Chela A Mexican Womans Biography

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					Chela: A Mexican Woman’s Biography

11/12/2006 10:42 PM

Chela: A Mexican Woman’s Biography By: Derek Thomas

She was the first baby in a decade born in Mexico without crying. Even though her father wasn’t around to witness the birth of his child, she didn’t cry. The fact that she was delivered by the town’s midwife and not a registered doctor didn’t upset her in the least. Her mother, Maria de los Angeles, would have gone to the store to purchase a tasty version of food at a consistency that her newborn could digest, but the midwife consumed most of that weeks salary and no money was left for such luxuries. The baby wasn’t perturbed by the fact that she had to eat a carrot slurry, even though the flavor was a far cry from what she had anticipated food outside the womb would taste like. Besides she knew, even then, that should her mother have had the money, Gerber would have been on the grocery list. Nor did she cry when the chill from the night breeze crept inside the well-worn, but clean blanket that her Grandma Silvia had wrapped around her. She did start to scream, however, when she saw the forlorn face of the haggard grandma at which point Silvia put up a wall of animosity between her daughter and the already pungent offspring that she had given birth to. Her jealousy caused by the proud indifference of Maria and her daughter caused her to silently damn the two of them, not to mention herself for ever bringing another soul into the cruel world which had yet to give her something to smile about. She passed the disrespectful child to her mother. The world had not yet given the young Araceli anything to smile about either. She avoided the extremes of expression like a presidential candidate avoids the true depth of his convictions. She was not about to make up her mind as to how good she had it or how bad until more research and observation could be carried out. Her expression was a smug, proud tightening of the lips. Her eyes wandered around the unfamiliar faces empathetically looking at her, but her eyes always returned back to those which were directly above her staring down; those of her mother. She knew that those eyes would always take care of her and that was the thought that made her smile for the first time. The rest of the crowd dissipated as the two pairs of eyes talked incessantly and forgot that anything or anyone else existed. The eyes were catching up on the history of one world, and the future of another.
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up on the history of one world, and the future of another. Araceli’s smile diminished greatly at the first sign of the existence of her father, his smell. The man came in through the front gate of the house. He had spent the evening drinking a bottle of alcohol which was paid for with money the females of the house would have preferred be used on something edible. She still didn’t cry, however. At the sight of the man, a moan and a smirk emitted from her lips the size of a budding rose. A week after the birth and once it was confirmed that the young girl was healthy, the community was invited to attend a make-up baby shower. Her brother, Fazio, was put in charge of her while Maria cooked for the guests. He sat his sister down upon his lap and laughed at her uncompromisingly beautiful face; his father was flirting with a neighbor outside the gate. Fazio pushed in the belly of his younger kin for hours until Araceli eventually tired of all the laughing. She was ready for the touch of her mother, but then who would prepare the food for the guests? Araceli didn’t cry but became restless. In fact, there was only one thing that would ever make the young girl’s tear ducts begin to saturate, but that wouldn’t be revealed until she was set free of the family that encouraged, rather demanded, independence. When she finished cooking but before she began to clean, Maria lifted her daughter out of the hands of what was just another stranger the young girl had been passed to. She took her aside and said in a determined whisper, “Araceli Guadalupe Garcia Resecado! Your life will never be like mine. You will be queen someday! All you have to do is find your kingdom.” Araceli would never forget those words of her mother and she began the search for her kingdom soon after. Maria was a mother who demanded so much, yet gave even more. She was a mother that struck her children, but none so hard as had she herself been struck. She was a mother who taught her children life not in the few moments of free time she had, but by doing what needed to be done and demanding her children to do the same. Maria was an artist at what she did best, yes, just as Monet with his oils, or Marquez with his words, she was an artist; survival was her medium. Nothing of excess would do for her; she had no time. She definitely didn’t feel any attachment to the life she was living, but she made it as beautiful as any woman could. She enjoyed her medium and had it mastered. Once it is mastered the artist begins to mock the seriousness with which they formerly pursued it. Maria de los Angeles was no different
