When I was young(er) and I lost something, the instant I realized said thing was no longer in my possession I immediately spiraled into an obsessive panic. I felt the urge to FIND the thing and to find it NOW. If, after wildly riffling through all my belongings and scouring my immediate surroundings I did not find the thing, I widened the range of my search. I probed every possible nook and cranny and even occasionally interrogated innocent bystanders to see if they had seen or taken the thing. If still I had no luck and saw that I would be forced to accept the fact that my precious thing was indefinitely gone, I would move into Phase II of the Lost Things Mania: REPLACE THE THING. I would look for the quickest and cheapest way – quick being more important than cheap – to get a new pen or pair of sunglasses or piece of jewelry. You see, what I really wished was to erase from memory the very idea that that thing had ever gotten lost in the first place.
Vi la película Coco. Fui a verla el día después de Navidad con Yeyo y el resto de mi familia. Tenía dos meses de embarazo. De hecho, me gustó mucho. Lloré al final pensando en cómo iba a crecer nuestra familia con la llegada de este bebé. Este año, escuché muchas quejas en Oaxaca sobre la comercialización y Disney-ficación del Día de los Muertos como resultado de ésta y otras películas. Mientras se aceraba el mes de noviembre, hubo un cambio tangible en la energía de nuestra ciudad. Todos los hoteles iban a estar llenos y era imposible encontrar un vuelo. El lugar estaría con máxima ocupación y eso me puso nerviosa.
Pero, no me mal interpretes, me encanta todo sobre estos festejos. Me encantan los colores: morados, anaranjados, amarillos, fucsias, negros. Me encantan los disfraces, las comparsas, la creación de altares. Me encanta la solemnidad y la celebración, todo junto en un paradójico paquete. Este es básicamente el único día feriado que celebro durante el año. Pero con el bombo publicitario en los Estados Unidos sobre el Día de los Muertos en los años recientes, Oaxaca se ha vuelto en un tipo de Meca para extranjeros durante estos días. Y este año, pues, tengo una relación bastante distinta con la muerte de la que tenía antes.
I saw Coco. I went to see it the day after Christmas with Yeyo and the rest of my family. I was two months pregnant. I actually really liked it. I cried at the end, thinking about how we would soon be a bigger family with a new baby. I also heard a lot of grumbling in Oaxaca this year about the commercialization and Disney-ification of el Día de los Muertos as a result of this and other films. As November approached, there was a tangible shift in the energy of the city. Every hotel was fully booked and flights were impossible to find. The place was going to be a full capacity and that made me nervous.
Don’t get me wrong: I love everything about this holiday. I love the colors: purples, oranges, yellows, fuchsias, black. I love the costumes and parades and the building of altars. I love the solemnity and the celebration all tied up in one paradoxical package. It’s the pretty much the only holiday I celebrate all year. But with all the hype in the U.S.A. about Day of the Dead in recent years, Oaxaca has become somewhat of a mecca for foreigners during these days. And this time around, well, I have a very different relationship with death than I did before.
Before we get to Rafa and his story, I need to tell you about Ruby Beltrán Dunford. Unlike our son, Ruby did not come to exist on this material plane, she was not conceived or nurtured or born. Ruby was the baby girl that Yeyo and I dreamt of for some nine years before the nurse practitioners and OBGYNs and clinicians told me that I could never have children. She was the baby that never was.
In the early fall of 2007 I decided that I was ready to have a baby (to raise on my own). I thought Yeyo would make a great dad (you know: smart genes, good looks, sensitive soul and loads of generosity and kindness). But he wasn’t the sperm doner-ing type, I guess. He said, “I’ll have a kid with you, but only if you’re my partner and we try to build a life together.” And I said… “Well, why not?” We decided I would move to Mexico the following year and I headed out from Boston on a freezing cold morning in January with three suitcases and never returned to live in the gabacho.*