jeudi 17 octobre 2013

AN ENCOUNTER WITH MEXICO IN THE FAR NORTH: BISMARCK, NORTH DAKOTA

AN ENCOUNTER WITH MEXICO IN THE FAR NORTH, BISMARCK, NORTH DAKOTA, USA
Bismarck, North Dakota is possibly the northernmost city of any size, furthest away from the USA border with Mexico, way south.


An early snowstorm, in the first days of October had closed the airport at Rapid City; I was scheduled to fly out of Rapid City, South Dakota. Rapid consultation with Lakota Indians, it is they who drive me to and fro the airport to the reservation in Eagle Butte, South Dakota, decided to reroute my flight from Bismarck, North Dakota, which was yet to be touched by the snow.
ND is a large, barely populated state of the USA, butting into Manitoba in Canada to the North. It has no spectacular scenery to speak of, even though the rolling hills on the way from the Lakota were pleasant enough.
This is a staunchly conservative state, until recently almost all the inhabitants (the new ones) were of German or Scandinavian stock. Indians have lived here from time immemorial. As we rolled into Bismarck, a newly found sense of prosperity was in the air in this farmland state, Yes, Oil! Natural Gas! This has spurred a migration of young people from other states, causing a change in the human scenery.
I stayed at a hotel, old and worn out but comfortable enough. From my window I could survey Americana: McDo, Wendy’s, Pizza Hut, Perkins, Cracker Barrel, Taco Johns, amidst an architecture so bland that it would be a mistake to call it an architecture.
I went down to the fitness room, a small room fitted with two treadmills and a large TV. I had plugged in my iPod and was listening to some soothing music from Cabo Verde when two men came in and one of them blurted out, Howyadoin?
“Do you mind if I play this music”, I asked.
No, said the younger of the two with both his arms fully tattooed, it will help us to relax.
I am from LA VEGA, said the older one of the two and by his accent, I could detect, a further distant connection to his genealogy.
Originally?
No, I am from Sinaloa in Mexico.
You of course know who is Chapo Guzman, he giggled.
Chap was the most brutal of the drug lords; I think he is hiding out somewhere, hailed as a genius by American Anti Drug Forces.
I switched immediately to Spanish, much to his surprise.
We talked a lot about the loss of innocence of Mexico, imposed on the good people of Mexico by a small band of narcotraficantes.
They had come to North Dakota to work in construction as work in Las Vegas had dried up. After three months, they would return to their families, before the snow arrives in these parts. They introduced themselves but preferred their nicknames. Cuco, the 42 year old said, he is called Chulo, “because he is all tattooed up”
I am now clean, man. Said Chulo.
They talked about their families and their loneliness here; they stay in the hotel for three months, and the lack of good Mexican food.
“When I came here fist about five years ago, there were may be five Mexicans here, but now there are more than a thousand.” exclaimed Cuco.
All three of us agreed that the food was better south of the border. Also, most of the Mexican food sold in the USA is Tex-Mex, rather than authentic Mexican. We talked about the grand variety of cuisine in Mexico, from Vera Cruz to Jalisco to Sinaloa.
When you come to La Vega, Cuco continued, and you see me on the street, I expect you to shout and ask, Hey Cuco How are you?
They wanted to know about myself, details that I kept to a minimum except that I had come to visit the Indians. I let them tell me about their life.
Is it true, Chulo asked, that a glass of beer in the morning purify your blood? I diplomatically answered that Beer has a lot of empty calories, may not be good for the body.
If you eat the fast food here and drink beer every day, it wont be long before you would get diabetes, I told them.
Then they had lots of questions about Diabetes, signs and symptoms, were very relieved that they didn't appear to have diabetes and that with exercise every evening after a days hard work would keep Diabetes at bay.
We had talked about many things. Two construction labourers, far away from home, proud of their native language, mocking the way Portenos and Puerto Ricans spoke Spanish!
When it was time for me to leave, they each shook hands, with warm smiles, said: Don't forget us, if you see us again, please call our names. We will do the same.
 SUNSET IN THE KIKAPU COUNTRY, TEXAS
SUNSET IN THE HOCANK COUNTRY, NEBRASKA
This country is made up of immigrants just like them, going where the job is, working hard and saving money for the family. It is the origin of American friendliness I am sure.

And for me, the diversity of this country is illustrated by the fact that I could speak Spanish in this city at a place close to the Canadian border and far away from the Mexican Border.
(Indians of Mexico, desert region of Coahuila, Mexico)