All entries for September 2005

September 26, 2005

Mexico City

Follow-up to From Heinrich Heine´s 'Vitzliputzli' from The Midnight Heart

We arrived in D.F. yesterday for the journey home. Straight away a taxi driver tried to con us. The taxis in Mexico City are very dangerous, at least for gringos anyway. He made us pay an extra three hundred pesos for the journey and we had to pay him or he would have dumped on the side of the road. All the time he continued to smile as though nothing was wrong. I began to feel very negative about Mexico, or at least about Mexico City. That is until the next morning we walked out onto the zocalo which was a cacophany of different sounds. A piano recital of Rhapsody in Blue was in one corner, while in another there were bouncy castles and a fayre for children. In another corner, Mexicans were protesting about the 'murder' of a politician who was involved in preventing the drug trade. In another corner, huge pictures of Communist Russian thinkers and leaders were hung.


September 23, 2005

From Heinrich Heine´s 'Vitzliputzli'

Follow-up to Extract from John Dryden´s Play The Indian Emperor from The Midnight Heart

Yet I shall not die – I cannot
For we gods are like the parrots,
Live as long and moult as they do,
Moult like them and change our feathers.

Extract from John Dryden´s Play The Indian Emperor

Follow-up to Aztec Response to Cortez (in Keen p. 37) from The Midnight Heart

From the point of view of Montezuma's son as he first sees the Spanish ships:

The object, I could first distinctly view,
Was tall, straight trees, which on the water flew;
Wings on their sides, instead of leaves, did grow,
Which gathered all the breath the winds could blow:
And at their roots grew floating palaces,
Whose outblowed bellies cut the yielding seas.


Aztec Response to Cortez (in Keen p. 37)

Follow-up to Aztec Poem 2 (in Keen p. 41) from The Midnight Heart

It is not enouhh that we have already lost,
that our way of life has been taken away,
has been annihilated.

Were we to remain in this place,
we could be prisoners.
Do with us
as you please.

This is all that we answer,
that we reply,
to your breath,
to your words.
Oh, our Lords.


Aztec Poem 2 (in Keen p. 41)

Follow-up to Poem from Ancient City of Huexotzinco (in Keen, 42) from The Midnight Heart

Now let the Eagle knights and Jaguar knights embrace oh princes!
The shields make a great din,
ready is the company that must make prisoners!
Through our efforts alone are the flowers of war stained and moved to and fro!
It is time to give pleasure to the god.

Poem from Ancient City of Huexotzinco (in Keen, 42)

Follow-up to Aztec Poem (in Keen, 41) from The Midnight Heart

Besieged, hated
would be the city of Huexotzinco,
if it were surrounded by cactus,
if it were ringed with thorny arrows.

The kettledrum, the conch shell,
are heard in thy house,
they remain in Huexotzinco.
There is Tecayehuatzin
there is Lord Quecehuatl
plays the flute and sings
in his house at Huexotzinco.
Harken.
Hither descends our father the god.
Here is his house,
where in is the jaguar drum,
where the songs have endured
to the sound of kettle drums.


Aztec Poem (in Keen, 41)

Follow-up to Research at Na Bolom from The Midnight Heart

There is nothing like death in war,
nothing like flowery death
so precious to the Giver of Life:
far off I see it: my heart yearns for it.

Research at Na Bolom

Follow-up to Oaxaca Fiesta from The Midnight Heart

I was able to use the library at Na Bolom again yesterday. Among other books, the most interesting were Is the Mexican Revolution Dead? edited by Stanley R. Ross and The Aztec Image by Benjamin Keen.

In Ross' anthology, I was particularly fascinated by Ross' essay, 'The Peace of Porfirio' referring of course to the dictator who precipitated the revolution. This essay clarified a few things for me such as how the government actually went about encouraging capitalism, ignoring the general public's need and suppressing dissent. I liked Keen's book because he uses a great deal of poetry to show Western responses to the Aztec image.


Oaxaca Fiesta

Follow-up to Ghosts from The Midnight Heart

Another festival today in Oaxaca. This one was for Juarez and it is a little like the Mexican Day of the Dead in that the people make huge papier–mache sculptures which are paraded through the streets. The trade union were carrying banners celebrating their heroes and a brass band was playing.

As much as I like San Cristobal, it is a relief to be back in Oaxaca where the atmosphere is so much more full of hope and opportunity. This is as you would expect for the birthplace of Juarez, one of Mexico's greatest politicians and reformers.
Oaxaca Festival


Ghosts

Follow-up to Chomula from The Midnight Heart

I have always been somewhat sceptical about ghosts. It all began while I was working at the National Academy for Gifted and Talented Youth (NAGTY) over the summer. I was helping in creative writing workshops with Peter Blegvad and the poet, Julie Boden. One day a ghost hunter came to talk to the teenagers and later we went to visit Guy's Cliffe House near Leamington, which is an old abandoned house now owned by the masons. Julie Boden went down into the caves under the house and later she told us that she was convinced that the place is haunted. At first, I admit that I was shocked that people like Julie, Simon the ghost hunter and others from the paranormal society who work at the house believed in ghosts. I have always been very rational and sceptical about such things, but perhaps it was this experience which planted a seed of doubt in my mind and contributed to my experiences here in San Cristobal.

The first hotel that we stayed in was called Casa Magarita. We had a room up in the eaves of a large colonial building set on a courtyard. The room had an imposing wooden door that faced onto the bed. I was woken up in the night by terrible nightmares and I felt convinced that there was something uneasy about the room. We moved the next day.

I have been having Spanish classes here in San Cristobal and my teacher Eduardo told me that it is thought that there are many ghosts in San Cristobal. Eduardo said that in that very school there was thought to be the ghost of a small boy who had been murdered there years before.

For one night, we stayed at the museum, Na Bolom , which was once the house of Gertrude Duby Blom, the journalist and photographer. That night we went up to our room, locked the door and sat by the fire. All of a sudden the locked door swung open. We shut it and sat again by the fire which had begun to blaze brightly with incredible heat. The next morning we told the staff at Na Bolom of the night's happenings. Pepe told us that the room where we were staying had used to be Trudy's office and that another woman who had stayed there had also had a strange experience. The guest had been sitting at the window looking down at the beautiful gardens of Na Bolom when she saw an elderly lady looking up at her drinking a cup of tea.

All this is probably heresay and perhaps it is superstition or fear or hope that produces such desires. The men from the paranormal society told me that the walls of old houses contain the same chemicals as those in a video tape and some people believe that the rooms record events from the past. It is more likely that it is us who summon the past, but in San Cristobal, this can be dangerous.


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