Spicy, Spicy / Yoani Sanchez

la-fotoMexico does not allow for half measures, does not admit that we remain unscathed. It’s like spice on the tongue, tequila in the throat and the sun in our eyes. Five days in the land of the feathered serpent and it was hard for me to board the plane because intense desires spoke to me about staying to explore a captivating and complex reality. I’ve seen modern buildings a few yards from the ruins of the Great Temple; incredible traffic jams on the streets, while on the sidewalks people walk with the calm of those who are in no hurry to arrive. I have also seen the smiling La Calavera Catrina, alternating seamlessly with the the vibrantly colorful of the people in La Ciudadela shopping center. With her sarcastic laugh, feathered hat and exposed ribcage she challenges me. Someone gave me a taste of a dessert, it was intensely sweet, sprinkled with sugar; but then I bit into a tamale and the kick of chili on my tongue made me cry. Mexico doesn’t allow for lukewarm feelings, you love it or you love it.

So my Aztec journey began surrounded by contrasts. From Puebla to Mexico City, meeting friends and visiting several newspaper offices, radio stations and, above all, speaking with many many journalist colleagues. I wanted to know first hand the rewards and risks of practicing the reporter’s profession in this society and I have met a great number of concerned, but working, professionals. People who risk their lives, especially in the north, to report; people who think like I do about the need for a free press, responsible, and tied to reality. I have learned from them. I have also gotten lost in the network of tiny shops and kiosks in the city center, and have felt the pulse of life there. A life I had perceived from the air before we landed, when at dawn on Saturday I saw the great anthill that is Mexico City, the many cities it contains, burning with life, despite the early hour.

For a moment, I had the impression of living in a fragment of the novel Los detectives Salvajes by Roberto Bolaño. But I wasn’t seeking, like the protagonists in this book, a cult poetess, lost in oblivion. In reality I was trying to look at and find my own country through the eyes of the Mexicans. And I found it. An Island reinterpreted and multiple, but close; one that raises passions in everyone and leaves no one unscathed. A friend asked me before I left, “What does Mexico make you feel?” I didn’t think too long: “Spicy,” I replied, like a spice that provokes an electric shock, and brings tears of pleasure and torment. “And Cuba,” he insisted, “What does it make you feel?”… Cuba, Cuba is bittersweet…