Foreword

 

The stories in this book tell about my experience of a year and a half (so far) of living in Mexico, and about the events that led up to my being here.

Few spanish words appear in this book.Where they do appear, their meaning is usually clear from the context (e.g., novia and novio [bride and groom]) or else they mean about the same as the english words they resemble (e.g., museo [museum]).Where the meaning is not obvious I usually give a translation in brackets.

I have observed spanish rules of capitalization.As you will see, spanish does not capitalize a great many words that are capitalized in english.

I have also generally followed spanish convention for direct discourse.Spanish uses a dash (Ė) to indicate the beginning of a speech or a change of speaker.A dash may follow the end of speech as well, when the end is not clear from the context.The spanish system is not as precise as the english way of handling direct discourse.

The units, or chapters, of this book tell a long story, but are not necessarily a connected narrative.Each unit is meant to tell a short story on its own, the way I would tell a story to my guests after supper.Sometimes facts given in previous units are repeated, in case you havenít remembered them.And at times a unit ends with an action suspended, to resume in the next unit, just as I might interrupt a story to bring you a fresh drink.

 

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Any bookstore will offer you a choice of half a dozen tourist guides for Mexico.At a good city library you can also get spanish courses and books on how to do business in Mexico, how to get a job here, how to buy into an american retirement colony here.

This book is not like any of those books.Nor is my experience like that of the people who write those books.They came here as tourists, employees of american companies, residents of american retirement colonies, missionaries, art traders, archaeologists, professors, students, diplomats.They came here to live among other americans here.

I, on the other hand, came here as a lone american immersed in and among the mexican people.For the first year that I was here I did not speak english and had no dealings with americans.I made my friends among mexicans.I went to their weddings, funerals, fiestas.I ate their foods, shopped in their stores, walked their dirt roads.I have done hard labor side by side with mexican laborers.I have sung in mexican choirs, tuned mexican pianos, laughed, wept, drunk beer and cracked jokes with mexican neighbors and friends.

Nor is the experience past tense.I still live immersed among the people and have no desire to change.I do now occasionally talk with other americans (there are three here in the pueblo and several at Mata Ortiz), mainly about why they came here and what experiences they have had.In fact I might associate with them more, but they are generally too busy just to sit down and talk.

My purpose in writing this book is to let you see Mexico, or a little corner of it, through my eyes, from the inside; through the eyes of an american for whom the mexicans are not Them but Us.I described my intention like this in a letter to Henry Hamman written right after I began the project:

At its best such writing should make a reader hear the throb of the music over at the dance hall, smell the rain when it falls in this fiery desert, feel the grip of a manís hand calloused by pick and shovel, see the dignity of old men and the vitality of children gathered in the plaza of an afternoon, taste beans scooped up with a tortilla.

The hispanic people in general and mexicans especially have a culture of immeasurable richness and depth.They are a people refined, subtle, complex.They are also an open, receptive people, ready to take in an american, a chinaman, a german, an arab, and make him one of their own.But you will not see this from the outside, nor will you see much of it without learning spanish.

Therefore, this book.You will be hard put to find any other with a similar purpose.Other books are for your head.I have given you a glimpse into the hispanic heart.

Take this book into your heart.Open itóthe book and your heart.

Let it speak what cannot be spoken in words.

 

© 2004 Joseph Mansfield

 

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