The Mexico of Juárez

Puns and ambiguities are one of Luis Miguel Aguilar's trademarks. His poem entitled “Juárez” refers to both national hero Benito Juárez, 1806–1872, and the city of Juárez—the most dangerous place on earth.

March 9 2013 Text: Luis Miguel Aguilar

For years and presidential terms it’s been known
That if one had to choose one Mexico,
from among the many Mexicos of Mexico,
The best of all possible Mexicos
Would be, without a doubt, the Mexico of Juárez.

Expansive minds, upstanding officials,
Resistance and the disaster of invasions,
Respect for all creeds, the Secular Way,
Progressive amendments and Men of Law;
We saw it in books; they used to exist in the Mexico of Juárez.
But I’m not thinking of that Mexico;
The Mexico I’m referring to here
Is, in effect, the Mexico of Juárez.

Later, we saw it again in other books:
Sickly multitudes, loss of life, repressed Indians, assailants, unstable politics, discrepancies in the Treasury, a glut of grand estates, unreal and ungrounded democracy, epidemics, superstitions and colonial atavisms, ridicule of the law and liberal shoes squeezed onto the entire country; they used to exist in the Mexico of Juárez.
But once again I have to make it clear:
I’m not talking about that Mexico;
I’m talking about the Mexico of Juárez.

A single machete wielder out of all my countrymen who defeated the French
Is worth more than the pack of public officials
Who came after the brilliant public officials
One could find in the Mexico of Juárez.
Anemic mothers, alcoholism, orphans, indigents lying in the street, the white breasts of the bathers of Flores, sweet-sour oranges of Altamirano, the country’s bankruptcy, international debt, provinces in revolt, unrest in the “body politic”; they used to exist in the Mexico of Juárez.
But I’m not talking about that Mexico:
I’m talking about the Mexico of Juárez.

“That’s why we’re so screwed up,” says the cab driver,
“Because this is not the Mexico of Juárez.”
There was a time when my mother, confronted with some wrong, would declare:
“This creep couldn’t do what he’s doing if he were in the Mexico of Juárez;
And the Mexico of Juárez could not bear the shame
Were it to live again and see what this creep is doing.”
We’re referring to the Mexico of Juárez.

We’ll see it in books:
The peso, the government, the smoggy sky, the right of the State, the acid oranges, the same grudging and machete-wielding countrymen, anemic mothers, repressed Indians, international debt, all the dead phrases, these lines, indigents, crime, alcoholism, the carnival of national orphanages, and the memories, the lectures, the thighs of Maria; they have to return to the Mexico of Juárez
From the Mexico of Juárez to another Mexico:
From the Mexico of Juárez to that of Juárez.

If I have a son, I want him free from the smog and violence, the bad news, the crime, the uncertainties, the acid oranges, the inept parenting that awaits him.
I’ll take my son to the Mexico of Juárez.

An experienced voice pops up to dissuade me:
“You’re already in the Mexico of Juárez. What’s happening to you is happening to one of many inhabitants of the only Mexico on hand: the Mexico of Juárez.”
But once again I have to make it clear,
Without a trace of polemic,
In order to say it all without beating around the bush,
The Mexico of Juárez is not my Mexico:
I’m referring to the Mexico of Juárez.