These two related questions drawn from a conversation with a friend dominated my thinking today. To answer I got to remembering. And strayed too far off. Again.
I like salsa picante. And for this reason I spent many years eating on the far east side of Portland in almost-authentic taquerias stuffing down flautas, burritos, and plates of Carne Tampiqueña smothered in Tamazula Salsa Picante or or my favorite Tapatio Hot Sauce with a side of fiery jalapeños.
|My Favorite Salsa Picante|
"Was it not you and a young gringo woman in 2006 or maybe later?" he asked.
"Ummmm no," I said but started shaking my head in vigorous agreement soon after he introduced me to his beautiful daughter and my focus changed.
"This is my daughter Marisol. She is studying to be a lawyer like you. You are a lawyer, no? Maybe you can tell her what it is like to be a lawyer in the United States and in your country. Are you sure you from South Africa?"
"Si señor I am from South Africa but it is a long story. My ancestors were out late one night and they really should not have been and the next thing you know the white eye snapped 'em up and bam! we ended up in Africa chained to identities like Cape Malays and Indians and coloureds all at the same time."
"We have Indians in Mexico. They are the original descendants of the Aztecs and Mayans. They look a little like you but different than you too," he said.
"Yeah I know. See that time when you saw me in Guadalajara I was making my way to the Mayan ruins in the Yucatán. I met a man and his wife in Mérida who said they were Indian of the Mayan kind and he told me I looked like his nephew. We spent a day together before I traveled to the ruins in Tulum."
"You and the young gringo woman? What happened to that woman? She run from you?" he asked with a wry smile.
"I don't remember," I answered looking down at my plate.
Señorita Marisol remained tucked behind her father most days I visited and we never really got to talking about lawyering and my thinking that I could live in Tijuana if she wanted and would even learn Spanish beyond "muy bonita" (very beautiful) to go with my Los Lobos goatee and shades.
But I digress. Lo siento (I'm sorry). But for a good reason though I can't quite remember it all because memory is always selective and fragmented.
Largely for this reason the meaning we attach to memory is an interpretation (sometimes an embellishment) and, consequently, we cultivate memory(s) to tell stories about ourselves and the world that surrounds us as we search for meaning(s).
In these terms memory (including collective memory) is about establishing an identity and interpreting it through the hourglass of time. Memory, then, is never just a coherent collection of things that happened. It is always in flux.
The Colombian novelist Gabriel Garcia Márquez reminds us that memory is also a politics of resistance and struggle against casual acts of forgetting or the greater injustice of being forced to forget.
Today when you asked me to remember for you to free you from three decades of bondage I thought it signaled your defeat.
Don't despair though because there is still time to recover and even to rediscover you.
So, you start working on your resistance, your recovery, and your identity while I try to remember whether Señorita Marisol recommended chilaquiles or quesadillas for breakfast.
I think for lunch she said for me to try the enchiladas verdes or was it chimichangas?
Adiós and Onward!