I am in Bacalar, Quintana Roo, a town quieter and cleaner than Tulum, spiced up by an art community that lives and creates here. It is by a lagoon, near the Mexican Caribbean seaside, about two hours south of Tulum. We arrived at midnight and slept at nothing less than “La Casa Internacional del Escritor”. I was wondering just before falling asleep why would I have wanted the “Internacional” adjective in it to speak of the Spanish Civil War international league known as “La Internacional”, as I did. Maybe because freedom and ideals can be found and revisited in writing. Writing is of course exactly what I’m doing right now.
It was early in the morning. Outside a choir of mockingbird tenors and dove baritones and some other loud tropical birds I cannot match, chant camouflaged in red and green flamboyant trees to a cloudy, bright morning. The large garden surrounding these writing bungalows is still wet from the rain. Dew shone as the sun rose among low hanging dark grey and white clouds, the sort that puff. It seemed as if the rainy season was already here to freshen up our travelling.
A green coloured beetle bug showed up on the way to Bacalar, as our van stopped to a halt at a gas station, in either the Andres or Reforma towns. I had dozed off a while as the riot inside the van went silent and most of the other in our party did as well. I woke up and stepped out to stretch and there it was. I had had another beetle encounter a week before, exactly that Sunday. It had landed in the upper right corner of my painting at the Third Eye Art Workshop, to the eyes of all around me, as I was getting a picture taken with still wet masterpiece. It seemed as if emitting bright copper light with turquoise reflections of Caribbean accent shining off its wing covers. A friend placed it on my head and the scared beetle walked gripping hard to my skin. I could feel it.
Watching for these signs in ancient Egyptian coding, I take it my travel had in effect started the day of the workshop in Tulum and not yesterday afternoon. Maybe this trip had actually started two years ago when I decided to move to Tulum, or was it eight years ago with a battered heart and tripping into spirituality and art for the first time in my life. My destination was Mexico City, but it could as well be Cheran Michoacán where my ride party is heading for a peace camp with children living in this area of conflict. In any event I was getting closer to being in Block Island, RI, USA, where I would be arriving soon.
I had a mission to carry out and the path was laid out for me to walk, full of signs such as these beetles of fortune. It felt that way also. It had taken me most of the week to overcome attachment one more time and to realise it must be human to easily become attached in the first place. At least this turn it was me, just three bags and a box, including my cameras and laptop. I had made it to the point where I could pull off a shoe-string and disappear. I was just a few magic words away from invisibility.
I was flowing with the great river and I felt whole and in peace.
Yet another good Chilean
As I wrote this, a young man came out of a bungalow into the quiet of the garden. We greeted and spoke of his song writing. I asked him what inspired him and he told me it was the contrasts between poverty and opulence in Latin America, capitalism, consumerism and the depletion of natural resources and pollution. He says this in a very light Chilean accent. I learn he is indeed a Chilean who has been travelling for over two years now. A native to Chile’s south from the same region my mother’s family comes from.
By then he recognises me, as I do him. He had performed at Ki Bok, the coffee shop in Tulum I worked in. He remembers I gave him a cup of coffee. I recall, we laugh.
As we say farewell, I hug him strong, as if he was Chile, the country of my childhood.
He leaves, a guitar in its case vertical on his back, a backpack to his chest, balancing out the rest, a tall thin Quijote in the middle. A cathedral walks out of Bacalar’s International House.
It was at Samy’s house we loaded the van that Sunday afternoon. It was there also, I realised my house ménage boiled down to a few needed pieces of clothing, those books being read and my working tools – cameras and a computer -. That was it.
Packing the van was relatively easy. A friend’s desk and bike went up on the rack, we had just to drive by Anika – a german – and polish Rushka’s home to pick them up. They were heading to Bacalar with Hannah who has a house there. I sat on the back, Nano drove. Faithful Poncho – a huge hearted enormous golden retriever, looking as a lion, its body hair cut to cope hot and humid Tulum, but not on the head -, sat in as a copilot.
Nano pulled the van in at their place. He saw the white mattress leaning against the live green coloured wall of the building entrance. White was an euphemism. A professional clown himself, his face turned into a grimace crying “Oh, oh!” and remained unchanged as he tended to all that followed, just as he had taught us in the clown workshop that week.
The door of number “8” opens on the second floor. Out come Anika and Rushka and with them huge backpacks, several wooden crates, an assortment of small bags and two kittens that could not be left behind, of course. They come down and smile lovingly, eyelashes and all. Nano is a such a good guy. A few seconds later, Edgar, Cornelio, Jacinto and Javier bring their stuff down, and another bike. They could not be left behind either.
Whatever we had stowed before, changed drastically, as anything does in life, all the time.
Hannah made her entrance from the street. I watched her approaching, thin but strong, tanned skin, of average height and an above-average wide smile, a witty glance, brown hair braid rasta style and a hypnotic undulating walk. Her wearing white very loose thin cloth trousers to the waist made her look as if hovering instead of walking. The short mustard top she wore, like a small jacket, reminded me of Simbad or Ali Baba. Hannah is half Mongolian, half Japanese. She’s carrying a Kora. This African harp was the only stuff I allowed to be placed on top of my cameras and lenses.
There’s no third row of seat in the van, so this area turns the tribe center of fire, with Anika, Rushka, Hannah and the kittens, Edgar, and Jacinto. The rest of us sit on the second row, mounting the tribe watch, between the big chief’s cockpit and the tribe fire.
As we left Tulum, I made photos, documenting this amazing ride for us. So many mixed emotions come towards me. I saw them at a safe distance. They could not find a hook in me to cling to. I just pay attention to them existing, I listened to what they wanted and I told them off as one would a pack of friendly and hungry street dogs. I had learnt the lesson and would remain in the present, flowing with the tribe and sharing my gifts as if was moving my arms to swim and breathe, avoiding the cold darkness of depths not needed.
As Nano smiled and waved to the few police controls we encountered, some of them abandoned, the tribe danced to its ganya beat that grew into laughter and then a single roar, with the holy smoke filling up the cabin. The medicine went around as a token, not of power, but of sharing. At a certain point, Hannah hovered to the cockpit and sat between Poncho and Nano at the wheel. It was getting cold. She reached for a scarf from her knitted purse at my feet and wraps in it, evoking the image of a mystical Indian woman. The headlamps of cars approaching on the other lane illuminated Nano and Hannah contour, through the windshield. Wind gusting through the open windows and the engine hum left me only to watch their silouhette, as Hannah delivered silent words into Nano’s ear at a short range feels them without having to understand them.
Jazz, blues and an up-beat Afro rhythm, were followed by songs in Arabic. A deep manly voice spoke the truth about the never ending vicious cycle of kids educated to be something they do not want or do not like to, leading to long miserable lives, lacking of primal gifts and the ability to listen to yourself and risk becoming what you can. This tribe was global, yes. And this tribe outsmarted globalisation by far. I was travelling with those in resistance.
We reached Bacalar’s outskirts and stopped. Global got happily local as we sank our teeth on our “tacos al pastor” – a pork based mexican version of shish kebab – at Taquería Roberto, one of the few spots open still. It’s midnight.
“Re-turning: A road trip” text and photos by Juan Ayza M. is licensed under a Creative Commons Reconocimiento-NoComercial-SinObraDerivada 4.0 Internacional License.
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