(Footnote #1): This story is based on a true story that has been completely fictionalized. Only the woman who told me her story and I know where there are similarities and where I have completely fabricated the rest. (Footnote #2): I reserve the right as the author to edit this story as needed to suit my interests. This story is to be considered as an ever-changing living document. (Footnote #3): If you happen to recognize the woman being used in the photos, I hope you will understand that this is not her story in any way. She did me the wonderful favor of posing for pictures but she has nothing to do with anything besides being the pretty face that I needed to tell this story for my own interests. All text and image featured in this story has been protected under the copyright laws of the United States. No reproduction by any means without the written approval of Sergio C. Muñoz at Intelatin. All rights reserved. (c) 2016
I was born on the highway that leads from Tuxpan, Veracruz to an island called Tamiahua. It is the place I most adore. There are no luxuries in my hometown but it is very natural. It is green, blue and brown and the grulla colored horses that live in the area are wild.
My parents weren't really in love. My father came to the island to try to establish black cod as an alternative to red snapper or snook. My father is Japanese, raised in Hawai'i. He wasn't a very good fisherman but he was a good cook. He saw that nobody was making misoyaki in Mexico so he wanted to popularize the dish in Tamiahua. The locals loved misoyaki but there was no money in the town. It was easier for them to catch their own fish than to buy my father's black cod and prepare misoyaki but everyone agreed that it was delicious.
He seduced my mother with misoyaki. She was from a line of Totonaca vanilla farmers native to the region. She looked more African than Asian. I dont know exactly what she saw in my father beyond his misoyaki because they were very different individuals. Where my father was attempting to change the culture to something new, my mother wanted the culture to return to its past. The type of clean and spiritual past that was showcased in El Tajín.
My parents would take me to El Tajín when I was young to watch the "voladores" and to eat rabbit with mole. I think this is where I was happiest as a child. Sweating in the pyramids of a noble Totonaca past, drinking vanilla water and eating mole. My parents wouldn't fight but they weren't very loving. Each one was trapped in their own head. I felt that they were unsure about the future and this caused me to become a nervous child.
I didn't want to sleep alone. I remember being four years old and I was taken to the park and my mother bought me a Donald Duck balloon. When night fell, I was sent to my room and my father tied the balloon to the iron bedpost. I asked him what he was doing and he said that I'd be sleeping alone tonight and that Donald Duck would protect me. He turned off the light and walked down the hall to their room. I called out but they ignored me. I kept calling out, arguing my case for why this wasn't the right thing to do to me. They kept on ignoring me. Then, a few minutes later, as I was getting more and more exhausted, I saw my mom come in to my bedroom in a white nightgown with a vanilla pod stitched in green. She carried me to their bed and I fell asleep.
The next morning, I awoke in my bed and Donald Duck was looking deflated. I walked to the kitchen to have breakfast. My mother served me a small portion of onion, egg, beans, avocado and tortillas. I ate quietly. When I was done, I asked my mother if I could get a white whitegown just like hers with the vanilla pod. She told me that she did not own a white nightgown and then sent me off to school. I walked by myself along the island dirt road behind a farmer riding a mule thinking deeply about this mystery.
When I was seven years old, I got hit with a lot of truth about my family. I can't begin to explain how bizarre this information was to me and I didn't understand most of it until years later but what I did understand was that we were moving and my parents weren't staying together. My mother and I would go to Tecate in the north of Mexico and my father was going back to Japan. Before he left for Japan, he told me that he would work in the fish markets, save money and then pay for my college. He also told me that my parents weren't really together before I was born.
Seems that for the last four generations, my people have been committing infidelities and having children out of wedlock. On both sides of the family. To make it simple, I'll just recount my mother's side. My grandmother was married, had an affair, had a child and later divorced her husband and married her lover. That child, my mother, eventually married, had an affair, had a child, me, later divorced her husband and married my father then divorced him. I could go back four generations and the story remains the same. We are an entire line of deceivers. We play with people's emotions, follow our impulses and create messy accounts. If I choose to have a baby with my husband, Ciro, I will be the first in my family in 113 years that does not follow the tradition.
