When I learned about my mother country

By: Dora A. Ayora Talavera

Even though I was not a good student, I have pleasant memories about primary school. I was, and I am, that kind of person «who does not learn at the first attempt”, one of those who almost failed every course. Unlike my six sisters, I was never brilliant and I never earned an outstanding grade, I was nowhere near to being the favourite student of the teacher. In fact, I am sure my poor mother was worried about my future.

Even so, I remember happily my long walks going to the school. The Cold weather penetrating the skinny body I had in that time and my freezing hands. The Cold weather that made me in many occasions —here among us— go to  school wearing my pyjamas underneath my school uniform to keep my body warm, in spite of the protest of my sisters, my walking partners.

We entered to the classroom paced of the energising “Zacatecas’ march” taratatá-tará-tatá  taratatá-tará-tatá. And although dancing wasn’t my gift either, I enthusiastically moved my body at the rhythm of “La Culebra” in sixth grade, dressed in my Mexican orange dress.

I remember lemon sorbets sold by the janitor, Don Pedro, at the break and the special strawberry sorbets that he gifted every year to celebrate the children’s day. Let’s not forget the importance of  our sports’ teacher — according to my friends and I, he was absolutely handsome and he smelled delicious — we passed in front of him over and over again just to smell him.

Although it was stifling, I got over the threat of having to go backwards a year if I could not learn the time tables, and although the fear of marks book was always present, I survived.

Perhaps I did not memorise what school expected. Maybe I forgot many details about History that we studied. Maybe I still do not understand anything about maths. What can I say about grammar? Difficult!

In Mexico, we are living very complicated and unsettled times, they make me think about the best and the most important lesson I learned at school: What Mother country means.

I do not know how, when and in which way, but school years thought me first of all, to love Mexico… and today it hurts me.

I know that my daughter Ana, who was born almost twenty years after my passage of primary school, loves her country, but I am sure that in a very different way than me, because of the way I was educated and the way my school taught me what it means to be Mexican.

To pay homage to the national flag —in spite of fainting every time during the ceremony — were actual solemn rituals, because we felt them, because we learned to live them. Because that ceremonies to a 7, 8, 9 years old girl, were more than just singing the national anthem and saluted the national flag while the escort passed in front of us to finally recite in unison a pledge of allegiance. Those moments were a way to create an identity, a compromise and respect to my nation, my culture, my home.

Today, behind the window of my room in the stillness of the afternoon, seeing my garden, I hurt. I think, how will we stay afloat? How will we repair this country? Who will make a difference? How can I contribute to making things change from my activities as a teacher, a therapist and a mother?

Sometimes I see myself as a coward, others as a powerless, others more, as a revolutionary that from her trench she makes her part. But it is not enough.

Mexico hurts me.

Lately I have wished that It does not matter to me, it does not hurt me, I act as if nothing happens, I try being indifferent, but I cannot.  Days like today when I feel desperate and angry, not knowing what to do, I tell myself: I would like to never have learned what Mother country means!

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