Today I arrived back in Mexico City for my second trip this year. My first was in February, in the wake of the December 1 protests against the inauguration of Enrique Peña Nieto. I planned this second trip to facilitate the completion of my dissertation in 2014. These six weeks coincide with the one year anniversary of #YoSoy132, initiated last May 11 through a consequential protest of then-candidate Peña Nieto at the Universidad Iberoamericana. (Vice magazine put together an excellent short documentary about the protest last year.) Later in this trip, I will also attend and document commemoration for the “Halconazo” of June 10, 1971–an event of state-supported repression that is frequently invoked alongside the more widely commemorated Tlatelolco Massacre of October 2, 1968. Readers can expect me to post more about these events in the coming weeks.
My time in Mexico City begins in La Condesa, where I’m staying for two nights in Hotel Roosevelt. The occasion for staying here is the birthday of my friend Lauren, who is in town with her family, and with whom I will drink celebratory pulque tomorrow night at Pulquería Los Insurgentes.
Today was a comfortable summer day (and without rain!), which allowed me to read and write outside in Condesa, Zona Rosa, and Roma — three of my favorite neighborhoods among many others. I began my third reading of Roberto Bolaño’s Amulet, which I hadn’t opened since 2011. As I write my dissertation, I’m finding a lot of inspiration in this book. Here, for instance, Bolaño’s Auxilio Lacouture on thinking about the past while stuck in the bathroom of the Facultad de Filosofía y Letras (UNAM) when it was occupied by the army on September 18, 1968:
Then I began to think about my past as I am doing now. As I went back through the dates, the rhombus shattered in a space of speculative desperation, images rose from the bottom of the lake, no one could stop them emerging from that pitiful body of water, unlit by sun or moon, and time folded and unfolded itself like a dream. The year 1968 became the year 1964 and the year 1960 became the year 1956. But it also became the years 1970 and 1973 and the years 1975 and 1976. As if I had died and was viewing the years from an unaccustomed vantage point. I mean: I started thinking about my past as if I was thinking about my present, future, and past, all mixed together and dormant in the one tepid egg, the enormous egg of some inner bird (an archaeopteryx?) nestled on a bed of smoking rubble (p. 32).
After reading Bolaño and scribbling some notes for later writing, I set off in the direction of the Cinemex movie theater on Cuauhtémoc (esq. Chapultepec), where Carlos Bolado’s 2012 movie Tlatelolco, verano del 68 is showing. (Check out the trailer, here, and if you’re in Mexico City and haven’t seen it, do make time to go.) I greatly enjoyed the movie, which offers an engaging love story as well as some creative use of original footage and recordings from the protests and demonstrations of 1968. As much as I enjoyed the film, I have my reservations about Bolado’s choice to give then-President Díaz Ordaz the final words of the film (the film ends with Díaz Ordaz’s famous 1969 speech during which, to resounding applause, he assumes complete responsibility for the state violence of 1968). Clinching the film’s portrayal of the President as pure evil (really!), I think the concluding sequence unfortunately tempers the more distributed and decentered picture of state power provided by the rest of the film. There’s much more to say about the film, and I will certainly return to it another day (perhaps here, or in a film review, but certainly in a dissertation chapter). For now, however, I’m feeling pressure to log my receipts for the Tinker Foundation, and to get some rest for another long day tomorrow.