Mexico City

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Lawrence Russell

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the ministry of the third culture

This is where they killed the students, says Luna.
When was this? says Ajo.
The year of the Olympics, says Luna. Many of them were on the roof of that building.

We're looking behind us over the four-laner at a boring apartment block.

They have guns? says Ajo.
Si, says Luna. And over there, that is where Montezuma surrendered to Cortez.

It's like a park, a ten acre rectangle with some dusty eucalyptus trees, broken walls, the sunken remains of foundations. I pan over the ruins towards a building with a cross on the roof.

This is the Plaza de las Tres Culturas, intones Luna
That a church? says Brutus.
The Spanish built a church where the Mexicans had a temple, says Luna.
That's what we always do, says Brutus.
Not me, says Ajo. Could give a shit.
Course not, says Brutus. But that's what we always do. Religion feeds on religion.
When was the last time you were in Church? says Ajo.
June, says Brutus. My sister-in-law's wedding in Las Vegas.
A church I said, says Ajo, not a casino.
What's the dif? says Brutus. Both take your money.

Buildings sit submerged in the gray smog everywhere you pan, some floating like deadheads in a swamp. One rises above it all, a tower in the obelisk style.

Who lives in there? I say. The police?

Luna is standing short between Ajo and Brutus, baseball cap concealing his bald head, scoop shading his eyes. Faint moustache, hook nose. Imagine him as a foot soldier in the army of Cortez.

That is the Ministry of the Third Culture, says Luna.

We pan from the obelisk back to the apartment block, look up at the roof.

How many they kill? says Ajo. A hundred?
Many, says Luna.
Two, three? says Ajo.
It was a massacre, Senor Ajo, says Luna.
A thousand, says Brutus.
A ceremonial gesture, I say. A lst Culture reenactment.
You mean like an Aztec flashback? says Brutus.
Yes, I say. An Aztec flashback. It's in the genes.
Maybe it was just a simple communist plot, says Ajo.
With a simple fascist response? says Brutus.
Sure, says Ajo.
Communist, fascist, I say. The masks the actors wear... ideology is invariably a mask for sexual hysteria.
A mask for sexual hysteria, says Ajo. Go tell that to a dead student.
A dead Aztec, I say. There's a difference.

the shrine

Looking at a statue of the Pope, big, twenty, twenty five feet. Gold, the old tech color. Rosary peddlers circle or squat in the shade. A beggar works the crowd coming and going from the Cathedral. Birds speed over the prayer grounds. A kid drags two laughing amigos on a piece of cardboard.

Brutus stands in the sunlight, looking around. On the other side, Ajo having a smoke.

Is that your picture? whispers Luna. Your amigos and His Holiness?

We're inside the new building, looking out.

This door is like a frame, si? says Luna. Fantastic!

I lower the camera. Behind me, a bishop is monologuing in Spanish, the dim amphitheatre filled with pilgrims. Sporadic coughs, sighs, the shuffle of feet.

You know what this door represents? says Luna.
Bad light, I say.
It is the door that connects Rome to Mexico, says Luna.
This is a shrine? I say.
You know the story? says Luna. The Indian who sees the Virgin?
The Stockholm Syndrome, I say.
Is this a similar story? says Luna.

The City »»»


© Lawrence Russell

Culture Court 2000