Above, some kind of water-snake, dead in a swimming pool in a backyard in Cuernavaca. It's the first thing I saw on Christmas morning.
Had a nice Noche Buena at a friend's down there. Cuernavaca, despite its reputation for being overrun by chilangos and gringos, and all their accompanying bad habits, really is the "City of Eternal Spring." The streets are quiet and lush, the homes are just beautiful. I don't know anyone, here or in Mexico City, who is afraid to "leave their homes at night." But then, fear-based class blinders are a powerful thing.
For a more comprehensive and aptly critical portrait of what life is like in Cuernavaca in the age of the drug war, check out the cutting mockumentary "Spring Breakers Sin Miedo," by the provocative video artist Gregory Berger. Watch the whole thing, it's good.
Berger is a longtime Cuernavaca resident who satirizes the spike in narco crime and government abuse in his city by portraying stereotypical spring breakers whooping it up in Cuerna' without a care because their wealthy American fathers financially benefit from an ongoing conflict in Mexico. Berger told me in an interview in September, just before "El Infierno" came out: "I may be wrong, but I believe it's the first comedy about the drug war."
"Each one is a child of someone in a sector who benefits from the drug war," Berger said. "One is a daughter of a gun-shop owner in Texas. Another is the son of the owner of Bell Helicopters."
Berger plays with humor but is spurred by a citizen's moral mettle. He said something in our conversation that's stuck with me, because I and many others I know who are not native Mexicans can relate.
"The more and more it becomes clearer to me that my destiny is to live here, the more I feel incumbent upon myself to work towards the transformation of Mexico. And since my son was born [here], who is a Mexican citizen, it's not a choice. It's something that I have to do for him. So I kind of live this double life, visually. Being this clumsy blue-eyed gringo, I'm always going to appear outwardly as a foreigner, but the fact is I feel more like a virtual citizen of Mexico than I do of the United States at this point."
Cuernavaca emerges in the foothills just south of the mountains that mark the bottom ring of the Valley of Mexico. It's always mild and bright.
You travel up and up and up when returning to D.F., waiting for most of the ride for the descent to the valley floor. The climb through the mountains is much, much longer than the descent, reminding me once more how uniquely spectacular the geography of Mexico City is, like a tall mound of mashed potatoes with a soup bowl plopped right into it.
Right away, at the bus terminal, I had to put on a sweater. And I let out a few coughs.