Sunday, August 10, 2008

Domingo Primera

(editor´s note: This is a post from Chris!)

It´s my first Sunday in our new home. Matt is off in Cuernavaca, learning Spanish and embarking on new adventures, while I hold down the fort in Mexico City for the next two weeks.

This morning, I woke up to the sounds of some of the Americans who arrived at the Lutheran Center yesterday getting organized to leave for church. Crap. I forgot to ask somebody about church services: is there a place they go to around here? Do they go up to the Lutheran church that is up north of here? How do they get there? What time are services? So I decided to get ready on time to leave the house by 10:30, and walk to one of the nearby Catholic churches. 11 o’clock is a universal church service starting time, right?

When I arrived, I found that the church courtyard was full of people, mostly families, seated on stone benches and ledges. There was a large group of people clustered around the door, too. But I couldn’t figure out if they were coming or going, if church was so full that it was standing room only, or what was happening. I sat down in the far corner of the courtyard to wait and see if I could figure it out. I watched kids play while grandmothers trailed slowly after them, and I heard a few strains of organ music. So they were probably in the middle of the service, though I couldn’t figure out why so many people were seated in the courtyard if there wasn’t another service starting soon. I gave it up, and decided I’d stop by the church in the middle of the week to see if I could find out when mass was.

I then headed to Ciudad Universitaria, literally “University City,” the campus of the National Autonomous University of Mexico, known around here as UNAM, which in the grand Latin American tradition is pronounced oo-nam. Perhaps this is common in English too, but it has always struck me as funny that acronyms in Spanish become words – they aren’t spelled out, unless you can’t help it, as with PRD (one of the major political parties in Mexico). Even PRD (pay-erray-day) is usually strung together as perrayday.

Anyway, I headed to the UNAM campus because I wanted to find the library. I’ve been feeling the need for a library since I got here. I’ve been working every day for the past week and a half in the National Archives of Mexico. Research in archives consists of going through piles and piles of old papers, trying to figure out what is significant, and retyping or photocopying the things you decide are important. In a few cases, a file folder will have all kinds of documents, so you can begin to get a sense for the context in which they were produced – one file, for example, had all kinds of newspaper clippings and correspondence about a particular election in the state of Sonora, in the north of Mexico. It contained information about who the candidates were, which politicians were recruiting which groups of the population, and particular concerns about a socialist candidate that the government saw as a rabble rouser. So then when I found the document I was looking for in the file – in which a governor was accusing braceros of disorder and theft – I could understand a bit of the political context, one in which the central government was worried about workers’ political power and the potential for disorder if the wrong candidate won the election. But other files may contain just one document, or fifty letters to the department of labor saying, “This person wrote my office, but his problem is in your jurisdiction. Here you go.” In these cases, it’s really helpful to have read all the books on the subject you’re researching – the books give you a broader context, remind you of the broad sweep of what’s going on, and will tell you that the document you just found so fascinating someone else already wrote an entire chapter about ten years ago. Of course, I have read many books about my research topic to prepare for this trip. But as I confronted an avalanche of paper in the archives this past week, it struck me that a refresher would be nice.

So I headed south from church, toward the Ciudad Universitaria, and I realized that I was joining a stream of other people headed in the same direction. First I noticed a family, father and son in full soccer uniform – jersey, shorts, socks, the whole deal – for the Pumas, the team that plays at the UNAM. Then a group of girls, one of whom had on a Pumas jersey. Then, at the intersection, a man standing in between the cars waving Pumas flags, and a little boy sitting at the bus stop with a couple smaller flags in his hands – both salesmen for the day. Today was game day! As I kept walking, we met up with men offering “boletos a bajo precio” (tickets at low prices) in low voices. A little further up the road, the tents popped up. White tents protected Pumas merchandise, anything you could think of – Puma stuffed animals, both realistic and cartoony, jerseys, t-shirts (some of them featuring Bob Marley smoking pot along with the Pumas logo, oddly enough), rally scarves, temporary tattoos and face paint. In between were people with carts equipped with bottles filled with various colored liquids and a giant block of ice – for making raspados, snow cones. And then I arrived at the stadium, more than half full already, with people waiting in long lines at the taquillas, ticket booths. It was a sea of blue and gold, with a few bright red jerseys (for the day’s opponent, the Toluca red devils) sprinkled in. I followed the fence to a pedestrian underpass that would lead me to the library, and found it lined with more white tents and Pumas merchandise, including some devoted to baby Puma gear – “I love my daddy’s team – the Pumas,” etc. I could kick myself for not bringing my camera to photograph the crowds, and the stadium, complete with a Diego Rivera fresco at one of the entrance.

I headed the wrong direction, away from the stadium, and to the library across the street. I found it open and found the electronic catalog. I hadn’t brought any paper for notes because I thought it was only open weekdays, but there will be books for me to read there, some other time. My mission accomplished, I picked my way back through the crowds and headed for home. As I opened the gate to the Lutheran Center, I recognized the distant roar of the crowd. I can hear the cheers from here. I can’t wait until Matt gets back and we can go to a game!

No comments: