Every time I begin to express something through writing, I need to check the meaning of the words which determine the center of the thought I want to share. When the words create many different emotions, this becomes even more complex.
If I try to scratch into the epistemology of them, the institutional consensus of what the words mean, at the same time I must look back inside my memories and try to understand what this creates in myself, and what kind of associations my mind develops.
So, let’s play.
We will start with the words travel, trip, and journey. I understand that the word travel corresponds to a movement from one geographic point to another and journey corresponds to traveling a long distance, while trip is essentially a short-term journey. On the other hand, a journey can also be linked with a path or route, so the act of travel and the act of the journey may be more different than we imagine.
From the moment you decide to journey it is no longer simply travel. It is not simply moving, but choosing a path, and not necessarily in the geographical sense. It is not just about choosing the more efficient route from one point to another. When begin a journey, you can’t worry about that kind of decision, because the path or route you take on a journey requires surrendering control over every single situation and to become a part of it.
We can also think about other words such as explore, navigate, learn, acquire or discover. Each one of these words has a universe of interpretations and is an intimate part of the journey.
Journey has its etymological origins in Old French’s journée, which means “day,” as it does in Middle English. In Italian, the corresponding word would be giorno. Journal is more familiar, a daily publication, while a journalist is a person who collects, writes, edits, and presents new information. In Spanish, the equivalent word is jornada, aka the time that a person works in a day.
Journalists on the journey. As one repeats and thinks about words, they start to have their own life. Foreign words or languages are no longer a tool to mark a difference between countries or cultures, they slowly become an external being that connects people from all around the world in ways we can barely imagine.
So now we can associate the meanings of travel, way, path, day, information, work, and movement into one single word, in different languages. We can also express how similar or different our perception of these actions can be. We can try to appropriate from some words, even if they don’t belong to our native language, but this is just the beginning and the most external layer of the complexity that lays into the communication process. There are multiple ways to share how we perceive, understand, and live our reality.
Recently, a journalist friend wrote an article that talks about the many languages missing from the internet. From over 7,000 languages in the world, only 7% is reflected in published online material. Independent from the political connotations, it is impressive to realize we are ignoring all these ways to perceive the world.
We already talked about the institutional consensus of what the word means, but what about the institutional consensus of words must be used? Somehow our perception of the world has been reduced to a tiny part of what it is, and I don’t just refer to the sensitive world, the one that we can see, hear or taste, but to the unquantifiable possibilities through language.
In Mexico, there are over 68 different languages, with 350 varieties, all those considered by law as National Languages together with Spanish. So, to express how communication works in Mexico as a Mexican, we have to get into a very complex multidimensional world.
In daily life, we use a mix of short native concepts with Spanish. The difference between the antique imagery and the language we had to use to access the civilized world creates the necessity to express our selves in many different formats. The main native language is Nahuatl, so if you put attention you will find that in our Spanish are Nahuatl words or references to its concepts.
The distinctive name of the country: Mexico, comes from the name of the capital city before Spanish colonization, Mēxihco Tenōchtitlan. There are different opinions about the original meaning, the most accepted is “The navel of the moon” mētztli=moon, xictli=center or navel. Other researchers have said that comes from the nickname of the Aztec’s main god Huitzilopochtli, which was Mexi. But a Nahuatl speaker would say that Me is from metl, a plant now named maguey or agave, that, because of its morphology, is considered a bridge through all possibilities: The center of the maguey.
Yucatec Maya, Zapotec, Mixtec, Mayo and Huasteco are just a few examples of the variety of spoken languages inside Mexican territory.
Spanish in Mexico is used by most of the population as a broken language, because of the many idioms. For Mexicans like myself, who don’t have an indigenous native language, this can also create a broken identity.
How can we communicate in this context?
Maybe this situation makes more difficult the task of creating a consensus of how we interact and what cultural imagery we want to share with other countries. The international perception of what is Mexico and what represents us commonly have a lot of cliches such as nachos, tequila, mariachis, sombrero and “Viva Mexico cabrones”, and so on, when, in fact, we are constantly looking for the crumbs of our real identity and exploring new and different ways to understand it. The result is that Mexico has become the perfect place for creation.
For years, I’ve thought that Mexico is a land of artists. You can see it, breathe it and feel it everywhere. All around the country you can find artisans, performers, visual artists, musicians, even if they don’t consider themselves such. And the history of art in Mexico is one of the most exciting and wide. One of the many explanations for this might be the void in our Spanish language and in our mixed identity. When there’s the need to voice inherited concepts that don’t match with the current reality, creativity is needed.
