Thursday, January 14, 2010
Finding Guadalupe in Cuernavaca
We left Mexico City on Wednesday and head for Cuernavaca, a beautiful colonial city about 90 minutes away. Cuernavaca functions as a kind of escape valve for the City, and anyone who can afford to get away does. With some regularity.
Cortez had a palace here, a veritable fortress. His mistress, La Malinche, has a house here, expressing her own indigenous roots. But Cuernavaca is also home to 10,000 displaced campesinos, who squat on a piece of land that used to be a stop on the Union Pacific line, until cars and busses supplanted trains as the major transportation between Mexico City and Cuernavaca.
La Estacion is now their home, as they left the countryside they had farmed for generations. Crops that fed their families for generations no longer brought in enough to support their families. These family farms were bought up by corporations claiming to be the supermarkets of the world. The people who worked the land moved to the city trying to scrape together enough to feed their families. These are the families we visited in La Estacion.
In preparation for our visits to homes in the settlement, we were told simply to do nothing more -- and nothing less -- than listen. And the stories we heard. My family had come from Taxco, where they had farmed. When farming could no longer support the family, they came to La Estacion, following other members of their family. The father of the family worked in a mercado, and his hours were long. The mother worked in the home. Instead of raising her food, she struggled to buy rice, beans, and tortillas to keep the family fed.
As we talked with her, two children floated in and out of a living room covered with a corrugated tin roof. We asked what they wanted to be when they grew up: the girls was going to be a lawyer, her brother a fireman. We asked their mother what her hopes were: health and a good future for her children.
I looked around the living room as she spoke. There was a bed behind where we were sitting; behind a piece of cloth with Batman flying all over it was another bed. Behind a cardboard wall was the children`s room, and I could see toys on the dirt floor.
There was a crucifix in the living with a corpus on it, a magazine photo of an image of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The family was clearly Catholic; I tried to find the Guadalupe shrine, a customary presence.
I realize I was looking into her face.