I know I will sound dense, but I prefer to read that there are protests, and that there is finally a consciousness, implying some change. I have nothing against the calm of Christmas… but I don’t like the fallacy of peace for all when Christmas becomes all about profit, at our expense. Merchants should warn: “50% higher than last year”, “get a storewide increase of 60%”, or “buy one sweater but pay for three.”
I have always sensed emptiness in wishing others a Merry Christmas (in Spanish we say “with our teeth out”) For starters, I prefer the more politically correct “Happy Holidays”. It feels a lot more inclusive to think the concept accommodates everyone’s way of celebrating (regardless of faith, creed or the personal experience of joy). And it is clear to me that the majority is afflicted and motivated these days by how much there is to buy (and no one rush to conclude that the epidemic will spare anyone’s life).
Yesterday, as in other years since I moved to San Diego, I saw the malls transfigured from being the usual and manageable refuge of compulsive buyers to everyone’s “market” –a significant number of buyers spoke Spanish… should I have said Mexican Spanish?
Diversity notwithstanding, as I searched for a parking spot, I found myself really struggling over the inch curtailed to maneuver; that inch of space meant for me to still feel I was amid humans, civilized? –It seemed more like they were ready to kill or die for a bargain. These thoughts were inspired, mostly, by the lady who pushed through the very millimeter making me sweat to pay for the space I got to before, or the girl who stomped loudly, and stepped on my foot in order to beat me to the line at the coffee shop.
Ay, ay, ay… that was not a crowd but a mob running for a bargain and the stores, at their right moment, each lowering an extra point -80%? Of course! The shirt that used to be twenty was marked up to seventy or eighty per cent off a hundred, and all of us, mesmerized by the sales, had turned off our ability to see and reason using the mathematic logic supposedly learned for life.
I must have been experiencing a deep crisis, Freudian Style, since I stood in line for forty minutes to buy a Pumpkin Spice Latte and bought two bags of coffee for a five-dollar gift card. What a peculiar way to ease the guilt of having spent four dollars worth of see´s chocolates, plus the one sampled, to get hooked… And I almost fell as I charged to grab the last navy blue sweater at the forty-per-cent-off-storewide at J. Crew, and all in that sea of colors and pink whims, or bright green and mustard yellow spite seizing contestants.
Oh well… the only really pleasant part of the journey was the way home where –Freud at his best- I turned on the memories that flowed through the cigarette I smoked in the company of my daughter, visiting for “the holidays”.
At each puff I remembered some past times more stressful and devoid of this dolce far niente. And as in those old days, and from afar, I became sad over those two Mexicos that struggle - one in the streets, the other one at the malls - so irreconcilable.
Dear Santa – who precisely drew to him the largest number of customers to form a line that circled around him several times… Help us open our eyes and stop believing that our happiness depends on the price or the quality of the gift. And most of all teach us not to compete for what our neighbor and boss have, while trying to be like the model on the billboard – one hundred pounds less and at least thirty years younger.
Ah… and do not bring us those toys built in countries where the minimum wage is at 70 percent of the actual cost of life… where maquiladoras produce at one percent of the profit and where elites don’t sweat but live off what they steal from schools, roads, water treatment plants and law enforcement.
Most of all, Santa Claus, help me to not be fooled into thinking that reality is a lie and a bunch of stories calling us to the fantasy of a magnanimous character who brings presents one night, and distributes them equally and justly to all…
Oops… I finished my cigarette. © María Dolores Bolívar
Welcome to my blog. I currently freelance for local journals, the weekly Enlace and Vida Latina the publications in Spanish of The San Diego Union Tribune; and I contribute to the Online Journals Peregrinos y sus Letras and Opera Mundi. I am director and editor of Olas Civiles, a weekly, refereed electronic journal (currently in a recess).
Olas Civiles is home to 17 writers, painters, photographers, musicians and special guests. Participating with us are designers, illustrators and an advisory board of five members. and an Editorial Sub-Director. To publish a journal entails discipline, persistence and, above all, many hours of unpaid or poorly paid work. Journalism, nonetheless, is not just a trade or a profession, but an addiction.
I invite you to experience the weekly work and troubles of Olas Civiles. The logo used represents the origin of Olas Civiles, a print journal that started, kind of on the wrong foot, ten years ago. My newest project for you is Retablo/Vapalcalli -Mobile Museum-. Visit us!