All entries for Friday 09 September 2005

September 09, 2005

The Reason for Being in Mexico

Follow-up to Poetry in a Welsh Dialect from The Midnight Heart

The resaon for being in Mexico is to finish my first collection of poetry The Secret which has been the fruit of three years' efforts. The last section to be completed is a kind of prologue which will encompass the themes of the different sections of the book: the Lesser Secrets which considers Wales and its relationship with Western culture and the Greater Secrets which interrogates Wales and Central America. The prologue will unite the two halves with their interpersonal and intrapersonal concerns. There is more to be said about this but I have run out of time.

Poetry in a Welsh Dialect

Follow-up to Sierra Norte from The Midnight Heart

While re-reading The New Poetry as preparation for my teaching in the new year, I re-encountered Tom Leonard. The question raised its head, why haven't I thought more about writing poetry in a Welsh dialect or accent? The kind of Wenglish spoken in the Welsh valleys could be good material.

Sierra Norte

Follow-up to The Pachuco from The Midnight Heart

On Wednesday, we caught a bus heading out of Oaxaca to the Sierra Norte. It was cold and wet, but very beautiful. You have to have a guide up there, because the forests are fierce and you can easily lose your way. The community up there rent out cabins and offer their services as guides for some extra cash. The good thing is that tourism is not the dominant industry up there, so the locals were very friendly and happy to talk.

When I was in Mexico in 2004, I passed through the Sierra Madre stopping at a place called Creel. The locals were not very friendly and who could blame them. The tourists generally went up there to stare at the Tarahumara indigenous peoples. The only way to make money was through tourism. I think that this has happened in some parts of Wales to a lesser extent, but wherever it occurs I think it is to the detriment of the place.

I never take photographs of the indigenous peoples. I have seen tourists taking photographs of the indigenous people and they are very uncomfortable. In some ways, by doing this, tourists are taking away their pride. In order to take photographs of people in any situation, you need to build a relationship of trust as Gertrude Trudy Blom did in San Cristobal with the Mayans.

I generally make it a rule never to take photographs of people unless they ask me to.For example our guide in the Sierra Norte, Eustorgio Martinez, was keen to have his photo taken and I have promised to send him prints once they have been developed. They will then be able to use such photos in their promotional literature about the place and the guides thatthey offer. It's nice to give something back.

The Sierra Norte reminded me of a small town in Belize that we visited called Bermudian Landing. The town was a monkey sanctuary – howler monkeys to be precise. The townspeople ensured that the monkeys were not disturbed in a community run project. Nature lovers would then go to the town to wtach the monkeys in the wild and the community leaders farmed out the tourists fairly to stay with different members of the community. However, as in the Sierra Norte, this was not the total of Bermudian Landing's industry.

The Pachuco

Follow-up to Monte Alban from The Midnight Heart

I have just started reading Labyrinth of Solitude by Octavio Paz. In the beginning of the book, he writes of the pachuco, a being charcterised by 'a lack of spirit' (13).The pachuco 'does not want to become a Mexican again; at teh same time he does not want5 to blend into the life of North America' (14). Paz continues:

Since the pachuco cannot adapt himself to a civilization which, for its part, rejects him, he finds no answer to the hostility surrounding him except this angry affirmation of his persnality…the pachuco actually falunts his differences. The purpose of his grotesque dandyism and anarchic behavior is not so much to point out the injustice of a society that has failed to assimilate him as it is to demonstrate his personal will to remain different. / It is not important to examine the causes of this conflict, and even less so to ask whether it has a solution. There are minorities in many parts of the world who do not enjoy the same opportunities as the rest of the population. The important thing is this stubborn desire to be different, this anguished tension with which the lone Mexican – an orphan lacking both protectors and positive values – displays his differences…His disguise is a protection, but it also differentiates and isolates him: it both hides him and points him out (14 -15).

I find the idea of the pachuco very interesting and I relate to the character. Far from suggesting that my experiences as a Welsh person living in England have been the same as those of the Pachuco, I do recognise some elements of Paz' description. When we live outside of what we have known and been comfortable with all our lives, there is a choice to be made. Do we hang around the skirts of the known and the familiar or do we immerse ourselves in what is not familiar? Once we are immersed do we pass as a member of that particular community with the secret knowledge of one's own difference or do we flaunt our difference and force the other to admit that we are not one of them? Paz thinks that the outcome of flaunting such difference predicts that the identity 'spotlights and isolates him but at the same time it pays homage to the society he is attempting to deny' (16).


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“Zona de plagas donde la dormida come / lentamente / su corazón de medianoche” – Alejandra Pizarnik

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