06. Liminal Notes I

Escapism, Día de Muertos, Bookshop dot org

Thank you so much for your love and understanding re: the previous mail. My friends from UK were sad and heartbroken, angry and apologetic about this rainy racist island. My friends from Mexico, on the other hand, were very happy and excited about potentially seeing me again on the regular. For the past few years, whenever I felt like returning to Mexico would be good, they would tell stop me on my tracks and tell me it was a wasteland, a lost cause, and I should never go back. It means buckets to know that now they would understand that maybe, just maybe, over here is worse than over there.

You see, one of the reasons I moved to the UK in 2010 was to preserve my life and sanity. Back then, under the rule of conservative president Felipe Calderón, the country was knee deep in a “War on Drugs”. My hometown of Monterrey was one of the affected cities, with street shootings and kidnappings happening on a daily basis. Businesses had to pay “rent” to certain bad people in order to stay afloat, someone knew someone who went through something, and so on. I’m in bed and don’t feel like explaining more about it. Maybe do some reading while you’re waiting for your dealer to get you some Charlie.

Now I’m thinking of moving back to Mexico to, once again, preserve my life and sanity. Fascism is on the rise, and as opposed to what happened during Mexico’s War on Drugs, the government, media and status quo are not fighting it. Things are not quite rosy in Mexico yet, but at least we’re fighting. Feminism is getting attention; decolonialisation and racism are being discussed, and so on.

It’d be nice to stop running for my life, our lives, some day.

Día de Muertos y Todos Los Santos

The past couple of days were very special, liminal celebrations in Mexico and other Spanish Catholic countries. 1st of November was All Saints’ Day - Día de Todos Los Santos or Día de los Santos Inocentes (not to be confused with Día de los Santos Inocentes/Día de los Inocentes on 28th December, our equivalent of April Fools, when we prank each other and media/press publish actual Fake News as a way to be childish in memory of the victims of King Herod’s massacre), when we remember the children whose paths on this realm ended before ours. The following day, 2nd November, is Día de Muertos, dedicated to the adults who have passed on.

On these days, Mexicans place altars to their dearly departed, featuring marigolds, skull candy, pan de muerto, papel picado, and things these people liked when they were alive. It is believed, thus, that they come down into the realm of the living, enjoy these meals and have a nice time with us before they return to the afterlife.

I didn’t place any due to lack of spoons and because we never really did that in my family, since we think our ancestors are with us and within us, while at the same time having a well-deserved rest in the Great Beyond. But there is something we did use to do growing up, and it had to do with poetry.

My aunt Adriana used to write calaveras. These were poems in jest about living people meeting the Reaper (la Parca, la Catrina, la Muerte, etc.) and having a funny death. She would write them for all her siblings, me, my cousins, grandma, and herself. The trick was that they were about those who were alive, in order to remind us that life was fragile, that sooner or later we would be gone, and not to take ourselves seriously. She passed away in 2002, and we haven’t continued her legacy since.

This tradition has its roots around early 20th Century, when newspapers would share these verses next to drawings of posh people as skeletons, La Catrina being the most famous of them. This was a way to mock the upper classes and European wannabes (“garbanceros”). La Catrina’s creator, José Guadalupe Posadas, famously said that

“death is democratic, since after all, blonde people, brown people, rich and poor, everyone ends up becoming a skull”.

Bookshop.org is now in the UK

Love buying books online? Hate Big Tech? Well, Bookshop.org is now in the UK. This is a new platform for indie bookshops and publishers to sell their material online without losing profits.

Meanwhile is available over there in backorder (selling out like hawt cakes, y’all!), and it’s also proudly featured on a Burning Eye Books' curated list of LGBTQ+ poets you should know. It also includes excellent colleagues such as Leilah Jane King, Toby Campion, Malaika Kegode, Jonathan Kinsman, Rick Dove, Afshan D'souza-Lodhi, and Bethany Rose.

Great stuff.

Stay joyful and sassy,
Cynthia Rodríguez Juárez