Thursday, May 22, 2008


Nowadays it has become fashionable to "go green", like trying to patch a dam when it is about to burst. We have forgotten how, not too long ago, recycling was for many simply a way of life. But perhaps that is just because some of us grew up in a very different circumstance. People today would say that we lived in misery or poverty, therefore we were forced to straighten a bent rusted nail instead of simply buying a new one.

For me that was what made my life extraordinary. My grandmother, who had taken a "poverty vow" (go explain that to someone living in a consumer society!) lived a life where everything around her had a purpose and had to be taken care of. Since I grew up with her it was natural for me to learn and understand how to create with what the world around me, particularly our shelter, provided. To what others was a miserable shack, to me was a magnificent castle, full of adventure and stories, constantly morphing through the tension between entropy and our creative survival.

I tell all this (and there is so much more to tell) because that was, among everything else I know and care about, the root and the source of my current work. In that privileged environment where the fruit of our labor and our play (is there any difference?) both fed us and entertained us, I learned to make my first puppets and my first theater. My audience (beside my grandmother) were the three or four kids that survived in the vicinity of our house.

I say survive, because in their case even I, in my young age could tell the difference between my life, where every stone, stick or piece of paper was an immense treasure, to be enjoyed and shared and their miserable existence from which they could not possibly escape on their own.

Hundreds of years of oppression and slavery had transformed them into nothing more than a basic self-consuming organism that labored, like a fungus, to produce what others needed but without being able to make use of it themselves. They were the kids of adobe and brick makers and yet they could not build even the smallest adobe house to defend themselves from the extreme elements. Why not? think about it. If you were starving, would you build your house out of bread?

They lived in cardboard shelters, made from discarded boxes (they smeared the cardboard with asphalt to fend of the tremendous storms that are typical of the high plateaus at the center of Mexico, above 2,240 meters) just big enough to cover their bodies and not much more.

I remember, as one of the first tragedies that I witnessed in my childhood, a fire, produced by their simple kiln, that consumed their "house" in just a few minutes. I watched from my side of the river how they just stood helpless, since there was nothing they could do. The water they used for their adobes had to be carried in buckets from the river (more like a big sewage that came from the big city) and this took the majority of the day of my small friends who had to carry the heavy load.

After that I never saw them again. Perhaps something else happened within the cardboard walls that made them move away from that patch of dirt to another.

I guess this memories are prompted by the tragedy of the millions who have lost their homes and their lives. In their case, the solidity and the weight of their shelter crushed them to death, bricks and water, wind and fire. In the kids of my childhood it was the asphalt, which protected them from the rain, which burned their cardboard shacks in a flash. But they did not lose their lives just then, they had lost it many hundreds of years ago and continue to lose it under the empires who dominate the world through terror, so that their fat children can become obese with the food that the others don't eat, and their governors, kings and presidents can rot in gold and riches and trillions of petroleum dollars tinted with the blood of thousands and hundreds of thousands of people before they themselves die their solitary death.

So then I am here, putting up a sort of morality play, told from the point of view of the machine which will survive us and carry with them the good and the bad programming of the species that preceded them.

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