When I first found these two men, all projects collapse steadily into one, or clash into multiple, strange new configurations.
As Rachel Zucker says in her essay here, “I wanted to write experience. Wanted to make a writing that would enact experience, not write “about” things.” That is, text should be what I am writing, do what I am writing, not talk bout. But, TC, I still just want to tell you things and have you tell me things and tell each other things back and forth for a really long time and call that a conversation and laugh a little bit because my stomach hurts right now and it’s not that this is free-association or anything, but I am scared about what happens when it becomes time to write.
Thinking: like waking from a dream. A feeling of fullness, contentment. Something happened in that dream: already slipping away. A mingling of fingers under a cliffside. A purple future deep inside a cavern. And my eyes blink and all that remains is emotion, fullness, repetition of words before the next thought, the latest installment of the day incurs.
One day on the train back home from school for one of my last visits “home” to see my parents, I nestled in to read Leslie Feinberg. Crammed into a tiny corner of the seat, Stone Butch Blues and changing genders and the struggling making us hard and soft all at remarkably once. When I got off the train, my mom gave me a hug and said, “I always wished you’d been a girl” or “We’d thought you’d be a girl” or “I always wanted a girl” as she ran her translucent fingers through my almost-shoulder-length hair.
The process of making these little men breathe again. The process of looking at them and living with them, thinking about the many whos who may have drawn them: “J.M. Sánchez y Tapia,” “Lino Sanchez y Tapia por el original de J.L. Berlandier,” “J.L. Berlandier.” A doubt about who made these images, under what conditions.
“The images are reproduced thanks to the Yale Collection of Western Americana at the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.”
The images were sold by his widow, supposedly, to the highest bidders, after her husband’s death. She needed money in Matamoros.
Anthony Shadid: Sometimes it is better to imagine the past than to remember it.
Maybe we could start with imagining the present, what the present might be, what this present could be if we could just pull the camera back and see a wider vista, but, argh, then we’d lose the details. How to pull the camera back and still not miss the details. Pasolini’s long takes.
Always ever in process.
The little men are drowning in these huge landscapes, the lack of reasons for their existence, their uselessness. The joys of the little, little.
Además. El incluir aquí un poco de español a mí me hace surgir muchas dudas: además va a ser difícil que me entiendas, ¿no? O sea es una carta. Sí entiendes, supongo, como todos “nosotros” ahora. Este español que se mete de manera tímida, dudosa es un español que también me vincula con mis hombrecitos. ¿Aquí seguimos, verdad, hombrecitos?
These little men live at Harvard now, at Yale, at the Smithsonian. Sad to have been classified and categorized in the Northeast in these grand institutions, sold to the highest bidder and ensconced in the archive, in its power and forgetfulness. I dream about how I could project these images large and re-trace them on thick, stained paper: then take them out to the locations depicted in the drawings, post them or hang them in el monte and take photos of them returned to the landscapes.
But if I were to visit all the places now—Mitras in Nuevo León, the Valle de San Fernando in Tamaulipas, la Barra del Río Pánuco, the Cerrito de la Caña and the Cerro Colorado in Nuevo León—I’d enter a different frame, physically cross a border that didn’t exist when Berlandier began writing and journaling. The writing around these places now is not about landscapes or two men touching or love. The words echoing out of these places are loaded with the violence wreaking havoc there, propelled by Nixon’s War on Drugs. How “we” divide “here” from “there.” Somewhere between 70,000 and 120,000 people killed during the administration of Felipe Calderón. We have no real numbers, since governmental institutions have never really done accurate and categorized counts. Since about 98% of crime in Mexico goes unprosecuted anyway. We don’t really even know the magnitude of what is happening. The extent of it arising out of small stories, anecdotes of brutality.