Sitting in Mérida, Yucatan, munching on the irresistible marzipan candies that are available everywhere here. Came down for a family wedding, and stayed to join a community delegation to support the Luis Gongora Pat family in their efforts to generate local awareness about the case, and hoping to pressure the Mexican government to, in turn, pressure the U.S. and San Francisco District Attorney to prosecute the police who murdered Luis on Shotwell Street about 4 months ago. On November 1st, we travelled to celebrate the Hanal Pixán festival, feast for the spirits as part of the Day of the Dead days. November 2nd is Day of the Dead, or All Soul’s Day.
I should quickly note that I haven’t written much lately and haven’t posted a thing since the end of my summer in Mexico City. Why, my millions of readers want to know? Well, returning to San Francisco turned out to be more jarring than I had previously experienced, or ever would have expected. I felt pretty dislocated from my own life for more than a month before getting back in the flow.
I know perfectly well that the soul of the city has been draining away. It’s like someone pulled the plug a few years ago and now the bathtub is practically empty, the last murky waters circling the drain as we see what made many of us feel so strongly about San Francisco disappear in the last swirls into the void. It was also true that I loved being in Mexico City, a big vibrant city with lots of history and countless places to explore. And finally I was beginning to enjoy some real communication in Spanish after being blocked by my shame at bad speaking for so many years. Returning to SF from Mexico City was a bit of a letdown, given that San Francisco is very small and relatively provincial compared to a true world city, and its history that I know so well pales in comparison to places like Mexico City or other places with centuries behind them. (Not that I don’t still love local history, I do. And I’m fully engaged with Shaping San Francisco to this day and have no plans to stop.)
I also returned to the quadrennial madness that passes for democracy here. It’s a completely shameful spectacle that has so little to do with what we are actually facing, whether locally, statewide, nationally, or internationally. I inevitably find it terribly depressing to see so many of my intelligent friends become unhinged on cue during this process of mass hysteria known as the Presidential election. Spare me the lectures about how awful Trump is. I know. Or how awful Clinton is, I know. Or how the differences between them are SO important. There have certainly been some artfully concocted campaigns to create that impression. And I generally believe there are much greater differences between these two than we’ve seen in past elections, and that a Trump victory would (and to some extent already has) “unleash the beast in White America,” as a KPFA commentator put it a month ago. But I also still think that even though the narcissistic windbag has blown up the GOP with his campaign, there is a tight consensus in the American ruling class about the role of the U.S. military in world affairs, the inviolability of private property and wage-labor, and the basic structure of life that has benefited their class so handsomely. Neither candidate is going to challenge the hegemony of banks, oil, or the war economy. Neither candidate is going to address climate change, dismantle the car-centric physical structure of life, reorganize the plumbing in every house to accommodate gray water and composting, develop urban organic agriculture as an alternative to the endless proliferation of bullshit jobs, or replace the absurdity of GNP and endless growth with a new logic based on a good life for all, a stable state circular economy, and less work! My idea of what is necessary and urgent doesn’t even enter the conversation. And it depresses me deeply to realize that what I’m arguing for is considered so far beyond the pale that it is simply laughed away as improbably unrealistic. I’d say my very scratch-the-surface list above is much closer to a basic realism than any of the capitalist utopians promising a better future based on the broken logic of the ways things are.
Anyway, I came to Mexico for a week, and it’s a relief to get away from the incessant yammering and overwhelming tidal wave of bullshit that passes for democratic debate in the United States. If this isn’t evidence of a collapsing society I don’t know what is!
Yesterday I had the honor of accompanying Adriana, along with Tiny of Poor Magazine and her son Tiburcio, to the town of Teabo, about an hour and a half southeast of Mérida, the hometown of Luis Gongora Pat, and his brothers and cousins and their extended families that we’ve come to know in San Francisco. We were greeted by Luis’s daughter Rossana, his niece Viki and his cousin Teresa who brought us to the family home a couple of blocks from the church in the central plaza. There we met the parents, wife, sisters-in-law, nieces, nephews and grandkids, a lovely and resilient group in which the women stand tall and are clearly the pillars of family life here, with the men away working in the US and Merida… and Luis killed.