Love, Society and Planets

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When I see, read, hear and sometimes observe the news… I don’t feel fine. When I go to conferences to hear experts talking about pressing issues say, racism, discrimination, immigration, suicide, drugs, the alt-right thing, women’s rights, kids’ rights, elders’ rights and, in general the relationships between people and its government and, I gain knowledge about those pressing issues, I feel worse! Dang, sometimes I wish I could stay ignorant and naïve about these inventions and discoveries so, I don’t have to endure any negative emotion but, I am already Mexican and my bio is not going to look very good if I say I am Mexican, ignorant and naïve, is it?

LOVE has many angles, sides and applications. However, today I’m reflecting a little bit on the LOVE in our society. How much LOVE do we put in our life as society? Is there LOVE in our communities? If so, what is the role of LOVE in our society? Allow me to venture some answers or, at least comments, on these questions.

In trying to answer these questions, I could start by offering a definition of LOVE but, instead, I share a reverse definition by telling you about a situation where LOVE is not present: definition by omission, kind of thing 

Consider this. Year: *1968. Month: October: Day: 2. Place: Mexico City. Event: a student massacre. Months or I should say years before October 2nd, the Mexican government, like any other “good” government, kept on abusing Mexican people in many ways. However, that day the government decided to stop a student protest using bullets. These students, as many students around the world, were asking for freedom, civil rights, changes and reforms in the political, social and educational arenas. A protest of 10,000 high school and college students was ended with thousands killed or injured. I see no LOVE here. The police also arrested some 1,400 students. I know I am missing many details of the story here but this picture illustrates the type of situation that all of us have faced in one way or another. Dear reader, isn’t it sad that even before I meet you in person, I already know that you have faced some type of social violence in your life? When I meet you, we can easily do some small talk on social violence. Again, when it comes to our society, where is the LOVE?

Moral: LOVE can’t be expressed with bullets or more, specifically, LOVE can’t be expressed by shooting bullets into students protesting the limitations imposed by a government. Other moral would be “the greatness of the content of our lives depends on how much LOVE we put on them”.

Another question: why do our societies lack LOVE? Since every person is a universe, I don’t think I can provide a definite answer to this but, as I say before, I would venture some brief reflections:

1.- Schools are not helping much. In rural areas and small districts, people get more connected. Parents, kids and teachers know each other and they show themselves some love but, how much social LOVE is taught?

2.- We are immersed in this life style where quickest is best. Things in the order of drive-through, cell phones, apps, Uber, express service, fast cash, same day tax return are guiding our lives. We have fall into the vicious cycle of making more to spend more ASAP. Maybe this is part of the reason why most humans use LOVE to meet their psychological and sexual needs, only and, quickly. In this sense our bodies, not our hearts or souls, are becoming of an object, something to buy and sell. This is nothing new, you are right, however there are two kind of new elements in this phenomena. One, the social media multiplies this operation by the millions. Two, no one is scared or scandalized. This is now part of part of our lives. There are millions of people visiting porn sites right now who are not necessarily looking for LOVE. According to the **Psychology Today magazine “For 2017, PornHub claims 28.5 billion total visits. That’s 81 million a day, almost 4 million an hour, 56,000 a minute.”

3.- Call me crazy but I think LOVE in our society is not an aspiration. Think about the messages you and your children receive from the society. LOVE this car, this house, this drink, this trip, this cell phone, this stock market, this object or the other one over there. We talk more about loving something that loving someone. Our souls are getting blind. 

4.- The media is not helping. I don’t think so. The reason is simple, no one stars a media business to spread LOVE. The number one goal of a media outlet is money. The media reports profitable news. Planting trees is not on the news because who follows that? 1out of 30 people? And that one person is dead already! Respecting human rights, putting women at the same level with men, people writing poetry or creating art, finding ways to listen our children, being fair to the LGBTQ community, etc., is stuff that one cares about. Reporting homicides, mass shootings, drugs dealing, people breaking the law, terrorism, anything along these lines would be appropriate if you want to make money. If you are trying to instill LOVE in your community, around your people, the media in its current state, won’t help much. Yes, there are exceptions but exception means minority. 