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and the transformation coincided with the birth of her second child, Araceli. The laughter which Maria displayed was convincing. It felt like a heat wave, and Araceli eventually learned how to get it out of her whenever she began to shiver. That ability was used quite frequently as the family continuously moved around in the mountainous towns of northern Mexico. Due to their father, the family’s welcome in a town lasted only as long as they could keep the head of it away from a bottle of mezcal. At the sight of the fermented cactus sap, otherwise known as viaje del pobre, the man went blind for three days and three nights possessed by a God that swore no allegiance to the land where it had come from. Rumor has it that mezcal is a byproduct of the sweat of Quetzalcoatl which had beaded from his forehead when confronted by the inquisition of Aztec warriors whom he had shamed in battle. The shame and humiliation which they brought upon him caused him to leave the world in a state of glowing fury which only a secularized God can ever experience. The sweat was a memoir of a fallen-from-glory diety and was believed to remove fear from those who drank it, but it only induced it. The family would be well on their way to finding a home before the head of the family ever realized where he was. He was only a decorative head, somewhat of a paper tiger. No one respected the man any more than Maria felt affection for him, which she didn’t and hadn’t ever. No one would ever talk about the unimaginable circumstances that convinced the young Maria to wed the beast. Like most incomprehensible decisions made by Mexicans, or humanity for that matter, it was most likely made out of fear. When the family arrived to Tepozlan, it was just another Mexican town without a memory. Araceli was eight years old by this time and slowly beginning to realize the affliction into which she had been born, but refusing to give it any ground. The abrasive nature of her life at that point miraculously only served to reinforce the sense of humor which she quickly became renowned for in every town the family arrived to. It wasn’t a sense of humor that would amuse hordes of people in the town’s square around the flagpole at nights, but rather a sense of humor that made the mundane and all-together odious chores of daily life bearable, even enjoyable, with her guttural laughter. And those chores were already numerous by this time. Her mother, the sole breadwinner of the house, was in need of an assistant in all of her undertakings. Araceli never shied away from the work. How could she? She watched her mother day and night working.
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Araceli never shied away from the work. How could she? She watched her mother day and night working. From sun up to sun up the woman toiled. She was the family financier, the maid, the cook, the disciplinarian, the only family member with a job, and as if that wasn’t enough, she had to put up with a violently jealous husband, who because of the aforementioned “fear”, she would be in a union with until the day one of them died. Araceli was happy to help her mother out, and help was always needed. There were already three other siblings in the family, but Maribel was still to young to cooperate and the boys, were already being taught a lesson by their father concerning the role of a male in many Mexican family, that of an indolent despot. Araceli wasn’t about to turn her back on her mother, as society, relatives, and her husband had. Araceli was told she would be queen by Maria, and that statement was still quite palpable with her as she passed through adolescence and on to her teen years. And none of the boys ever chided her in school when she mentioned her mother’s premonition. Obviously, the girls of school were not so forgiving to this self-professed queen. But she miraculously avoided quarrels with them not through means of appeasement, but rather the “big stick” that she unwillingly totted around everywhere, her brothers, Venicio and Fazio. Fazio with a bit more of his father’s genes, and Venicio with the balance in favor of his mother, but they were both equally dangerous should a unfavorable remark or glance be directed at their beloved sister. By the time Araceli was finishing her preparatory education (the family now lived in San Jose Vista Hermosa, they had moved from Tepozlan before Araceli started high school), most of her peers had gotten pregnant or impregnated someone, many had dropped out of the unsalvageable Mexican public education system, a few had already submerged into the underworld, some had chosen the path of an alcoholic parent, but the one thing that united all of the class of 1994 was abiding by the national statistics and not continuing their education. The smell of this cesspool of options made Araceli vomit upon the crowning moment of her life up to that point, receiving her high school diploma. It wasn’t just the fact she was surrounded by a sea of hopelessness that made her nauseous; the only person she had ever loved up to that point, her mother, was not permitted to miss work that day to see her daughter graduate while her father was present and he was in usual form. The director of the school would never forget Araceli Guadalupe Garcia Resecado after that day; her lunch had left an indelible mark on his best shoes.
