A former newspaper colleague in upstate New York writes:
“Enjoying your `dispatches’ from Mexico, which I’ve only visited once, long ago and briefly, on a trip I still recall with some revulsion.”
Revulsion often mingles with wonder and admiration in Mexico. We drove north from Loreto about 130 kilometers to Bahia Concepcion, a bay on the west coast of the Sea of Cortez. The landscape along the way is the most desolately beautiful I’ve known, like scenes from The Searchers. We encountered more teenagers with guns at a military checkpoint. They searched the interior of our rental car but never opened the truck.
We stopped at a beach called Playa El Requesón -- white sand, turquoise water. I led the boys into the scrub so they could pee and walked into a small mountain of trash -- bottles, cans, tires, mattresses. We waded along the beach, hunting for shells, until we came to a wall of mangroves. On the other side was a vast outdoor toilet.
We drove further north, mostly in search of gasoline. Our first glimpse of Mulegé was its lighthouse, a modest white tower on an island close to shore. I thought of Malcolm Lowry and his cantina in Under the Volcano -- the Farolito, Spanish for lighthouse. Lowry’s first, unpublished book of poems was titled The Lighthouse Invites the Storm. In his novel he writes of the Farolito:
“Only after he had grown to know it well had he discovered how far back it ran, that it was really composed of numerous little rooms, each smaller and darker than the last, opening one into another, the last and darkest of all being no larger than a cell. These rooms struck him as spots where diabolical plots must be hatched, atrocious murders planned; here, as when Saturn was in Capricorn, life reached bottom. But here also great wheeling thoughts hovered in the brain; while the potter and the field-labourer alike, early-risen, paused a moment in the paling doorway, dreaming…”
Clearly, Lowry had Dante in mind -- and Mexico.