A flight into Tijuana late yesterday evening and street tacos with good friends concluded nearly a month spent in Oaxaca. My wisps of memories and fragmented thoughts were not the only remnants that followed from Mexico, but Tropical Storm Dolores as well. I woke up to a cacophony of chirping birds, booming thunder and blessed rain as I tried to orient myself once again. It didn’t seem to take long as I easily fell into the habit of endless cups of green tea and a second breakfast of Acai at Better Buzz, running into friends and family from USD. Pieces of the familiar weaving together once again a life of little luxuries: privileges that without consciousness of participation in a larger system render one indifferent, numb; introverting perspective.
Thankfully, I’m reminded. Conversations and images that force me to remember; to feel deeply what the suffocating humidity may have subdued in the present moment. The wonderings, aches, and fascinations are the sand that could not be contained in my hands as it fell through my fingers on the beach in Chacahua, but instead stubbornly found its way back in my bag; clinging to dirty socks and settled into the hem of my pants.
A small, blue leather book with gold embossed writing passed from Border Patrol’s hands back into mine last night, allowing me return to San Diego. Plastic chairs under a mango tree with smoke from an outdoor fire that warmed tortillas and Antonio across from me immediately came to mind. A man in his thirties, recently deported, lamented separation from his six children in Kansas City. I crossed over with ease in the backseat of an air-conditioned car, he vowed to risk all once more, through the desert at night.
A boy in a tank top and flip flops the same age as Julio and Consuelo’s son takes me back. All of us gathered on the porch of their home, my hands sticky from the icy, sweet juice of a Boli, holding the family’s new puppy in my lap. My legs itchy from several new bug bites that surely came from following Julio through his cattle pastures. “You don’t go the US because you want to.” he’d said with a chuckle meant less for entertainment purposes than for emphasis of a well known truth. As we’d wandered through the deep green of his land, crawling through barbed-wire from one section to the other, Julio’s pride for his animals and way of life in La Pastoria was apparent. Paloma, his dog who in ecstasy rolled in the small streams we crossed, seemed to reflect the joy that radiated from Julio's smile as a patted his humongous, cream white bull. This was what was good: raising three kind-hearted kids and laughing with his warm soul of a wife. Three trips to the United States and a world of experience couldn’t compete with this corner of earth. Yet, would it be the same without those trips north building houses in Miami and Chicago? Could he drive his children two towns over for school in their used car or own the land his cows grazed on without it? Would Consuelo have the time and energy to invest into the local development cooperative that looked to employ the next generation of youth from the small town? Certainly not.
Lives and livelihoods intertwined in so complex a network it is difficult to see how one frayed end is bound to the other. Must it be untangled, or can we instead trace the lines that connect us? Remembering, that the meals shared, hugs given, and moments of silence observed between us for realities we’d rather not exist, belong to us all. They are sweaty clothes, the mud on my backpack, and sand dumped out on my carpet that return; I cannot forget.