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She was sick all summer long. Araceli’s mother couldn’t remember her needing that much attention even as a newborn. Her body refused nourishment as if it were work and she were her father. Maria tried all of the remedies that had been passed down through the generations: a strong cup of coffee for the upset stomach, turkey soup for the exhaustion, spicy habanero chili peppers in lime juice for the high temperature, and eventually took her to the town doctor for a more modern approach. The doctor was no less traditional when he prescribed her with a broken heart, the result of a dying dream. Maria would have enjoyed pampering her daughter at this time in her life more than any other, but, of course, she had responsibilities. Araceli’s aggravation with her foreseeable future in San Jose Vista Hermosa manifested itself in the form of the drunk oaf who was the head of the family. Her father’s image was reoccurring in the hallucinations which she was having at the height of her fevers. Of all of the apocalyptic visions she was having of what her future held, her father’s image was the clearest portent of life at 50 in San Jose Vista Hermosa. The image which haunted her, eventually became her cure and it scared the sickness out of the 18-year-old queen to be. The most crucial point in the young woman’s life was when she said, “Yes, I accept,” to a gay gentleman living in Mexico City. He had received a reference for Araceli from his uncle in San Jose, whose house Araceli had cleaned all through high school to help keep her father alive with the meager income she received. The man offered to pay for her school and a small weekly salary, as well as offer her room and board. Mexico City is overwhelming to anyone the first time they step foot in it. Araceli was no exception. She quickly made friends that were similar to her schoolmates in San Jose; however, these drunks reveled in debauchery while for the youth of San Jose, alcohol only magnified the inferiority woven into the fiber of their village which tended to manifest itself in altogether unpleasant ways. The Mexico City crowd, on the other hand, had learned how to enjoy it and were not ashamed of their indulgence upon waking up the following morning. The jubilee was only magnified by the hyperactive ambiance of the world’s largest city.

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She was living once again but still there was no sign of the pageantry that goes with being a queen. She was still riding the subway for God’s sake! The man she lived with, although respectable in dress and behavior, worked for a drug trafficker. None of her friends were actively pursuing anything but sex and the cure for lost ambition, which seemed to reside in a bottle. A few of them lived by collecting unemployment upon getting fired from a job after convincing the employer they were an asset, then immediately thinking of ways to get fired. Another friend lived with and off of his mother who worked ten hours a day as a strip dancer. Her girlfriends attached to men like parasites in desperate search for a host. They had lost hope, if they had ever had it, of being anything more than a dependent housewife. Araceli dropped out of law school two years into her degree program. A queen has a court, doesn’t she? Araceli, the first baby to be born in a decade without crying, was a bit disillusioned by hers, but she enjoyed their company. She moved out of the gay man’s home and into an apartment with a friend, whose parents owned a restaurant in a Queretero. The two got along well for awhile. Araceli’s first experience living with a woman could have been disastrous taking into account her self-perceived royal status and the history of antagonism that she felt between her and the female sex. However, city dwellers were different. Jealousy and animosity were woven into the social fabric of the Mexican pueblos (villages), but upon leaving that environment behind to go to the city; many leave those notions behind, because the abyss of the city allots a minimal amount of time for such formalities. Araceli, or as her friends amiably called her, Chela (a variation on her name which means beer in Mexico), soon found a job working as a secretary at a language center, Bersatz. Her character and unbridled joviality were the most important factor in her hiring. The Jewish boss immediately saw the possibilities of a personality like hers at an international organization. The job paid little, relatively speaking, but it was a leap up from the indentured servitude that an eternity spent in the pueblo offered to her, as was every step that she had made upon leaving her “hometown”. She didn’t realize it at the time, but what her move had done for her was sever an inextricable link between her and her birth placement into the hierarchical structure of Mexican society, that being the pueblo. Far from being the answer to the socioeconomic stagnancy that exists in the country, the city simply offers an air hole for those that are being suffocated by life and the lack of opportunity in the countryside. Although Araceli was far from desperate