My father left to Japan when I was seven years old. He made his promise to me, got on a fisherman's boat and sailed away. My mother and I moved to Tecate where she got a job in the laundry room of a shady motel. I was crushed by this transition. My nerves got shakier, our poverty intensified, we stopped eating fish and we stopped practicing our Totonaca culture and ways.
From the age of eight until I was eighteen, I purposely sheltered myself at school. Neither one of my parents went to college but I remember understanding that my contract as a child in this family involved me going to college when I graduated from high school. So, throughout the emotional storm of my parent's lives, I tethered myself to my teachers and my counselors. They would never know what happened in my home. To my teachers and my counselors, I was no longer the daughter of a Japanese liar and a Totonaca doormat; I was an impeccable student with a rehearsed vocabulary and an elocution that was practically British thanks to Jane Austen, Emily Bronte, Mary Shelley and Sherlock Holmes.
I did everything that was asked of me in the sanctuary of school and I volunteered to stay as long as possible in every afterschool and advanced placement program. It was my job as a young girl to avoid going back to that rented house on lousy street in Tecate. The reward for my act as a Mexican-Elizabethan super-student was a collection of admissions to universities worldwide: Cambridge and Oxford in the UK and all the big and small ivies in the United States.
I sent my father in Japan a telegram to collect on his promise. I don't know why I believed my father when he promised to pay for my first year in college. He held it over my head like an umbrella whenever he disappointed the family with his rain. The day that I told him that I had chosen Oxford was the day that he told me that he hadn't saved a penny.
I remember looking outside the kitchen window on lousy street in Tecate and remembering that my grandmother had a mango tree in her yard in Veracruz. When I was very young, I would take a mango, take off all my clothes, start the shower and eat my mango in the safety of the stone brick shower. The mango juice would run down my face and my arms. I would giggle until I was done. My mother told me once that she could hear me giggling from the next room. She was happiest when I was happy.
I wanted to reach out the window, all the way from Tecate to Veracruz, to dull my father's betrayal with a sweet mango.
I was eating half of an avocado with orzo and ikura on a summer morning. I was reflecting on a project that I had just completed at the university about how raising children affects the professional lives of women. I was impacted by the role of food in the bond between the mother and the child. Initially because of mother's milk but more importantly because of the sazón of the mother. I remembered the simplicity of my mother's tomato dobladas in her hot yellow kitchen in Veracruz.
My university project allowed me to work closely with talented chefs from all over the world. They tell me their story and I taste their delicious food. I have found that all of the women have considered this same transition. Regardless of whether they chose to have a child, they understand the dilemma and I learn from their experience. Even though love ends up being an intangible mystery, it is evident when you feel it. Specifically, it is evident when you taste it through your mother's cooking. But if you consider that tasting the most delicious dish at a fine restaurant doesn't illicit the same feelings of love that your mother's dishes do, the difference must be in the frequency. You don't feel love at first bite. You feel love with the repetition of time. And you aspire to feel love under the best of conditions but you appreciate it more under the worst of conditions.
All of this is especially important to me as I am considering my future because I need to decide whether I want to have a child. My name is Pita. I am thirty years old and happily married to a Mexican man named Ciro. I am employed but I do not have tenure and I don't understand how to balance my hopes and fears.
Ciro, my husband was raised differently. He left his country of origin at age three because of ill health caused by the contamination of Mexico City in the seventies. Or so he was told. My suegra tells me that her children were under constant infections and viruses that limited the pleasure of their lives to such a degree that they left their country and never came back. This wasn't the full truth but their immigration story ended up being positive for my husband's family. It did however cause an emotional chasm that persists until today in his forties. This heartbreaking chasm ends up being nourished mostly via food but there is no amount of masa that can heal this wound. I don't know what is worse, hurting because you are ill in your native country or healing your illness in another country. For my husband, his departure from México created a hurting that has endured in the background of his identity that seemingly will never heal. Later I will tell you more about his real story.