That is my partial list. We can name a number of things happening right now that can demonstrate how much LOVE we need in our communities. The government is a creature unable to see us as humans. Robots are on their way to substitute humans. Social Media keeps stealing our secrets. Rich companies and businesses are killing the environment generating tons of trash and poisonous gases by the minute. LOVE is a force to build, to create, to see things under a more human perspective. Many great things in human history happened out of LOVE. We need to remember our good lessons. We need to protect our souls. In the very old days, Greeks use to see the Universe as a model of perfection. The rotation of the planets was not accident but a conversation with ***themselves. They saw in the planets and the stars a live geometry: order, balance, positive energy, harmony, symmetry. The societies of humans should imitate the societies of planets. We should walk as stars and fly like comets. But, we can’t. Copying the honesty and the rectitude of the solar system is becoming harder and harder or like it was stated previously, it is not even an aspiration. Is this the solution I propose? No necessarily. I wasn’t trying to be romantic either. I’m just trying to make my point and, in a way, spread LOVE and hope. We are still alive. Things can be made. We can wake up early in the morning, get some coffee, stare at the sky and remember that planets and humans have the same ingredients, the same soul. We should honor that. Societies should honor that.

*Here is a link to more 1968 events: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1968

 ** Psychology Today article: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/all-about-sex/201803/surprising-new-data-the-world-s-most-popular-porn-site

*** La llama doble. Octavio Paz. Galaxia Gutenberg. 2014

La raza nos desconectó

Los chavos de “La red global para la paz en México” publicaron recientemente, en Facebook un meme con el siguiente mensaje:

“Todos éramos humanos hasta que: La raza nos desconectó, la religión nos separó, la política nos dividió y el dinero nos clasificó”.

Ante tal hiperbólica aseveración me permito, y espero que usted también me permita, la siguiente reflexión: 

Desconectados, separados, divididos. Tristemente así es. Las ausencias o las presencias del amor, del miedo y del odio, han sido los detonantes de las desdichas políticas y sociales que hemos vivido desde que Caín mató a Abel. 

A manera de solución expreso que nos hace falta robustecer el espíritu. Estos temas: el crecimiento espiritual, el amor y su papel en la sociedad no se tratan en las escuelas. Hay clases de filosofía en algunos casos pero siempre se tratan como asignaturas, son créditos académicos para pasar el año, para ascender en la escala académica o para elevar nuestra cultura general, no para repararnos. No se manejan necesariamente como herramientas para llevar una vida decente, decorosa, civilizada. En esto, sin embargo, todos debemos poner nuestro grano de arena. 

Los principales responsables de nuestro crecimiento espiritual somos nosotros mismos.

¿Podremos algún día borrar nuestras diferencias, nuestras separaciones? Ojalá pero, al paso que vamos, presiento que vamos en ruta hacia un estadio opuesto. Nada o muy poco hacemos por controlar nuestros odios y nuestros miedos. 

Otro alimento del espíritu es el arte. Sin embargo, el arte, no es objeto de uso corriente. El arte es creación, edificación, transformación. Renueva el espíritu y el alma. Hay que dedicar más tiempo al arte, a las expresiones visuales, a la poesía, al teatro, a la danza. Recuperemos el arte.

Pero en estos días: ¿quién va al museo, a la ópera, a los conciertos de música clásica? Mayormente quienes tienen los medios y la cultura para hacerlo. El arte ya no es una expresión libre y de uso común; ahora se rige por las reglas del mercado, es un negocio. Recuperemos el arte. 

¿Cómo redimir nuestras separaciones? ¿Es posible unirnos? Cada vez estoy más convencido de que la unión entre los hombres es un mito, una utopía. Pero sí creo que aun es posible trabajar coordinadamente en proyectos comunes. El trabajo común puede redimirnos y vale la pena intentarlo. 

Enero 5, 2019.

Roma

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Película escrita, dirigida, coeditada y fotografiada por el mexicano Alfonso Cuarón (Y tu Mamá También, Harry Porter 3, Children of Men, Gravity) es una obra de arte de considerables proporciones y una apuesta valiente por varias razones. 

