Monday, January 11, 2010

Snapshots from a Sunday: Mexico City

On Sunday we broke from a few days of intense presentation and reflection to see the City. When we surfaced from the Metro, we were right in front of the Palacio Nacional at the City´s Center. The fabled Zocalo of Mexico City, once a place for public gathering, is now occupied by a large ice-skating rink. I read about it in the New York Times, as a ´human interest´story, which largely recounted the rise in ER visits with broken bones docs had never seen before and the delight of citizens in this almost tropical clime to be able to ice-skate.

The article didn´t mention the fact that the skating rink took up all available space for public protest and organizing.

Not a coincidence.

We began the day with a detailed tour of Diego Rivera´s murals depicting the history of the Mexican peoples, from its pre-Hispanic origins to the mid-1950s, when Rivera became too ill to finish painting. Rivera was both artist and political activist -- and he let no ice-skating rinks get in his way. With passionate energy, he painted the life of the pre-Conquest peoples in Central America,the impact of the Conquest and subsequent colonialization. It´s a history told in images both vibrant and brutal, and it communicated that story to people who may not have been able to read. But could certainly look. By looking, they could see beyond the skating rinks.

And on Sunday, a lot of people were looking.

We finished the day at a small Catholic parish halfway up one of the surrounding mountains. The Parish of St. Peter the Martyr has been outspoken in support of campesino rights, so much so that the Lady of Guadalupe there could have been wearing a black ski mask like Sub-Commandante Marcos.

We were warmly welcomed to the Mass, on a day that commemorated the Feast Day of the Baptism of Jesus. The priest highlighted the divine words from heaven: you are my beloved child; with you I am well-pleased. And the sermon -- as much as I could understand of it --was all about love and water, both increasingly scarce resources in this benighted planet.

The waters of baptism were our common bond with these Roman Catholic brothers and sisters. We were invited to celebrate the meal of Jesus our Brother. In response, we sang for the congregation. In Lutheran style, four-part harmony.

We left in the gathering darkness of an unseasonably cold night. But before we left, the parish assistant, a woman who had led the singing, asked if we would oblige her with yet another song, Amazing Grace. She said it had been sung at her sister´s funeral in Texas -- and she loved the music. We sang our hearts out.

As we left, she thanked us with the following words:

You have come to us like the Wise Men from the East, and you have come to see the Christ child in the manger of Latin America. Take what you have seen back with you.

We will, we will.

And we will keep looking into that manger.

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