Ever since we became close friends a couple of years ago, my girlfriend A (who was born and bred in NYC) has developed an interest in all things Mexico. I do appreciate the effort, since not only I do live in her country and passionately follow local politics (as if I could vote), but also because before meeting me, Mexico was not even on her radar.
Once the kids and I flew to Mexico to spend the holidays, she and I started whatsapping the oh-so-relevant happenings of our lives. I kept her posted on the Mexican ways of celebrating Christmas, which consists of stuffing ourselves and drinking like fishes (that happens from Dec. 12th until Jan. 6th) while we indulge in nostalgia and relive (again and again) the torment of spending way too much family time together.
My friend is Jewish, all her holiday celebrating was over, so she kept me posted on stuff like work, kids and NY's shitty weather while giving me funny remarks on how dramatic (she believes) we are down here.
Come to think of it, I totally understand why. From her perspective it's all indeed like a telenovela -- the fights, the juvenile attitudes of the the middle age men and women who act like 15 year-olds every time their parents are around; all the expectations that haven't been met nor will ever be, the fantasies about being together that never turn out the way we picture them, the atheist portion of the group who think it's all ridiculous, the two last believers who think Jesus is being born and the Jerusalem star is illuminating our dinner, the kids who simply won't sit still at the Christmas table, the presents that are not opened in the orderly manner Grandma is expecting... all of it. But whatever happens each year, there are as many moments of joy as they are of drama.
That's just the way it goes south of the border.
Our back and forth texting continued and a few days after Christmas she sent a message saying "Do not miss the Times piece on Chavela Vargas!" Then she texted me a quote from the journalist Alma Guillermoprieto, "Mexican parties always end with everyone crying."
God, Guillermoprieto is so right everything else seems wrong.
Something happens in Mexico and I still can't put my finger on it. It happens when we meet among close friends as much as it happens when we meet among family: someone always ends up crying.
Why the hell is that?
Come December nothing turns out the way we picture it when we paid for those over-priced tickets that will take us home for the holidays, but in January, rest assured, we'll all be saying how lovely and amazing it all was and we'll start planning the Greek tragedy all over again for next year.
We all cry down here. Mexico's beloved Chavela Vargas was a crier too and so was her audience. Her songs were anthems of love, but mostly anthems about the pain that derives from love. It was easy to get sucked in Chavela's velvet voice, her stare and her grief.
Like the article on the Times so accurately says, "Vargas satisfied a national urge to weep. She embodied Mexico, that open wound unhealed since the conquest and, a century after a useless revolution, in need of tears now more than ever."
It reminded me of an essay Octavio Paz wrote about Mexican celebrations. He stated that all those ceremonies (they could be national, local or familiar) are the perfect occasion for Mexicans to open their hearts and let their souls run free.
It is during those nights, he wrote, that friends and family that didn't speak more than necessary during the previous months, decide to get drunk together, tell each other secrets, cry together, laugh together and promise each other eternal brotherly love.
"Mexicans parties are like an explosion, a collision of life and death, happiness and sorrow, songs and growls. There's nothing more joyful than a Mexican party, then again there's nothing sadder... "
I guess I am one of those Mexicans that fall in the trap and indulge in all the drama. That being said, I am proud of our iconic Chavela, of our Nobel laureate Mr. Paz and our journalist Alma Guillermoprieto. Thanks to all of them for telling it like it is.
It's not really a party if there aren't at least a couple of tears...