Roma fue filmada con cámaras de 65 mm que ofrecen una mayor fidelidad visual al espectador, si se le compara con la que ofrecen las cámaras de 35 mm. Dicha armonía visual se percibe desde la primera escena; en la cual se muestra el piso de un patio cortado por cuadros en posición romboide, cubierto por el irregular y minúsculo oleaje del agua jabonosa utilizada para lavar los desechos del Borras, el perro de la familia. El agua en su cadencioso vaivén, asume coloraciones argentadas, es un torrente de plata líquida que se convierte en espejo: refleja el cielo, refleja al mundo, refleja al avión que surca el cielo convertido en la metáfora del tiempo y los pasos ciegos con los que realiza su incesante caminar. 

Otro mérito de Roma es su alta capacidad narrativa. No hay diálogos largos ni complejos. Las cosas del corazón no se dicen, se sienten. Cuarón inserta en este drama diversos elementos indígenas, incluyendo conversaciones en mixteco, lo cual me parece un acierto sonoro y cultural, que se agrega a la apuesta visual de darle vida a Roma en blanco y negro. 

La valentía de Roma reside en el tratamiento de hechos que tienen que ver con la igualdad de los derechos de la mujer (www.semillas.org.mx), de las condiciones dignas laborales de las trabajadoras domésticas en México (www.caceh.org.mx) y en Estados Unidos (domesticworkers.org).

Por cierto, el título de la película se origina a partir del nombre de la zona en la que viven los protagonistas: la colonia Roma.

Roma, que se llevó el León de Oro, a la mejor película, este año en Venecia refleja una Ciudad de México situada en 1971, año del halconazo o del ataque rapaz del grupo de choque conocido como Halcones creado por los gobiernos priistas de Díaz Ordaz y Luis Echeverría. Los halcones son una de las muchas cartas de presentación de los gobiernos priistas de finales de los sesentas, los setentas y los ochentas y resulta históricamente significativo que Roma aluda de manera abierta a dicho evento que no deja de ser importante e hiriente en la historia mexicana del siglo XX. 

El meollo de Roma radica en el drama de dos mujeres, una indígena: Cleo (Yalitza Aparicio) y la otra una señora de clase media: Sofía (Marina de Tavira). Cuyos caminos se entrecruzan por causas laborales primero y, luego, por razones afectivas. El momento catártico de Roma aparece frente las olas imbatibles del mar. Sofía, sus cuatro hijos y Cleo se abrazan y ese abrazo se convierte en el símbolo del amor que se tienen y del apoyo que se procuran ante las adversidades físicas y emocionales que los aquejan. 

A propósito de símbolos, ¿es feminista que los dos personajes principales de esta cinta sean mujeres?

Roma también es un símbolo de la cultura (para no hablar de lo social y lo político, dos asuntos atroces), que vivimos este siglo XXI. Un mexicano realiza un filme semi-autobiográfico,  en blanco y negro, en formato de 65 mm, en español y mixteco, cuyo drama es recorrido realizado por dos mujeres. Méritos le sobran a Roma. 

Rolling Stone, The Wall Street Journal, Variety y Pepe Caudillo, entre otros, consideran a Roma un filme muy destacado y un acierto de Netflix.

Imagen: Netflix.

Death never comes alone: Alicia was never in wonderland

When they recovered the body, Maria’s soul started to relax a little bit. Maria knew right then that, as hard as it always is, the decomposed matter found at the municipal landfill, sooner or later, will provide to Alicia’s family, a bit of help to recover from their loss. She had that thought being aware that no one really recovers from the death of a loved one because, only the people who we love can hurt us. 

Maria could not stop her mind: “Best case scenario: they accept the fact and learn to live within her absence and its consequences or, no, I don’t want to think of a worse case scenario”.

21 days happened between the moment of the abduction and the recovery of Alicia’s remains. 21 days were enough to kill Lourdes’ entrails: no food, no sleep, no hope for her. These 21 days felt to Lourdes like 5 eternities. 

