Armando Rojas Guardia, etc.
(Translation of an excerpt from the opening lecture for his workshop "Escritura y Ciudad," a few months ago at the Fundacion Para La Cultura Urbana in Caracas.)
"I don't have to reiterate that for a city to reach the level of personal myth it's not essential for our first years to have been spent there. Nor is it essential that the memories we carry of our earliest sense of self-awareness blend with its streets, its public squares, its trees, or its birds. All that is required is that a significantly symbolic event--such as an accident, falling in love, a sexual encounter, the death of a loved one--unleash in us the living, enduring, archetypal force of the mythical. And for this mythical element to be precisely linked to that place and not another, transforming the setting into the symbolic geography of a psychic moment that distinguishes itself from the rest, separating that moment from the regular flow of our daily routine."
For various reasons, I've fallen into the habit of mythologizing certain cities. Or, to be more specific, certain experiences or "seasons" that I've gone through in Tampa, Mexico D.F., Caracas, and Boston. Nomadism forces you to observe and memorize your surroundings, lest they disappear from your mind, too.
During my last year in Tampa, for instance, I remember the pixel vision film that A. made of her and L. driving through West Tampa, talking about their experiences as young Latinas in that city. The blurred images and their conversation in that film resonate within me everytime I drive through West Tampa nowdays. I can still remember watching it late at night at A.'s apartment off campus, feeling the city transforming me, as though I were a silent passenger in the back seat of that car.
In 1999, when Claudia and I were in Mexico D.F. for a week, I found a copy of Ernesto Cardenal's Salmos at a bookstore near Parque Alameda. While I had been browsing, the soldier armed with a machine gun next to the cash register had followed me throughout the bookstore, trained as he had been (I assume) to keep an eye on indios and mestizos (just like him) closely. Reading Cardenal's re-interpreations of the Psalms, later that night, was a lesson in poems as amulets, prayer, protection.
Boston and Caracas, parallel cities.