August 16, 2012 (John Lindsay-Poland).-The women wrapped me in black string, beginning with my midriff, working down my legs, covering my hands and fingers, my knees and ankles, extending the black string back up, to my neck, round and round, covering my head, my ears, my lips, my nostrils, finally my eyes, until I could barely see.
“I ask you, if you love someone, to tell them you love them. To kiss them.”
While they did this, others read aloud the words and voices of mothers, brothers, sons, speaking to their loves, the disappeared person, the person inside this repetitive tangle of string, progressively made invisible.
Luis, son, all my life belongs to you, because when I found out that in my womb was the heartbeat of a being, I knew it would give happiness to my life.
Nearly twenty thousand Mexican and Central American people have been forcibly disappeared in Mexico during the government of outgoing president Felipe Calderon. No trace, no help from the authorities in finding them.
I thought about receiving you in my arms, giving you thanks for choosing me as your mother, and bringing me the responsibility to look out for your every instant, to teach you the idea of day, of night.
As a child, I always feared being ignored, invisible, the non-existence of relationship with other people, with the world. As I listened to family members speak, their anguish, I felt myself disappear, the loss of mobility in my legs, in my hands.
I tell you I wasn’t tired, caring for you, teaching you to walk, opening your wings to fly, and when we started to realize that you were growing, that made me happy.
During the U.S. war in Iraq, my partner James Groleau, an artist, felt an absence, and created images to reflect it, images of himself wound in torn fabric, each named for a city in Iraq that had experienced a suicide bombing. Irbil. Kirkuk. Najaf.
But that happiness was destroyed. The bad hand of the man that tore you from me, without being able to defend you, and left me in an abyss of pain.
When they covered my mouth, I thought of the Colombian workmen, disabled by their labor of making cars for General Motors, who have undertaken a hunger strike at the doors to the United States Embassy in Bogota, and recently have sewn shut their mouths.
We cannot remain silent, I hear the families say. I must be able to tell my children I did something for my country, Mexicans tell me.
The two women wrapping me were calm in their task, winding, covering, obscuring the flesh, the person. I let them do it. I thought of Molly Molloy’s interview with a professional killer from Juarez, who spoke of a moment, as he worked on his kidnapped victims, when they became docile, when they submitted. Perhaps they hoped submission would spare them an awful end. Or maybe they realized they were physically helpless. In that moment, I identified with the docility.
Sometimes they wrap the victim’s face and head with duct tape. Sometimes they wrap their bodies in a carpet.
I’ve been down on the bottom of a world full of lies. I ain’t looking for nothin’ in anyone’s eyes, poet Javier Sicilia quotes Bob Dylan.
Our souls live in our eyes. As time passes, the hope of finding her daughter alive is more a wish that hope could be real, a longing to mourn over her body in its final place. The black string covered my face, approaching my eyes.
Luis Ángel, there are moments when I prefer to remain asleep, to anesthetize my pain because without you nothing is the same.
It’s not dark yet. Javier Sicilia says, “This reality foretells that night is about to fall, obscure, terrible, and deeper than the shadows that forebode it. But we say, not yet, not yet. The chance of this night not arriving and staying forever depends on you, citizens of the United States, and on us, citizens of Mexico, and on all Latin America.”
I am looking for something in your eyes.
It’s not dark yet. But it’s getting there.
John Lindsay-Poland is traveling with the Caravan for Peace with Justice and Dignity, which left San Diego August 12 and will arrive in Washington, DC on September 10.
Image, top: (c) James Groleau, mezzotint, from “The Absence of Passion: Portraits of Iraq”, used with permission.
Collage photo essay, bottom: (c) db/ Gran Angular, from the Caravana por la Paz photostream, used with permission.