by Ernest Hogan
The Mexico trip described in my last Chicanonautica didn't end in Tenochtitlán. My sister Carol and I took a train south, to Oaxaca. As we left La Capital Azteca, we saw LOS BOY KILLERS sprayed on a wall. Boys ran out of the shanties to throw rocks us.
3Aug82 – Oaxaca – Something different – Parisoid with a Zapotec accent & the taste of iguana stew, beyond the jungle-covered mountains, south of Mexico, D.F. – A beautiful, tree-shaded zocalo that is alive & laid back by day – At nite a brass band hits the bandstand & belts out classic/pop kitsch while across the way in front of an ancient church a bunch of young guys play their own kind of Indio-sound with two kinds of drums, two kinds of flutes, and two guitars to wild ovations from the enthusiastic crowd – Distant lightning provides a light show to this wild battle of the bands – The June 82 Amazing is even on sale in a magazine shop – It's kind of like Disneyland, with people starving to death for b.g. noise – In the sidewalk cafe pitiful old ladies, grandmotherly skeletons, walk up to you with sad eyes and open palms as you feed your face – There's no T.V. in this hotel, and none is necessary, a window provides more than enough entertainment – The air smells of chile – Music & the sound of children playing abound – American Bohemians and college students (and tourists) abound – “Heepies” say the Mexicans.
My notes went from words to surrealistic images at that point. In Mexico surrealism radiates out of the ground from the center of the Earth. The memories are many and vivid. I'm struggling not to go into a Kerouacian stream-of-consciousness travelogue . . .
Palenque, is the name of both the ruins and the town. Cracked sidewalks lead to cliffs. People spoke the local Mayan dialect. Boys ran a used comic book shop that had a lot of science fiction. An teenage bus driver with a cigarette hanging from his lips delights in seeing how fast he can take the curves on mountain road to the ruins.
At the ruins, I looked up, and say the sky was full of butterflies, above them were dragonflies, and above them, hawks patrolled. The museum had glyphs with monsters embracing humans, and an elongated skull that looked like a prop from a sci-fi flick. The grass was neatly cut to the edge of the jungle, and a few steps into it, I nearly got lost.
Merida, the gateway to Mayaland, Chichen Itza, Uxmal, and other ruins. An unseen rock band played a Spanish translation of “Sympathy for the the Devil.” Naked children played with broken toys alongside dirt roads. Once you get away from the city, all the street and town names are Mayan.
I probably should explain this one. This page was drawn on the plane on the trip back, inspired by patterns on upholstery on the seats. Did I mention that I did not take any kind of mind-altering drug on this entire trip? I have never needed drugs to have visions. And visiting Mexico always changes my life.
Afterwards, California seemed dull, like it was in black and white. And my obsession with things preColumbian was stronger than ever.
Ernest Hogan's underground science fiction classic High Aztech -- and much of his other work -- was influenced by his travels in Mexico.