It didn't seem tragic if you just looked at Ciro's life story in La Jolla, California. Or, if you spent time with him and his consistent quiet happiness but when I ask him questions at night, I can tell that he wishes he didn't spend so much time in the United States. He says it was very hurtful to be a fortunate Mexican in a society filled with unfortunate Mexicans. As quickly as he could at the age of seventeen, he left the US and began his life in Baja California, Mexico.
He knew early-on that he wanted to be a helicopter pilot. His careerpath was simple: Learn to fly a helicopter, buy a helicopter, work as a helicopter pilot. He never had a moment from the age of seventeen until the present when he vacillated from that path. He was fortunate (again) in that once he was educated and licensed, Baja California went through an unfortunate (again) crisis after the assassination of Luis Donaldo Colosio in Tijuana. Life got so ugly in Baja during this time that all the rich people began using helicopters as a preferred vehicle to the United States. Ciro was one of the very few Mexicans with the permission to do cross border transportation so he ended up owning his helicopter early and making a healthy living.
I spent four years in England at Oxford. A number of benefactors came to my assistance for the "privilege" of having a Japanese Totonaca student. I graduated with honors but I can't verbalize the guilt that I felt. Psychologists call this the Imposter Syndrome. I felt like I would be discovered as a fraud. I felt this way during my bachelors, during my masters, during my doctorate and occasionally, I still feel this way. I lack the sufficient confidence to believe that I deserve to be successful. When I was at seven years old, my mother described me perfectly: Ojos de Venado Huyendo. Eyes like a frightened deer as she flees. A friend recently asked me why I always look like I have a secret when I am photographed. She asked me if I am hiding something. I tell her yes: Fear. Fear of interaction. Fear of intimacy. Fear of poverty. Fear of everything.
Ciro has a close friend who is a Tarasca from Patzcuaro, Michoacán. They call her Cachito de Tigre. Little piece of Tiger. In my mind, that is the type of woman who has a child. If I were like a tiger instead of being like a frightened deer in flight, I might feel differently about the idea of having a child. I am prey. Prey can only beget prey.
Still, when I was twenty-seven, fortune hit me too. I needed a job to pay for my travel back to Mexico. I knew that if I stayed at Oxford, life would accommodate me as the anomaly in a sea of Europeans but I wanted to live my life in Mexico. I knew I wanted to teach Women's Studies at a local university in Baja California. But, I didn't want to come home without money.
I was in a coffee shop and I overheard a conversation between two women about a movement called Give Your Money to Women. Essentially, it was a philosophy for sex workers to extract the male infrastructure from money exchange. Meaning, women, for the duration of history, have always needed a surrogate male to collect money. Even, when they were being paid as sex workers by men. In general terms however, typically, money exchange for women was done via institutional employment or marriage. It was rare, even present-day, for women to make money without being forced to use a male gatekeeper.
I was completely in that orbit. There was an office at Oxford where I collected my checks. It was managed by a man who managed relationships with other men to raise the funds for my education. I lived in fear for my entire residency at Oxford. Fear of what that man might do for or against my future. I felt that he held my entire life, for good or bad, in his hands. I wanted to be grateful to him but really I was just scared of him.
So, inspired by these two women in the coffee shop and inspired by the residual fear of the poverty of my childhood and the fear I held at Oxford, I wrote a paper for the Mexican market on Give Your Money to Women. I presented this paper in Mexico City at a think tank and I was paid ... by men ... to surrender the paper.
I knew then and I know now that it goes against the philosophy of what I wrote to simply surrender the paper. For money, no less. My alternative was to work as a sex worker and push the philosophy on social media. I didn't want to do that. I surrendered my integrity for the money and even though I am not proud of that decision, I think I made the right decision. In one transaction, I eliminated 113 years of ancestral poverty, possibly more if I understood the history of my Totonaca elders.
On one sunny afternoon in the summer of my twenty-seventh moon, I walked from a think tank in Chapultepec to a bank nearby and I deposited a check with the equivalent of eight million American dollars. When I was at the bank, the head banker, a man, ordered me a helicopter for my trip back to Baja. It took off from Los Pinos. The pilot was, Ciro.
