find that she still owes $3,000 to the coyote who moved her across the border. While he knew about the phenomenon, understood it, he had never encountered it. Seeing his privilege in society, in profession, and education, and also in his ability to move across borders just by showing people paper, made him more aware of that privilege.

Here they were, on my driveway, speaking Spanish but also the languages of an agrarian worker and a white collar professional. I was amazed to watch them negotiate and mediate that terrain.

Certainly, we do the same things all the time, but they are hidden, or forced to by hidden, by a culture that demands sameness. A mainstream way of dealing with one another allows us to hide our first languages, perhaps even to translate them, so that when the worker comes into contact with the industrialist, they are able to communicate, speak a common language, negotiate the difficulties of class ans status more by consciously ignoring it than by trying to integrate one into another.

Of course, I’m ashamed of myself in a room full of academic, business, or wealthy people. That embarrassment turns to anger, and I can, when I want to, delegitimize that which makes me feel inferior. On the other hand, I know all about my education when I’m in a room full of workers or poor people. The way I move between worlds, feeling comfortable in none, is also privilege. Watching Adrian and Augustina, I felt a sort of envy for both. While Adrian was faced with the consequences of his position–that is, the way that some must support such a position–Augustina, it was clear, came into contact with Adrians and other privileged and wealthy all the time, reinforcing in my experience that the poor encounter the privileged much more often than the other way around.

But I go on too long. The continuation of this thought will take pages and pages, and much more time to form to the constraints of language and logic. I don’t have the energy now, nor do I think that working out my ideas and my failure and faults in a letter can be that interesting. I just want to say that Adrian is good for us and has allowed us another look into a culture so vastly different and complex. I wish I had the time, focus, and, perhaps, brainpower to penetrate that culture, understand it in all its nuances, and offer something to the understanding of others. As it is, I must deal with having thrown rock and dirt all day. And, that, is reward in itself.

So, your Adrian’s getting on well with his conference, meeting colleagues he’s only ever talked to on the phone. He’s also enjoying his management training seminar and meeting up with new people all the time. (I told him that if I was as good looking as him and was around all those Eurolatinafricanmamas, I would make a round-the-world tour—in a different hotel room every night. Sadly, he seems to be a man of morals. I mean, I, too, am a man of morals, just very low ones.)

He’s funny, nice, and so polite we don’t know what to do with him sometimes. It took him a day or so to get used to being in our house, as we take so seriously and literally the old saying, “Mi casa es su casa.” He’s getting to know that he can use our house like it is his own. He really understood what the Spread is all about when he realized that Eugene, our neighborhood homeless guy who lives under a bridge a block from here, can depend on a hot cuppa and something to eat twice a day. Adrian has also struck up some interesting conversations with Eugene, which is amazing as Eugene is schizophrenic and goes in and out of this reality as quickly as the wind changes direction.

I hope to see you soon. Adrian has dispelled the awful myths of highwaymen and bandidos and we are determined to make our next work break a time with you in Monterrey.

All our love,
Patrick

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