Along with Syria, Afghanistan, and Oakland, California, Mexico poses health risks to reporters.
Should this threat extend to the Tocquevillian role of moi, bloguera, it was nice not knowing you.
Mexican inhospitality has also touched Soviet expats
while the MI CASA (mortuoria) ES SU CASA (mortuoria) mat has been laid out for cannibalistic artists.
Could this be Mexico’s Aztec roots showing?
A Mexico City morgue allowed sadistically elegant American photographer Joel Peter Witkin to make himself at home amongst its cadavers, to manipulate its stiff travelers as subjects, objects, props, and garnish.
About this “experience,” Witkin wrote, “Drivers from the morgue make runs every day in white trucks to pick up the dead. When found, the bodies are just thrown on the gurneys, face down. Their noses get broken. The trucks are loaded with maybe six people, and they just lie on top of each other, somewhat bloated. They’re all stretched out. Their identities are taken, their clothes are taken away, and records are kept.”
During my goth years, my comorbids (friends) and I, couldn’t get enough of Witkin’s chiaroscuro silliness.
Although I continue to find Witkin’s work transcendentally titillating, the part of me that loves Mexico the way babies love a dark, hairy, leaky, floppy tit, preferably Salma Hayek’s, also finds his work…
A white man entering a morgue with a camera, able to pick and choose pieces a su gusto (to his liking, an idiom often used at the dining room table) dripsdripsdrips with imperialisthick implications, even as Witkin gilds his grotesques with baroque motifs, framing his victims as religious icons, “saints.”
This morning, I minced my gringa pompis (American tushy) up to the Guadalajaran morgue’s front door.
I carried a camera, but since I didn’t carry Joel Peter Witkin’s lana (moolah) to grease the palm of the soldier chicky guarding the door, I couldn’t fully realize my American creepiness.
The soldada gripped her AK and said, “Please, go away, you poor, sick woman.”
Dad and I were sniffing around the morgue’s hood because he’d roused me at the culo crack of dawn to venture to El Panteón de Belén.
Visiting a hyper-Victorian cemetery dusted in lichen is his idea of father-daugther bonding.
During the bus ride to the boneyard, fric and frac serenaded me while the Romeo sitting behind us checked if his girlfriend was ticklish.
Crawling away from where the bus driver shoved us out, and then waved a crucifix at us, and then hosed us down with holy water, I’m serious, all Mexican buses are equipped with these essentials, we observed a cemetery district’s common sights: wooden pajamas, Subhearsans, pictures of the missing, TJ’s favorite word.
Arriving at Belén, signs warned of Dengue Fever.
A cheap Chinese buffet leaning against a mortuary clucked an age old question:
Dad bought two tickets.
Armed with Kleenex and Vicks VapoRub, we readied to holler at Belén’s dead!
Entering Belén’s gates, one emerges into hallway that is skedenza (skeleton-credenza). In the skedenza’s chinks live many petite but hungry scorpions. They want warm meat.
A poof of smoke and a handsome beast stood by the death drawers. He warned us not to touch shit.
Then, another poof of smoke, and this swarthy son of a pistola…
He sashayed along the wall, describing the various characters sleeping inside.
He pointed at the most frightening door of all.
After warning us not to be fickle about our fecal, our guide invited us to step into the cemetery’s history.
It began as the project of Fray Antonio Alcalde.
Alcalde saw, and smelled, how limited cemetery space + disease, famine, and poverty =ed grave-y streets, and so he nurtured Belén’s construction.
Even in death, the New World’s social castes remained segregated. The wealthy slept in either the skedenza or the large, pretty yard. The poor were relegated to the paupers’ section. There, living poor people layered dead poor people over one another, snug in a necrotizing lyesagna.
In the skedenza rest two highlanders, the Johnstons. During the nineteenth century, their plaid pompis set sail for Guadalajara and moved by the city’s starving mouths puckering for beans, corn, and overcooked tripe, they fed whoever knocked at their door. Eventually, the Johnston’s got rid of their door and kept their maw permanently open.