Ciro and I talked along the ride back and connected on all levels. Flying above the mountain range in La Barranca del Cobre, Chihuahua, we saw an emerald pool from the sky. I could also see animals. I found out later that those animals were rare fudge-colored jaguars. We ended up spending several days together in the territory of the Raramuri and I fell in love. The thunderbolt hit me at the emerald pool. There was an avocado tree on the bank of the pool. Ciro picked one for me and I ate it while we were swimming in the pool. The feeling I felt was identical to being in the stone shower in Veracruz with a mango. I was happy again. We married two years later in a private ceremony and bought a house together in Valle de Guadalupe.
When I married Ciro, I had a doctorate but I couldn't boil water. I remember that I asked him how I might learn to cook and he told me that I should start with a few of my mother's recipes. A few years into our marriage, I perfected my technique to make tortillas and I began to grow heirloom tomatoes on our patio. It impressed me that I had a different level of education and a different demeanor than my mother but our nourishment was the same. It was communication anchored through the nourishment of a cultural tradition passed through a mother's love. This communication actualizes itself on a plate and is fed to your loved one. I call it Quantum Entanglement via Nutrition from Mother to Child.
I pitched this project at the local university for the Women's Study program in collaboration with the Culinary Art School in Tijuana and twenty-five of the leading chefs in the region. I was offered an Associate Professor position at the campus in Ensenada and upon completion of this project, I would be considered for tenure. I decided at that moment that tenure would be the carrot that allowed me to know if I was to have a child in the future. If I got tenure, I would have a child. If I didn't get tenure, I wouldn't have a child. I was sitting in a Chinese restaurant and I began to cry into my dumplings and scissor-cut noodles.
Ciro's father was a descendant of a Mexican family that allowed the Guggenheims of New York to pillage the wealth of México. From 1897 to 1911, Ciro's grandfather negotiated smelting plants in San Luis Potosí and helped engineer a transatlantic tunnel that transported close to 77% of México's mining riches back to the east coast. Through this partnership with the Guggenheims, Ciro's family fortune reached all the way to the billions in pesos. His share as the only grandchild was substancial.
Ciro believes that the Porfirio Díaz dictatorship in México from 1876-1911 marked the country forever. He places the population of México at around ten million at the time and most people joke uncomfortably that there were only ten ultra rich families. His family being one of them. Close to 80% of the people were illiterate at the time and those ten families took advantage of that reality. Historians believe that these ten families negotiated with American, British and French investors to sell approximately one-fifth of México's land surface and 77% of México's natural resources. While this was happening, Ciro's grandfather used the Baldío laws to land-grab what was designated for the indigenous peoples. Then, he leased them at an enormous profit to the Guggenheims for their railroads and mining exploitation. Ciro's grandfather and the Guggenheim family destroyed sacred sites without a care in the world.
Ciro was three years old when his parents moved the family from Las Lomas de Chapultepec to Taco Towers in Coronado. They sold all of the remaining Mexican real estate holdings and purchased a floor in the skyscraper. Ciro's father didnt tell him about the family fortune until later but even at the age of three, he was aware of his privilege. His mother was so close to the fragrance counter girls at Saks Fifth Avenue that they doubled as his babysitters. All the women in his life smelled of dewdrops on a gardena. As a young boy, he loved it. When he got older, the guilt began to get more intense within himself.
On his sixteenth birthday, Ciro traveled back to México alone. His parents thought that he was going to Rosarito for the weekend with his gringo friends but in reality, he went to Guanajuato. The city hit him like a thunderbolt. He roamed the streets and the sierra and he talked to the locals about the mining history in the area. He asked about the historical wealth transfer and learned the pedagogy of the oppressed. He spent time with the Huicholes and was educated about their cosmovisión. He expanded his worldview and began to make decisions for himself in his own mind. These decisions wouldnt be complicated because he had the foundation and the economic resources to prosper in life regardless but he wanted to give back in some way to the less fortunate in México and to grandmother Nature. To all the entities that his grandfather neutralized or exterminated.
