A REST STOP ON THE JOURNADA DE MUERTO

YOU ARE HERE: The Dead Man's Walk.   Roughly 50 miles north of  Las Cruces, New Mexico on Hwy. 40,  the arrow on this relatively prominent historic marker makes sure that travelers who stop to pee know where the Camino Real veers  away from the Rio Grande. Centuries of  constant movement back and forth along the route taught travelers not to count on surviving the 90 mile stretch of  waterless desert that lay ahead - and plenty did not. / O'Brien 2012

YOU ARE HERE: The Dead Man’s Walk. Roughly 50 miles north of Las Cruces, New Mexico on Hwy. 40, the arrow on this relatively prominent historic marker makes sure that travelers who stop to pee know where the Camino Real veers away from the Rio Grande. Centuries of constant movement back and forth along the route taught travelers not to count on surviving the 90 mile stretch of waterless desert that lay ahead – and plenty did not. / O’Brien 2012

desert-highway-stop-1-jpg.jpg

.

Sky, mountain, desert, coyotes. 
CLAIRE O’Brien 2012

Few things are more difficult to persuade people of than the legitimacy of a border that contradicts the reality of their lives – and they never change their behavior to accommodate it unless monitored by constant force.  The closer one gets to the border, the more difficult it becomes to sustain it as a concept requiring any specific action, let alone as the basis upon which social identity is assigned.  I assert that for Anglos, the border’s looming proximity produces the opposite effect, an acute contradiction accommodated only by a kind of mass cognitive blunting.  Literally living exactly where the very people you are excluding used to live is not easy.

  .First of all, they haven’t gone away. They go back and forth across the border, utilizing networks of family and work, as people here have done for centuries.  Secondly, regardless of whether one sees them in person, their presence is so strong that it defines this place as a specific world. It’s a world that speaks for them whether they are in Juarez or passing silently through the primarily Anglo towns of New Mexico’s rural interior.

And it speaks for them when they are right down the road,  harvesting chile peppers and walnuts. In fact, the roads themselves tell a tale that Anglos can’t ignore and actually don’t, as this is impossible to do.  Consider the remarkable fact of living on what was essentially the equivalent of a modern highway for centuries – while treating as outsiders the descendants of the people who created the route with their own feet.

You have to know the way / Claire O’Brien 2012

 One must at least put up a  marker. And while one is at it, there should be a place to rest – never mind that nobody driving north from Las Cruces needs to rest an hour later.  The most Mexican thing to do right here is to make a place for the dead, who are not far away and need some shade. So plant some trees for them, leave plenty of water in fountains, and build a few shelters. Add some tables, with seating, as the dead will most certainly want to sit down. Right at this moment,  the dead are picnicking under the trees, and that’s how the living know where they are.

T H E   S U N   S E T S   A T    T H E    R E S T    S T O P

Claire O’Brien 

xx

The landscape is made of light / O’Brien 2012

.  

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.