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fl fl fl ATrueAccount It was from El Salto, Jalisco, that I set out, half a lifetime ago, on a wild goose chase so intricate I haven’t got to the end of it yet. And I don’t expect to. For reasons soon to be apparent, I never told anyone about it—about that weekend, I mean, not that I really felt the urge to. My wife, for example, who knows me down to the molecular level, has no idea what went on out there. My reticence about it owes to the primary understanding among the three of us who went off together. We were never, ever to discuss what happened, except with each other. But I haven’t seen those other two guys in more than twenty-five years. Maybe what happened that weekend explains how come, even three thousand miles north, I gravitate toward people from the Central Highlands. Let me begin with a little history. That weekend was part of a highly involuted moment in Mexico’s history. It was an era of kidnapping and peso collapse and bullet-riddled sedans, yes, with the Guerrero highlands full of armed men and women, either freedom fighters or bank robbers, depending on whom you asked. It felt like the eyes of the world were on Mexico, and a few people even worried the government might tip over. But me, what did I do? I went on a pilgrimage. From my compadre’s house in El Salto, I set out on the kind of ritual journey you take to give thanks or to ask a favor. What gets to me, especially now, is how neatly the idea of pilgrimage contrasts with that of el flujo. A pilgrimage is symbolic right from the start, while im/migration may become so, but only in retrospect. Im/migration tends to erase the past, while you undertake a pilgrimage in part because so many before you have done it. Each phase of a pilgrimage contributes to the end point, while im/migration recognizes no end point at all. On and on. My own little pilgrimage revealed a lot of personal loose ends, of course. It isn’t a flattering angle on your author. 52 the permit that never expires I flinch at my own knee-jerk reactions, my perma-antagonism toward power. I try, by now, to think of that weekend as a needs assessment. Anyhow, my one and only pilgrimage began at a Guadalajara cultural institute, where I taught students—or tried to—how to write about themselves, about each other, and about Mexico. The staff was from all over. Working there was a guy they called Julio el Huicholito, who taught yarn painting: plywood coated with beeswax, with swirls of colored yarn pressed into it, forming figures. Julio explained that the figures represented plants, animals, weather—whatever conditions prevailed the last time the yarn painter traveled to San Luis Potosí. By which he meant the end point of a famous pilgrimage Huichol people make. Beeswax and yarn, in the hands of the adept, produced an image that pinned you down, stopped you in your tracks, told you something about how brief life was—but only an adept had hands like that. Without a pilgrimage behind them, the figures were only so much yarn and wax. Anthropologists came from all over to film the embroidered shirts and pants and feathered hats of a pilgrimage they were sure remained unchanged from pre-Hispanic times. Julio shook his head at how he was taking money from college kids who had never set foot in San Luis Potosí. Anyhow, one night, Julio showed up at my place, hat in hand. He looked like he was waiting for an answer. Talk about surprised! How did he know where to find me? He shook his head, then shook hands impatiently. No thanks, he didn’t want to step inside. He merely dropped by on his way to the bus depot, he announced, bearing an invitation to a pilgrimage he was making. How about it? Was he serious? I was packed in five minutes, leaving a note that said, well, that the huicholitos came and went when they thought best. One bus ride led to another, and another. Then we caught a train that ran once a day from a town named Charcas (Puddles) to a village named La Maroma (Somersault). There, we three pilgrims got off and started walking, Julio and me, plus the twenty-year-old...


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