There were movements in Chiapas, Oaxaca and Real Catorce that Ciro quietly began financing at the age of sixteen. The money was anonymous but rumors quickly circulated that the money was coming from a fresita on the other side. Quasi legitimate money laundering through the major American and European banks had become second nature for the elite on both sides but the moneyflow was from México to the US. Nobody noticed the lone stream going from San Diego to San Cristobal de las Casas. The outgoing accounts were managed on a reservation within the Oceti Sakowin, near Cuchumá, around the area of Dulzura, so they fell outside of the federal system. Ciro's controller was aptly named, Búho de la Montaña de Plata, Owl from Silver Mountain.
Ciro's parents knew that he was being subversive but they concluded that he'd be sent to Harvard at seventeen to be trained like all the other fresitas before him. They decided that his un-natural subversion would be converted into the natural obsession of the standard young rich power hungry man. They thought his grandfather's genetics would kick-in when he began to understand the true power of the rich. They did not expect that the Oceti Sakowin on both sides of the border would hook him the way they did. A few days after graduating from his private high school in La Jolla, Ciro said a casual goodbye to his parents and crossed back into Tijuana to live. He began to work at the airport and spent his tiny earnings slowly learning how to fly a helicopter. In five years, he was certificated to do cross border transportation and after developing a business plan to pay for a leased helicopter, he went into business for himself. He called his helicopter, Regeneración.
A month after Ciro leased his helicopter, Luis Donaldo Colosio was assasinated in Tijuana. Being that Ciro was one of the very few pilots to speak English and to be able to fly into American airspace, Ciro's business popped. Every moneyed government agent on the Mexican side with American financial support needed to be airlifted to safety. Ciro charged $10,000 to fly from Tijuana to San Diego. He was allowed four roundtrip passes per day. This went on for three years. Seven days per week, four times per day, for three years: $43M. This wasnt anywhere near his grandfather's money but it was enough for him to check-out. He knew he couldnt retire at age 20 but he definitely had more money to funnel back to the Oceti Sakowin and he did so.
At the age of 20, Ciro and his parents laid down their ideological differences. They agreed that they were at the same level and began to treat each other as equals. When this happened, Ciro flew his helicopter to Chiapas and lived for many years in Agua Azul. It was during this time that he learned more and more about Mexican history from the vantage point of the Oceti Sakowin. He had begun to study the work of Milagro Sala in Argentina and he wanted to find a way to finance a contained city within a city without traditional western land management. Ciro was inspired by Sala and the people of the Túpac Amaru movement who had been able to build a cooperative city based on equality and autonomy.
Ciro went to the Jujuy region when he was in his thirties to be educated by Sala and the movement, the Kolla and their ancient Inca ancestors. He built houses with them and traveled extensively around the pampas and the Bolivian mountains with local workers but it was in Jujuy that Ciro developed an obsession that he carries with him today. Milagro Sala decided early on in the movement that it would be important for the poor in the region to have access to swimming pools. It would be their primary luxury to allow them to feel rich. So, swimming pools abound and while Ciro was there, he learned something he calls Gourmet Soaking. Ciro soaks they way most men drink or smoke. I find it very endearing.
Ciro doesn't talk much about his past, his family or his travels during the day. He seems to avoid speaking at all while there is daylight. He says that men who speak are not as wise as the men who do not speak. But, if I catch him while he is listening to music in a gourmet soak, he will tell me all of his ideas and his memories. He has been able to travel much of Latin America in his helicopter so I enjoy hearing those stories. I tell him my stories as well. Mine are much sadder than his but our beautiful present together makes up for a lot of my sad past. We are very different but I am very attracted to his mysterious silence. He says the same of me. We are very quiet. When we are together, mostly what you hear is the sound of Maori chants on our turntable or the sound of water flowing all around us.
