Sixty years already!

When I arrive to Mexico for the first time, exactly sixty years ago, the president was called Adolfo López Mateos. Mexico, with all the great changes it has experienced, is still Mexico, for me, and for the better. For all that this country has given me, or rather its people, I want to celebrate my anniversary without getting into current affairs, which would spoil everything.

In that distant 1962, the Mexican mail was excellent, the French too, so that throughout the two months that allowed me to travel the country, I sent many letters to my parents and received their answers by return mail at the famous window of “Remaining Post”, in Mexico, Guadalajara, Mérida, Oaxaca and Saltillo. Since my father kept my letters, I can transcribe the first for you: “The next day, early at dawn, we crossed the Rio Grande at Laredo and in two days we arrived very far from the border, after crossing the Tropic of Cancer with emotion. Since Nuevo Laredo, We walk the highlands. Extraordinary show, horses and cows in complete freedom, “Beware of the cattle” they tell us every so often the posts along the road and the animals make it dangerous to walk at night, in the cool. Giant cacti of all kinds, landscapes from John Ford movies, mountains that the distance turns blue make me review last year’s physical geography classes. The wind raises columns of dust that suddenly cross the road and push dry balls of I don’t know which plant unknown to us.

we spent the night in matehuala, one step away from the tropics. As soon as we stopped in a square, when a group of boys our age approached us and gently questioned us. My Assimil Method lessons barely allowed for a stammering dialogue. They don’t speak English, I speak three words of Spanish and my friend Michel doesn’t speak anything. No matter, they take us to a very cheap guest house, they make us discover the national food, with soft or hard corn cookies, called “tortillas” (not to be confused with the Spanish ones that are our “omelette”.). The chili burns my mouth and the bottle of tequila that they bought and that circulates accentuates the burning. To our astonishment, they do not want Fidel Castro at all. Michel, who is active in the Union of Communist Students in Paris, does not understand how it is possible that young proletarians from the Third World, threatened by Yankee imperialism, express themselves so badly about the, for him, glorious Cuban revolution. They say that the Mexican revolution was much more important, courageous and revolutionary.

As for me, between the country and the people, I couldn’t feel happier.” Love at first sight? Love? You are right. It was my first contact. We were well-intentioned twenty-year-old students who had been about to fly from Prague to Havana to experience the “Cuban party” so fashionable in Paris. my partner went to Cuba Next year. I do not. He wanted to return to Mexico as soon as possible. I had to finish my history studies and take advantage of the need to do a doctoral thesis to abandon the history of the United States (my master’s thesis) and discover La Cristiada, thanks to Fr. López Moctezuma SJ, a doctoral fellow in Paris.

Who, a few years later, suffered the same crush, was Jean-Marie Le Clezio and we became friends right away, in Mexico City, in Coyoacán. We had to live through the Mexican 68 without knowing that Mexico would invite me to stay for life, that Mexico would have such importance in his life and in his work, that it would contribute to the attribution of the Nobel Prize for Literature to Le Clezio. It is fair to say that we had as godparents Luis González, the great historian, and Armida de la Vara, his wife, his admirable writer. Thank you, Armida, thank you, Luis, you who stated, ten years earlier, that Le Clezio would win the Nobel Prize. Thanks, Mexico.

Historian at CIDE

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Sixty years already!