CASAS DE Guanajuato

Why A Jew Would Move To Mexico


I sat having a beer with an atheist friend
as we watched the evening sun
shimmer on Lake Chapala
from a cloudless blue sky.

My friend asked why a Jew
like me would choose to live
in a Catholic country
where cities erect giant crucifixes
and the Virgin of Guadalupe
is venerated.

My answer was easy:
Mexicans do not drive by synagogues
shouting insults, or march
in anti-Jewish parades.
The president of Mexico
does not call Nazis very fine people.

When I first moved here I got lost
looking for the synagogue
so I asked a stranger,
“¿Donde está la synagoga de los Judíos?”
(Were is the Jewish synagogue?)
I was politely told
“Gira a la izquierda en la esquina
y la synagoga está
dos cuadras más adelante.”
(Turn left at the corner
and the synagogue is
two blocks further on.)


Though I walk in the sunshine
of my new country
the dead surround me
unknown names
stitched into the fabric of my life
rising in the smoke
of the crematoria
blue numbers tattoo on their forearms
mothers and daughters,
fathers and sons
so many my heart has no more room

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Here in Mexico
there was a full moon
over the restaurant
where we read Haggadah,
retelling the Passover story
of our escape from Egypt.
We ate kappas and bitter herbs,
consumed matzos and drank wine
and had a dinner of roast beef.

But the full moon chastised me:
“Why do you exile yourself to Mexico
once called New Spain
when you should be in Jerusalem?”

I responded, “It is different now
in the twenty-first century.”
But the moon was not assuaged.
“Do you not understand?
The Lord God parted the waters
for you three thousand years ago,
prevented the Egyptians
from pursuing you into the desert
and gave you quail and white seeds
as small as beads of frost
which you made into cakes
that tasted like wafers
made with oil and honey.”

But I had no response.
I have exiled myself
to a country from which
my forefathers were also forced
to flee north five hundred years ago
by order of the Spanish King and Queen
Ferdinand and Isabella
to insure Catholic orthodoxy.

The moon said the message to flee
is rooted in your bones
flows with every pump of blood
from your heart
pounds in your brain and
in your ancient Jewish memory.
You shall never find peace
in any foreign nation.
Return to the land of your ancestors,
to the homeland of God.