(A text which reflects on those who are absent and on biographies, narrates Durito’s first encounter with the Cat-Dog, and talks about other things that may or may not be relevant, as the impertinent postscript dictates.)
For a while now I have maintained that most biographies are merely a collection of documented, well-written (well, sometimes) lies. The typical biography is based on a preexisting belief and the margin of tolerance for anything that strays from that conviction is very narrow, if not inexistent. The author, starting from that previously held belief, begins the search through the jigsaw puzzle of a life unfamiliar to him or her (which is why the bibliography interests them to begin with), and goes about collecting the false or ill-fitting pieces that allow him or her to document their own belief, not the life they are talking about.
The truth is that we can barely be certain of the date and place of a person’s birth, and in some cases, the date and place of death. Other than that, the majority of biographies should be categorized under “historical novels” or “science fiction.”
So what is left of a life? A little or a lot, we say.
A little or a lot, depending on your memory.
That is, depending on the fragments that life left on the collective memory.
And if that aspect doesn’t matter to biographers and editors, it won’t be important for everyone else. What tends to happen is that what really matters doesn’t appear in the media and can’t be measured in polls.
Ergo, all we have of someone who has passed are the arbitrary pieces of a complex jigsaw puzzle made from the shreds and tendencies that we call “life.”
So with that confusing beginning, allow me to pick up some of those loose pieces in order to embrace and envelop ourselves in that step that today we so need and lack …
There is a concert in the Mexican silence. Don Juan Chávez Alonso, Zapatista and Mexican, gestures as if shooing away a bothersome insect. It is his response to my apology for one of my clumsy outbursts. We are in Cucapá territory, a sandy land. The coordinates for this geography and calendar show the Sixth in 2006 in the northeast of Mexico. In the big camping tent that serves as lodging, Don Juan takes his guitar and asks if we want to hear something he composed. After tuning the guitar he begins a concert that, without words, narrates the Zapatista uprising from January 1, 1994 through the presence of Comandanta Ramona in the formation of the National Indigenous Congress.
Then a silence, as if it were another note.
A silence in which our dead were quiet out loud.
Also in the Mexican Northeast, Power, in its bloody mania, paints absurdly and with impunity on the calendar of those below. June 5, 2009. Governmental despotism and greed have set fire to a children’s daycare. The victims, forty-nine little girls and boys, are merely collateral damage once the compromising documents have been destroyed. The absurdity of parents burying their children is followed by a weak and corrupt justice: those responsible not only are not arrested, but are given jobs in the cabinet of the criminal who will try to hide the bloodbath which he wrought on the entire country under the blue of the National Action Party.
Where biographers stop their notes “because a few years of life aren’t profitable,” history below opens its notebook of other absurdities: with their unjust absence, these small children have given birth to other men and women. Their fathers and mothers have ever since held up the demand for the greatest possible justice: that such injustice is not repeated.
“The problem with life is that in the end it kills you,” Durito said once. Chapis always enjoyed his fantasy stories of knighthood, although she would have asked, with that impertinent mix of naïveté and sincerity disconcerting to those who didn’t know her, “and why is that a problem?” Don Durito of the Lacandón, beetle by origin and errant knight by profession, would have avoided arguing with her, given that in the supposed code of conduct of an errant knight, one should not contradict a lady. (This is especially true if the lady in question has influence “high up,” Durito adds, knowing that Chapis was religious, a nun, and sister, or whatever name you give to those women who make their faith their life and profession.)
Chapis did not know us. That is, not as those who look at us from the outside and write and talk about us … or talk trash about us (fashions are fleeting you know). Chapis was with us. And she was with us some time before an impertinent beetle would appear in person in the mountains of the southeast of Mexico to declare himself an errant knight.
And perhaps because she was among us, all of this about life and death didn’t seem to worry her much. It was that attitude, so neozapatista, in which one invests everything and it’s not death that concerns or occupies us, but life.
But Chapis was not just with us. It is clear that we were one part of her path. And if now I tell you something about her, it’s not to provide notes for her biography but to tell you how we feel here. Because the history of this believer—her history with us—is one that makes even the fanatic atheists doubt themselves.
“Religion is the opiate of the masses”? I don’t know. What I do know is that she gave the most brilliant explanation that I have heard of the destruction and the depopulation that neoliberal globalization causes in a given territory, not a Marxist-Leninist-atheist-and-a-few-more-ists theorist, but … a member of the Christian, Catholic, Apostolic and Roman parish, adherent to the Sixth, and exiled by the high clergy (“for thinking a lot,” she told me as if asking forgiveness) to one of the geographic deserts of the Mexican plateau.
I believe (maybe I’m wrong, it wouldn’t be the first time and, to be sure, it won’t be the last), that many people, if not all people, who approached what is known as neozapatismo, did so searching for answers to questions formed in their own personal histories, according to their calendar and geography. And they stayed just long enough to find the answer. When they realized that the answer was the most problematic monosyllable in history, they turned in another direction and began to walk there instead. It doesn’t matter how much they tell others and themselves that they are still here: they left. Some people more quickly than others. And the majority of them do not look at us, or they do it with the same distance and intellectual disdain as those who brandished calendars before the dawn of January, 1994.
I think I’ve said it before, in some other missive, I’m not sure. But anyway I’ll say, or repeat here, that this dangerous monosyllable is “you.” Like that, in lowercase letters, because that answer was and is intimate to everyone. And each one takes it with their own respective terror.