Lourdes lost hope after the ninth day. At that moment her mind was already made: “If she dies, I die”. Exhaustion put her on bed. She slept 4 hours straight. When she woke up it took her a second to come back to reality, to her reality, to her shocking, horrendous reality. Lourdes restarted speaking with the only language available to her: tears. 

“What happens to the heart of a mother who has lost her daughter, her only daughter?”. Even though Maria knew the answer very well, she kept repeating the question over and over again. 

Maria liked talking to Alicia. This young lady had a sharp mind full of dreams. NC State student. Major in Art. Her dream: Graphic Design. Definitively creative. Alicia was very good at cooking, gardening, drawing, painting, building, hugging. 

The day before the extraction, Maria and Alicia had a conversation. That’s what neighbors do… sometimes. They exchanged ideas and complains about the latest on the immigration news. They centered the conversation around the same impossible issues: “Immigrants keep dying at the border. Everyone complains but no one talks about the real reason why people leave their countries, their home, their land. It is easier to propagate hate than to find solutions”. 

That was it. The conversation ended as abruptly as it started. Maria and Alicia, like millions of people in the country spent time doing the only thing they can do for sure about their problems: talking about them. 

Alicia’s mom, Lourdes, came to the US from Mexico in 1996. She was 25 and really good looking. She was single. Her destiny put her on a long ride from San Antonio, Texas to Raleigh, North Carolina. Lourdes was so surprised to learn how similar all the cities in US look like. The one difference she noticed was the type of fences used in rural and urban areas. “Everything else is the same”, she always would say that when referring her story. 

Once in Raleigh she started looking for a job. After two days of trying: no luck. She started to get desperate. She thought of God and decided to go to church. The priest promised her a job in exchange for sex. Lourdes was shocked. She thought of running away but there was no place to go. The priest knew that. Lourdes agreed. As soon as the intercourse was a done deal, the priest made a phone call. 30 minutes later Lourdes was working and 9 months later she had a baby. A little girl. Lourdes decided on her name really quickly: “Alicia, just like my mother.”

Maria didn’t let Lourdes to see the report of the Medical Examiner. Too crude. According to the document, her skull was cracked and presented a little perforation between the sphenoid and the frontal bones on the right side. An object was moved through the skull causing an injury in the lower frontal lobe of the brain. The Medical Examiner was nothing less than puzzled when she learned that Alicia’s, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 8th vertebrae, the right side of the ilium, the right side femur, both tibias and fibulas were all broken. More bizarre was the fact that they could not find her heart. An almost perfect circled hole was made on her chest. No heart. Nonetheless, cause of death: unknown.

3 days later: funeral home, cemetery, six feet under, heaven and, 4 years later, Lourdes finally agreed to move Alicias belongings out of her room. She was putting Alicia’s clothes in a plastic bag when she found a little notebook, black color. It was Alicia’s diary. Lourdes  read it all. The last entry was written 3 days before the disappearance. “No way to move back. I have to protect my family. I wish I knew who Alejandro was before all this. I’m sorry”. 

Lourdes without fully understanding of the note started to cry. She called Maria. Both of them read the note several times. Maria mentioned some rumor. Alejandro allegedly was a member of a satanic sect. Both of them had heard stories about this group that they preferred not to believe. Dismemberments, cannibalism, a dark god worshiping. Gruesome stuff. Lourdes never knew the condition of Alicia’s body when it was found. For Maria this was scary stuff but at the same time it made sense. 

They involved the police. Investigations started. Slow investigations. During the process 3 police officers die of unknown causes. They said the sect dark powers acted upon them. After 13 months Alejandro was arrested and sent to court. He took ownership of the killing by saying “Alicia’s soul is mine”. The judge read the verdict: life in prison, no parole. 

As Alejandro was escorted out of the court room, the air started to feel hot and smelly. An unknown but deep voice covered the environment. The voice spoke a language that no one understood. Except Lourdes who after listening the message in her head, was terrified. “Your daughter will come back to life if you give me your soul”. 