Guadalajaran’s came to refer to chez Johnston as “the Kílt.”
The Johnstons also attempted to integrate bagpipe into mariachi and were almost lynched for this offense. To atone, they kept feeding Mexicans tartan-grilled tortillas till both of them died. This final passage made them permanent residents of the Americas.
Now, visitors feed their kind memory with offerings o’thanks.
Dad and I were not the only ones bonding in a family güey at Belén. Most people on our tour came to the cemetery as families.
There were even some pint-sized existentialists among us.
We walked to a funerary chapel.
Our guide, running his fingers along its stone altar, lamented the decline of the funerary arts.
I prevented a moth from going towards the light.
Exiting the chapel, we passed the tomb of the Hefty Family.
The cemetery’s beauty prompted me to recall the lyrics to a Smiths song:
So we go inside and we gravely read the stones
All those people all those lives
Where are they now?
Our guide’s man boobs pointed the way, and he urged us to stay on the path or risk death by mango.
We arrived at a menacing ficus.
The guide invited only the fearless people to step forward.
The men with the most ridiculous mustaches stepped forward.
Pacing before the ficus, the guide explained that during the nineteenth century, Guadalajara had a visitor. Nobody knew where he came from but he was a well-dressed, tall, slender, and handsome man. He wore a suit, a fine hat, and long, rather sharp, fingernails. At the same time that the visitor arrived, women were disappearing.
They vanished at night and were found, drained of blood, along the cobblestone streets. Two holes, (and the guide demonstrated with his fingers, on his neck), marked them. Exsanguinated women kept piling up in the streets until one dawn, a woman, bleeding at the neck, stumbled into the plaza, telling the story of a tall, well-dressed man, a man wearing a fine suit, fine hat, and with long, sharp fingernails, who had grabbed her, bitten her, and attempted to feast on her aorta.
The men of Guadalajara formed and posse and sought the offender. They marched the streets looking for him but it wasn’t until nightfall that they saw the fiend and knew, or course, what they were dealing with.
The posse grabbed him, shoved him in a sack, and dragged it to the cemetery, where they released him. One man grabbed a sharp stick, a makeshift stake, and plunged it into the vampire.
The vampire was pushed into a deep grave and from the stake grew the ficus and should the ficus ever fall, the vampire will
and after the guide abruptly did this, all the men with big mustaches se cagaron (shit their pants).
We squished through the yard and to the skedenza, where we walked along the drawers, once again, and arrived at a strange tomb.
Our guide swished his wide, child-bearing hips towards it to introduce who rests there.
In that cradle of a coffin rests the boy Ignacio, el Niño Nachito.
Nachito was strange from birth. Beginning from infancy, he suffered extreme claustrophobia and lygophobia. To get him to sleep, his parents had to keep a bonfire open and every window in his home open.
Nachito celebrated his first birthday and died. His parents buried him underground but several days after he was placed in his sepulcher, he was found aboveground.
“Why did you dig him up?” people asked.
“We didn’t!” replied his parents.
Nachito’s parents replaced him in his grave but he continued to escape and the only logical conclusion to be reached was that in death, his phobias plagued him still.
Finally, to prevent his evacuation, his parents had a new, aboveground tomb/cradle constructed in the hopes that the light of day would warm him and that at night, the moonlight would comfort him.
While Nachito was no longer found elsewhere in the cemetery, toys that family, friends, and sympathizers leave on his tomb/cradle for him continue to appear in other parts of the cemetery.
The guide asked if anybody wished to leave a gift for Nachito.
I and a few others volunteered.
After situating our gifts on the grave, the guide thanked us for our generosity and explained to those that did not give, “Don’t be afraid when you feel a tugging at your feet.”
Before leaving, a paid a visit to what
My Abuelita died while I was in her dining room, eating something or drinking something.
9:45 a.m., Guadalajara, Mexico, Sunday, August 5, 2012.
Her example taught me to do what I need to do to live, to do what I need to do die, and to leave things others might, or might not, consider art.