Jay Meehan: Viva Mexico, and throw the bums out
It was love at first sight, first taste, first aroma, first hearing, first touch. I became immediately smitten at sensory, molecular, and intellectual levels.
Out of the blue came a crush on the entire Mexican culture.
I’m going to stop here to tie on the headband I picked up many years ago while checking out the sunset from a hilltop near the border town of Tecate. Then, I’ll put Linda Ronstadt’s Canciones De Mi Padre on a loop and add just a smidgen more Kahlúa to my café Mexicana. Typing at this level requires a fair amount of nurturing.
Have I mentioned that Monday was Mexican Independence Day? Back during the early morning of Sept. 16, 1810, in what was then the village of Delores, New Spain, Padre Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla rang his church bell and issued the call to arms for independence from Spanish rule.
I don’t go as far as throwing open my windows and re-enacting “the cry,” (el grito), on the eve of the anniversary in the manner each President of Mexico performs annually. Now, if I actually possessed the same bell as Hidalgo, as they do, I might. The revolution took 11 years with Hidalgo, having been captured and beheaded, not being around for the endgame.
My confusion concerning the particulars of Mexican Independence Day back then had been driven by ignorance similar in profile to that of other “whites” north of the border. It’s not that I mistook it for Cinco de Mayo and the Battle of Pueblo against the French, it’s just that basically, I was clueless. That would all change, however. Ol’ Miguel still has his head in my memory.
We were mostly, if not totally, unaware concerning these historical events as our raggedy bunch ascended the marble staircase inside the Palacio de Gobierno in Guadalajara back in early ’67. It would be the mural at the top, however, that would take us aback.
It was from there the angry visage of our Mexican freedom-fighter parish priest hero glared down from above. The work, by José Clemente Orozco, appeared almost IMAX-sized. “The People and its Leaders” featured a grimacing Hidalgo issuing the “el grito de Delores.” He held both torch and attitude. Gave us the shivers, it did.
The finest art is confrontational, they say and the murals of Orozco, Diego Rivera, and David Alfaro Siqueiros seemed to always stop us dead in our tracks. Of course, it could be said the peyote bin in the produce section of the Gran Mercado San Juan de Dios did the same.
Each year, similar recollections, spurred on possibly by nectar fashioned from the blue agave plant, arrive on cue. Fleeting glimpses from long-term memory dealing with adventurous romanticisms along the west coast of Mexico also usually make an entrance.
I must admit that, although I have felt much love wherever I hung my hat during this life, I never felt more at home in a new cultural environment than on my first trip down that coastline. From Mazatlan to San Blas and Matanchén to Puerto Vallarta and Mismaloya to Barre de Navidad and Manzanillo, the hits just kept on coming.
Another break in the narrative appears called for to add yet another stiffening additive to the mug in question. It’s a rule of thumb that around Mexican Independence Day the bottom of the vessel should never see the light.
Our mission that trip had to do with helping one of our tribe resolve his recently received draft notice and, although we pretty much knew how it would go, we pretended to ponder. I went along to provide the recently honorably discharged point of view.
With the additional assistance of a friend who provided both her driving skills and an old-school Plymouth, we set off for San Blas. What we hadn’t counted on was getting ran-off the first night by federales who had received the go ahead from Nixon’s bunch to reduce the influx of counterculture types invading their landscape.
I suppose much of the joy I get in putting this narrative into the record, pun intended as it were, comes as a reaction to the white supremacist leanings of Agent Orange and the Republicans bouncing along at the end of his puppet strings.
It’s sort of an el grito, a cry to throw the bums out.
Jay Meehan is a culture junkie and has been an observer, participant, and chronicler of the Park City and Wasatch County social and political scenes for more than 40 years.
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