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(here mother would disagree after having cared for her the summer after her graduation), it is desperation that has produced what is modern day Mexico City (not to mention Shanghai, Calcutta, Sao Paulo). For most who come to Mexico City as a last resort, they find nothing but more hopelessness (word of that has obviously gotten out, hence the powderkeg issue of immigration to the United States); however, Araceli didn’t come to the city weighed down with the incalculable responsibility of raising a family, she came because of one … simple … reason, boredom. For such a person, Mexico City is quite possibly the ideal place. She found mucho y muy as is said in Mexico City, which means that there is a lot of everything in all range of extremities. In deed, the young woman realized that she was not in “Kansas” anymore. The initial charm many people feel for Mexico City is eventually worn down by its smog, crime, traffic, and overall dysfunctionality. This was no place for an ordained queen to settle down, nor anyone else for that matter and many of those who have the means have already started the mass exodus to other, more livable regions of Mexico. When after only six months on the job, her boss, Sy, offered her an opportunity to get out of Mexico City and transfer to Merida, a much more docile peninsular city in Southern Mexico, she realized that her ordination by Maria hadn’t been so far fetched. Her kingdom awaited her, she thought. There were finally bells ringing and trumpets saluting and red carpets rolling out to the maternally-proclaimed Queen of San Jose. At the nascent enterprise, the importance of such an uncompromising moral presence, whose intuition never lied about what was acceptable and not, what was right and what wasn’t, was invaluable. The conviction of her instincts was borderline John Wayne, although, she wasn’t always as proficient at recognizing those black and white distinctions in her own personal life; she had that in common with The Duke as well. She found life to be easily accommodating in Merida; however, finding a companion as accommodating was a much, much different story. Such a confident woman was intimidating to the average Mexican man, but the level of her salaciousness was irrefutable and enticed many suitors. She always shied away from men, whose transparency of motives was revealed in the indolence of their lower lip at the sight of this insidious female. She had become a positively striking woman, from her slender legs to the high
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of this insidious female. She had become a positively striking woman, from her slender legs to the high cheek bones of her mestiza-chiseled face. Men flocked to her, but she resisted most, and settled for those that presented little threat to the weakness she saw as falling in love. As soon as her partners realized that this woman, would not be subdued by just any man’s will but only one who, from her perspective, was a king; they fled in search of an animal a bit easier to tame. Luckily, Araceli and solidarity had come to an understanding much earlier in life. She continued working for Bersatz in Merida and the company progressively raised the stakes of her employment there. That is what they do to much of the mostly uneducated workforce of Mexico, improve the benefits of a worker just enough to keep the person from quitting and starting the process of finding a new patron (literally translates to boss, but more accurately translates to a caretaker), who would undoubtedly start the employee out at the back of the echelon to keep the payroll balanced as the frontrunners of the echelon inevitably tire and get replaced by the next person in line. By the end of her second year working there, she had unquestionably hit the glass ceiling at the company, while earning what would never allow her to put money away for retirement, buy a car, a house, raise a family, or any of the other rights that people should have guaranteed in a country provided they work hard enough. Araceli didn’t complain; however, she realized that she was one of the lucky ones. But she never held any illusions about the fact that lifetime employment with the company was out of the question. Without actively searching for a mate, a young American man walked into Bersatz to start teaching and immediately caught the tearless Mexican’s eye. Without much delay, the two promulgated a relationship upon the precept that they complemented each other perfectly. The American found exactly what he hadn’t found in women from his country and she found what she hadn’t found in Mexico. After a year, the two married and Araceli returned to the U.S. with the American. Araceli never felt much remorse before or after leaving her country. Sure, she would miss the food, the customs, and various aspects of her fellow compatriots, but she had been denied a reasonable standardof-living by that country, something that no one should have to accept. She moved to the U.S. for a purely selfish reason: love, but what she found there convinced her that love was not the only salient reason to make the trip. She quickly found employment at a company that treated her with an amount of respect
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which was often times missing in the relationship between employee and patron in Mexico. She found herself in the middle class, a socio-economic level which Mexico has found difficult to incorporate. She began to send money home to her mother, Maria, and also to her father (He may have starved long ago without her help.). She found that she could help her family, a universal motivation in Mexico, infinitely more from her new home than from her old one. Born a queen into a home void of love, Araceli never doubted that her path was predestined. She followed the road map of her fate with unwavering confidence from the transient life of a family with a drunk at its head, to the uncertainty of a move from a pueblo to the biggest city in the world, to the lonely transfer to Merida, a city a thousand miles away from her beloved mother, to the U.S. where she knew that she would be able to give her children a better life than she had had, which is why she had no doubt that even though she didn’t wear a crown, she had justifiably been anointed a queen.

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