So, this is when we talk about the next level of communication: art.
The Toltecayotl is the philosophy of heritage through Anáhuac (Mexico). According to the first Nahuatl dictionary, it means the art of living in balance. A Toltec is an artist among artists. And, the concept of art comes together with the concept of science. I think, as Mexicans, art is not just about painting or creating beautiful objects. After many generations, we have adopted artistic manifestations as our main language, and as the most common way to voice to the world and to express our feeling and perception.
Having realized this conception of art as a language to understand ourselves and to communicate with others, it becomes necessary to live the world instead of simply read about and watch it. So we personally decided to leave our established life and go together, as a family, to discover what was beyond our instant reality.
In our childhood, we are all artists. The first condition to be an artist is innocence, every time our senses discover something new our inner innocence appears, it refreshes our minds and, by creating challenges, it gives us the knowledge and the security to continue learning and to face them. The journey becomes the perfect canvas; each mile is a new context; and every person, a new opportunity for us to be better, to become true artists. Each one creates in their own particular way. “The game of creation” is the challenges where we must use our creativity and put it into action.
During the journey, life has allowed us to interact and meet a lot of wonderful artists whose lives and work happens silently in their daily life, with any kind of aim.
“John of the Mountains” is the first person that comes to my mind. He is a young boy with a beautiful smile on his face, a flawless appearance, a beige jacket, and a huge backpack.
In our lasts two weeks in Canada, we were hurried to share quality time with our friends before we had to leave. One of those days, driving in the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia, from Keremeos to Summerland, we saw a guy walking on the road; a few blocks further we stopped and my sister got out of the car to ask for directions. When she came back she said, “This guy is looking for a ride.”
We were in an old Sedona van, she opened the door and a huge backpack climbs into the car, followed by John. When he gets into the car, he just moves his face as a “thank you” gesture and we just smile him back. I asked him, “What’s your name?”
My sister said out loud from the front, “He is deaf, has a little notebook with him, there you can write.”
What a huge surprise for everyone! We thought ourselves very burly for having the courage to leave everything and starting this new life traveling, but this guy was definitely on another level. He presented himself as John, and when we asked him where he came from, he wrote, “mountains.” He needed a ride to find a place to camp. We continue our trip, and on the road, we looked for RV parks or places where he could stay. None of those places were good enough, so we decided to have dinner. We stopped in a gas station with a 7/11 and got a vegetarian pizza for everyone, but he wouldn’t take food from us.
It was getting late and it was very cold, so we thought it was not a good idea to leave him camping alone, we were sure that our friend in Keremeos would be okay with him staying, but that also meant that we had to return all the miles that we had already driven. After dinner, some guys we met showed up at the gas station, and since they were heading to a place near our friend’s house, we asked them to take him but their answer was, “Ok, but h’ll have to walk a few miles.” We wrote him this option and he said yes with a big smile, but we were not comfortable at all, so in the end, we decided to return with him. We stayed a couple of days with our friend, John with us the entire time.
In those two days, we had a great dinner and we tried to enjoy as much time as possible together since our paths were destined for different routes. My sister and her boyfriend went to Costa Rica, our friend Antonella to Mexico, Jim stayed in Canada, and my husband, my son, and I were going to Asia. John was looking for a job, so we helped him to search for some options on the Internet, he said that he couldn’t even get work as a dishwasher, so we tried to motivate him and kept looking for options. While we were there, he cleaned every corner of the house, sat with everyone, and smiled. Of course, we all wondered about his past, he was so young, although I never asked his age. But he didn’t know anything about us either, so it seemed fair.
On the farewell day, in his last note, he asked me why the world was such a sad place. I didn’t know how to answer, It touched my heart in many ways. Without being able to speak to him and with two days of knowing each other, I felt that we had known each other for a long time and that we shared so much already. At the same time, for me, he was such an admirable and brave person, without limits, capable of doing anything that he intended and nothing could stop him. But he, like us, felt that his reality was not what he wanted, so he decided to take a backpack and see what fate had in store for him.
If the limitations of language in Mexico create art, I thought that John was a Tolteca, an artist among artists, that only with his trip and his actions is able to change the souls and minds of people, without saying anything. As travelers, he gave us a beautiful example of what a journey is, how it requires you to be brave, erase any limits on your mind, be trustworthy, kind, grateful, and open to anything that comes your way. Maybe he doesn’t know it yet, sometimes I think he felt lost or scared, but his determination was something he couldn’t hide and something that will continue creating great lessons for those who will meet him on his own journey.