By Pepe Caudillo. 12-10-2018. ®

No Ingleesh, No Ingleesh

Dedicated to those who exercise racism. The Universe is not happy with them but we can still give them some love. 

I don’t remember, when this happened. Two days ago or maybe in 1968 when MLK and many hearts were killed. I am not sure, maybe it is still happening right now. 

I was working after hours in my office. This place has many windows which give me a very open, extramural view. I can see the black top of the parking lot. I can see people walking, eating junk food or smoking. On special occasions, I spy birds chirping and challenging each other to see who can fly faster. I promise I have seen this. The sun and, depending on the time of the day, the moon are my witnesses. 

I actually… I am not going to lie to you, I was in my office but I wasn’t working. I was, in tears, watching a documentary on Amy Winehouse. It was 6:01 PM when MLK got assassinated and it was 6:01 PM when this car entered my parking lot. I found this to be a bit weird since my office was closed. I stared at the car. I detected a White couple inside of it. They looked like they were having an argument. Irritated expressions I noticed. The face of the guy was red. I was 99% sure that he was screaming. The angry man is sitting in the passenger seat. I looked again, the guy was still screaming. Now his face is all deformed. He does not look well at all. He makes a fist and punches the lady in the face. There’s blood coming down. Maybe from the nose. She is scared or, at least, she is not enjoying the pain, I can see it in her face. What would MLK think about this particular situation? A White man executing one of his own. I assured myself that he will be fine. He is White. His ancestors invented racism. No prosecution for him.

He punches her again and again and again. The lady is not moving anymore. At that point, I was preoccupied: I might be watching a crime scene. The guy notices that the lady is not animated. I can’t call the police, I am Mexican!. The abuser easily could blame his crime on me and the police would believe him 100%. Fuck, I am lost! I need to break away. My only option is the front door but he will see me and he will try to insert me into this part of his autobiography. I am scared. I have no papers. 

I took my chances. I left the building. The guy looked at me, opened the door, got out of the vehicle and started walking towards me. He is going to punch me, I thought. He didn’t. Instead he asked me for help. He said that they had an accident and that his wife isn’t in good condition. “No Ingleesh, No Ingleesh”, I said. He provides me with some fake news: “This black guy, a guy who would look like MLK, hit the rear end of my car and took off”. He didn’t know that I knew what he did. 

One hour later the white couple is in my restroom. They are crying. He apologizes to her. She is mad and frustrated. He implores forgiveness. She punches him in the face. He touches his face, looks at her with a rare emotion and says “thank you”. They start to walk out of the building. “Did you see anything, amigou?”, he asked right before he pushes the front door. I immediately said “No Ingleesh, No Ingleesh”. The car disappeared into the horizon. Outside, under one million and one stars, a cricket is chirping in the window. 

By Pepe Caudillo. Raleigh, NC. 8-5-2108

Accidental Friendship

I try, I really try to be a good immigrant so, when I have the opportunity, I share moments of joy or fun with others. Some times these moments grow into something else, normally into something better. 
For instance, one day in January this year, at the book store, this lady was reading a magazine behind me. The color of her skin was what most of us call white. She had green eyes and spoke perfect English. I assumed this “American woman” probably didn’t notice my presence because when she was done reading, she moved towards me and hit me very lightly with her elbow. 
She said “excuse me”.
 I said “no worries, this is your country” in a comedic tone. 
She probably liked my ironical expression. She looked at me straight to the eye and said “Thank you”. 
After a pause, she asked for my name and what my job was. I answered and asked her the same questions. That is how the conversation started. At some point we discovered that we both love art, books, graphic design, real thrillers and that we both think that countries should not exist.
 Since that day we texted profusely about how art is going to save the human race. We kept messaging until she died of cancer a week ago. As far as I know, she never felt sorry for me and a couple of times told me that she was glad I immigrated to this country. 
I am going to miss her very much for a variety of reasons but specially because she helped me to confirm that friendship does not recognize labels like “immigrant”, “Mexican”, “Chinese” or anything along those lines. Yes, I will miss her, even though she died in her country!
Pepe Caudillo
Fiction
June 16, 2018