Thursday, September 19, 2013
i just make stuff up
What do Ignacio Allende, chicken pot pie, and Sam Shepard have in common?
They were the center of my Wednesday in San Miguel de Allende.
Actually, they have a lot in common. They all benefit from never letting facts get in the way of a good story.
Let's start with Sam Shepherd. A local theater group presented a staged reading of The Late Great Henry Moss.
It is well-designed for community theaters. Minimal sets. Small company -- only six actors. But ideas challenging enough that amateur actors are often left adrift.
Staged readings also suffer one great handicap. The actors are made-up and costumed, ready to handle their props. Except for one limitation. They have to carry a script.
As a result, an actor's most important instrument, his body, is prevented from being fully part of the play. It is as if the play was being presented by stroke victims.
But that is not necessarily bad. The audience is forced to actually listen to the script, and hear what the playwright has to say.
In this case, it is the tale of two brothers who come together at the death of their father to work out their memories. That process is complicated because all six characters have completely different versions of how their lives have intersected.
And they are willing to live in that subjective heaven until it becomes obvious that subjectivity is a logical dead-end. Objectivity has to intrude to make any sense of their lives. A speed bump the transgender movement is going to have to face. I can only believe I am Sophia Loren for so long.
Subjectivity was also one of the topics that came up today during my lunch with Todd (Life in El Corazon) and Shannon (Rat Race Refugee). Whenever bloggers get together, we talk about how we are often surprised at how some of our readers see us as individuals.
Shannon recently wrote a series of posts on her life as a young woman. And several other bloggers have done the same thing. Even though I have never written posts quite that biographical, I have peppered my blog with personal observations.
That is why I am sometimes confused when I meet a reader who has reached a conclusion about me that I could not objectively ratify. I know you are asking: "What are they?" I will let you come up with your own list.
I actually felt a bit sad when our lunch was over. Not because of the lunch (though, I did have a great chicken pot pie that I am certain would have fallen short of the high standards of Don Cuevas). But because I was sorry our time together was so short. The nice thing about the two of them is that we will pick up with our conversation a year from now as if it were yesterday.
The biggest dose of subjectivity came during my morning walking tour of San Miguel de Allende -- an institution in town. In my four years of coming here, I have never taken the tour. Maybe because I am seldom down the hill by the time the tours start -- and I have seen most of the places on my own.
But there is always something new to be learned on these tours. So, off I went with less than a dozen other tourists.
We saw most of the churches and government buildings, and ended up at the newly-opened Escula de Belles Artes -- A place we have visited together (some thoughts while sitting in a courtyard). The only place i had not visited with the bilingual library.
What I was interested in, though, were the stories. And our guide was very well-schooled in telling tales. But several of them raised some very interesting questions.
Starting with the role that local boy Ignacio Allende played in the Mexican War of Independence. From our guide's perspective, Miguel Hidalgo (the man recognized as the Father of Mexican Independence elsewhere in Mexico) merely played a secondary role. Robin to Allende's Batman.
Now that is understandable. After all, the town did not get its last name by promoting Miguel Hidalgo. All local folklore takes on a chauvinistic patina. Just ask the people of Boston. The Declaration of Independence would never have happened without John Adams. Thomas Jefferson was just a hack.
The guide put a similar spin on the effort that Allende took to protect the Spanish-born residents of San Miguel de Allende from Hidalgo's mob. The story is that Allende hid all of them in his former high school -- and not a single one died a a result of the insurrection. He was a veritable Oskar Schindler.
The problem is that some historians point out that Allende was not quite that successful. He saved most of the Spaniards. But there was blood.
The myth serves a good purpose, though. It allowed Allende's supporters to distance him from the slaughter of the Spanish women and children in Guanajuato -- all at the hands of Hidalgo's angry mob. Allende emerges as a humanitarian counterpoint.
Then there was a third story that did not quite ring true. There is a statue of Saint Patrick in the parish church of San Miguel de Allende -- complete with a snake being driven out of the Emerald Isle. A lot of people comment on it.
Our guide's tale touched on a piece of history often discussed in these pages. During the Mexican-American War, some Irish-born troops defected from the American Army to join the Mexican Army. Setting up the famous San Patricio Battalion.
Our guide first told us a incontrovertible fact about the existence of the battalion. But he then jumped to the conclusion that the statue was in the church to honor the Irish who had fought on the part of Mexico. That is a bit like saying that all surnames ending in a vowel are Italian.
I know from my own research that there is absolutely no extant documentation to substantiate that my neighboring village San Patricio attained its name from the San Patricio Battalion. And I suspect the same is true for the saintly statue.
In the end, does it matter? Does it matter that the sons of a deceased father have different versions of their lives? That readers draw incorrect conclusions about blog authors? That Allende was not quite the super hero the locals believe, and that Saint Patrick may be in the parish church for the same reason that a bushel of Italian saints are there?
We all live with myths. It is one of our coping mechanisms for making sense of the world. And if it makes for a good story, we will keep on polishing them.