By Besha Rodell
By Patrick Range McDonald
By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
Some things remain the same: The Day of the Dead, rooted in rituals from before the arrival of the Spanish, is still a big deal in Santa Ana Tlacotenco. Babies are still greeted with incense, and weddings retain Nahuatl traditions as well. The Molina Perez family have worked the cactus plant in the past, but not now. Baruch says the work is too hard for him. He wants to be an architect. Today, his father has a side project: He’s joined a cooperative to harvest a plant that’s new to Santa Ana, apples.
Baruch and his mother, Margarita, drive me back down into central Santa Ana, where, at the “plaza civica,” local PRD officials are preparing a small rally in support of AMLO’s bid to have the presidential-election ballots recounted. Black rain clouds are bearing down upon the highlands. Religion’s rockets keep exploding in the sky. A mean wind is whipping about the village and forcing women selling blue-corn tortillas on the sidewalk to shutter their stalls.
Under a huge canopy, a few Santa Ana old-timers hold yellow PRD flags and posters as the newly elected PRD head of the Milpa Alta delegation, José Luis Cabrera, is about to be introduced. When the sound system cuts out momentarily, the PRD man on the microphone screams, “See? They are even trying to manipulate our sound!” The old people pump their posters into the air.
We drive farther down the hills into Villa Milpa Alta, where I will catch another bus back into the delirious city. Baruch, at the wheel, might as well be an Orange County teenager, zipping his car through narrow suburban streets in the O.C. hills. Only here, we are surrounded by endless fields of cactus, and we dodge men pulling wheelbarrows and women with babies slung across their backs.
In the car, Margarita is recalling the highly charged atmosphere that took hold of Milpa Alta during the infamous election of 1988, in which a rising leftist candidate was robbed of Mexico’s presidential sash. She says she worries that the same thing could happen again if the current electoral dispute is not soon settled.
“This is my fear, that the people do not know how to act with prudence, to foresee consequences,” Margarita says. “And sooner or later, things may have to fall under their own weight.
“The people with power, the people rich with money, even though they don’t want to pay attention to us, sooner or later, things will have to go as God wishes. God will not allow us to lose, and if the people at the top don’t listen to us, well, they will have to see the power, not of the poor people, but of the elements.”
Baruch and Margarita drop me off at the bus stop, telling me that I can return whenever I like, that I have a home in Santa Ana Tlacotenco. Rain is coming.
An hour and a half away, the city is noisy, fast, smelly, unforgiving, covered with political graffiti. It seems highly unappealing. No one cares if there is one more pocho around or if there isn’t.
I can’t wait to get back.