When I surrendered the Give Your Money to Women paper in Mexico City to the lawyers at the think tank, I could see Ciro's grandfather's face in their faces. They were the same animal. I was disgusted by them but perhaps I was even more disgusted by my willingness to sell my value. I kept telling myself that it would have been worse if the figure were lower but really, it was very difficult to know the right figure for my self-worth. I knew that I wasn't as strong as Ciro about money. I couldn't give the money away to cleanse myself of the guilt. I knew I would keep it but I also knew that I lost a lot of respect for myself. Just before I got onto the helicopter, I dedicated that day to the realization that I was no different than the rich people I always said I hated. And so, I hated myself. To make matters more complicated in my head, it was the day that I met Ciro. Amateur psychologists would say that he caught me at my most vulnerable moment. I didn't tell Ciro why I was at Los Pinos nor why I was flying in his helicopter. He didn't ask. Later, when we saw the fudge colored jaguars together, I decided that it all had to mean something that I just couldn't understand.
Quantum Entanglement via Nutrition from Mother to Child. I thought of the basic premise of it when I was on the helicopter flying over the mountains of México. I was thawing from the stupor of what I had just done. I was getting warmer by looking at Ciro's Asiatic features and his brown skin. At the time, his crow black hair was long and shiny. This would be my attempt to write a new paper that I would never surrender. I wanted it to be important because I knew that I was no longer important. I was weak and I wanted it to make up for my weakness. I wanted it to be deep because I felt shallow but quickly, I discovered an irony known only to the rich. I no longer needed to be deep because I was rich. Whatever I produced could be supported by my own money and thus recognized. I might even be glorified regardless of the quality or integrity of my work. Would you believe me if I told you that Ciro's grandfather received the nation's highest cultural prize in 1932 ... for destroying sacred universal sites that had existed for eons and for excavating the earth of its natural minerals? He did. If Ciro and I had a baby, that baby's future would be secured by all the atrocities committed by Ciro's grandfather. Regardless of whether Ciro relinquished his portion of the money, my child would be allowed to make their own decisions with their grandparents fortune. And I would birth this child into this world and then feed it from my own breast. It filled me with fear more than it filled me with joy.
Despite all my weaknesses and insecurities, there came a moment in my marriage when I had to admit to myself that the both of us were healthy and happy. Financially and professionally, Ciro and I were strong. He continued earning through his helicopter business and I was preparing my university project to land tenure. It was my decision to interconnect my tenure to my decision to have a child but Ciro was content in every imaginable way. We went to one of our local spots in Valle de Guadalupe to eat half shells of avocado filled with baby eels and to enjoy a carafe of posh.
We spent the day talking about my QE project to better prepare myself for a meeting I was scheduled to have with my department supervisor. She would be the broker of my tenure to the dean of Women's Studies. It was a swift process orchestrated by this woman who we called La Fina because she was so attractive. The other teachers and I didn't bother to uncover her backstory but we were positive that she was from the Capitol by her accent. It was strange that she would find herself as a midlevel manager in a Women's Studies division in Ensenada when she could have been successful anywhere. She was the only one amongst all of us, professors and the dean, without a doctorate and I sensed that she resented that her MBA wasn't truly respected. She seemed to have a lot of resentments but none of us could quite understand why and in the anti-sisterhood of the division, nobody bothered to ask. I, for example, was simply to shy to engage La Fina.
We met for the first time on a Monday morning. She laid out for me the grading process for my tenure and I turned over my dissertation on QE. We talked at-length about my research and then she asked me a question that I didn't want to answer. I wanted my past to be secret, or better said, private, from my colleagues. I didn't want them to know about my transaction over Give Your Money to Women, my bank accounts, Ciro's bank accounts or Ciro's ancestors. I was most comfortable when I was quiet. For some reason, when she asked me about my inspiration for the dissertation, I told her about my dilemma about whether I wanted a baby or not. Then, she began to break down in my presence.
For the next several hours, La Fina told me about all the problems that she had endured attempting to conceive with her husband in Mexico City. For a woman who seemed fortunate beyond all measure, she seemed genuinely broken by her inability to bear a child. This bad luck had also claimed her marriage as collateral damage and she escaped as far away as possible. She was alone and I wasn't the right one to comfort her. I listened, felt for her, but didn't offer any suggestions. As I got up to leave, I regretted telling her about my dilemma. I feared that I had said more than I should have. I walked back to my bocho and drove home slowly. I consoled myself by listening to great music.