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Because now you understand that you have not come to Los Angeles to describe the busiest airport in the world. Nor shall you solely register the experience of a quasi romantic dinner at a Redondo Beach restaurant with the sea beneath your feet. You have not come to revive the ashes of racial hate in South Central or Huntington Park, this striking example of the impossibility to achieve human harmony. Nor will you have to visit the skyscrapers of “downtown” in whose benches wander beggars that insult the “American way of life” with their starving beards and humble eyes that remember the simplicity of Jesus Christ.
Murrieta in Los Angeles downtown. Images by Culturadoor.com
By Manuel Murrieta-Saldívar
(Translated by Rochelle Trotter)
Date of publication: 10- October- 2016
After a few moments….a century, ten years, an hour?, the plane makes its appearance in the Los Angeles sky: below are the early morning vapors, mountain mist fleeing from the omniscient smog disrupted by the California coastal breeze. Landing brings the world into full view: Brazilian jumbo-jets take off ahead of Australian ones while a Chinese DC-9 is placed in an unknown hanger. On the way to the terminal, you imagine yourself entering the chaos of a busy metropolis: but that is not what you find. You surmise that the chaos is a collision of beliefs, instincts or emotions that contrast with the weighted crush of reality in such an overcrowded airport. Looks like here, order is possible. ..
Then, newly arrived, fear strikes: if I don’t know exactly why I have come to Los Angeles, I risk losing myself…not necessarily for the labyrinthine effort of finding an exit, but rather the danger of suddenly changing your destination without realizing it, going astray like a victim of extremely favorable – or hellish – circumstances the moment you take the first step outside. Why have I come to Los Angeles?, you insist, because you notice that all the passengers around you seem to know what they are doing. They are masters of their destinations, sure of the direction in which they are moving, relying on the material and psychological infrastructure in order to achieve their goal. You stand within this mass of movement…you remember it well…this first time you faced the difficult process of discovering your true destination.
But truthfully there is no chaos, only that which the mind creates for want of a compass, or when facing new experiences that are by nature uncontrollable. It is then that you think about how to organize yourself, eliminate or separate your options, take risks, be bold. You want to clarify reasoning and emotion to avoid the risk of loss, or recognize it and let it carry you away, accepting the predestined philosophical definition of a ver qué sale y me vale madre…
Because in an instant, a century, ten years, an hour?, you are going to suffer a tremendous existential shock, given the variety of elements that are still impacting the core of your sociological, economical, amorous, and cultural beliefs. It may, perhaps, reach into the supernatural that you find so impossible to reject. To be sure, stepping outside begins the threat anew: you are struck by so much efficiency in honor of wealth as you watch an untimely parade of dark limousines, like the objectives of their magnates that will always be unknown to you, so you imagine. You find no gravitational force between the spectrums of races or languages, from the most pale to the most familiar. Nor is it commonplace to see ladies dressed with such a free and easy style giving domestic instructions over cell phones worn out by their frivolity. The endless cascade of urban sounds, where do they come from?: horns, motors, loudspeakers, mutterings and distant shouts, electronics, futurists…you twirl without direction, stammering.
What direction do I take in order to find my way?, you ask yourself once again while concluding that the analytical descriptions of any Angeleno scene objectively command a few moments, however, how much time passes in psychological or literary time; an hour, ten years, or a century? It is then that you realize there is enough spare material to write an account, a story or an infinite novel that could be about love and hate…
Because now you understand that you have not come to Los Angeles to describe the busiest airport in the world. Nor shall you solely register the experience of a quasi romantic dinner at a Redondo Beach restaurant with the sea beneath your feet. You have not come to revive the ashes of racial hate in South Central or Huntington Park, this striking example of the impossibility to achieve human harmony. Nor will you have to visit the skyscrapers of “downtown” in whose benches wander beggars that insult the “American way of life” with their starving beards and humble eyes that remember the simplicity of Jesus Christ. Neither, at your age, are you interested in the dream of Disneyland, nor is your curiosity seduced by the classic tour of Universal Studios. You do not wish to see how television programs are produced because your intellectual laziness prevents you from criticizing what is transmitted from Hollywood…
No, you have come from you own reasons, which you now discover; to reclaim what was conceived in the South a century, ten years, or perhaps only an hour ago?…from Aztlán, Tenochtitlán, then through Michoacán, Jalisco, fleeing from the Yaqui Valley, towards Tijuana, broken hearted, a ferocious hunger that never ceases even though you deny it. They put up barriers and wired fences in your path, any type of prejudice or stereotype that promotes distance. Because now, you are in East Los Angeles, yes, flooded with a painful affection, faces that tremble before an habitat that you sense is familiar, but that remains unknown: skin like yours, smells like yours, scenes similar to your own, however all that is not sufficient for you to draw sentimental coincidences.
The reunion excites you, but suspicion of its internal life freezes you. The unavoidable effort to live that erects small Mexican food stores almost the same as yours, murals and graffiti that are not just cultural reactions, nor late avant-garde movements but rather true territorial demarcations, celebrations of hopeless identity, recording death, real beatings, crimes and betrayal without fiction. Now you cross Brooklyn Street, looking at the dark basin of the cemetery with its tombs that contain a love that remains in between the organic and social cancer. Skulls of many “batos y carnales” dead by overdose or firearms, interracial brawls constantly fought for a piece of an auto or a barrio.
Yes, they are images and experiences that come without having planned any formal or official journey. Nothing of cultural centers, nothing of that; you walk without deliberation, directly to your destination, letting yourself be carried by emotion instead of knowledge, eliminating all intellectuality because now, you grasp the heart of what no one can explain to you, obligating you to once again wander about errantly. Yes, with or without joy, irresistibly nomadic, unobligated and free, emulating a random cosmic ceremony…
Because today, your eyes are out of place as they register those faces that, paradoxically, reflect your own; you manage to refocus your gaze to theirs, one that you have always sensed but is unknown to you because of defect and the barriers that your neurons have put up and the frontiers to which they are accustomed. You realize that it is impossible for you to absorb it all in one gulp, so you satisfy yourself by seeking a gravitational center. That way you can try to avoid misdirecting your journey and strengthen yourself with your unsettled look. Because here, you encounter a similar history that carries you away, takes you back, situates you within its conflict of severed sentiment, identifying the coincidences of the present, the possibilities of a combined future between you and them. The hour has arrived!, the hour of dusting off your past that has been here in Los Angeles for nearly a century, ten years, and that in a few hours, will cause you to suffer and confront an uncontainable effusion…
(*) From the book (in Spanish). La gravedad de la distancia. Historias de otra Norteamérica. Editorial Garabatos. Hermosillo, Mexico, 2009. More information: http://www.orbispress.com/imagenes/imaginacion/la-gravedad-de-la-distancia.htm
 throw caution to the wind and let the chips to fall where they may…