‘La letra E está por doquier / The Letter E Is Everywhere’
Archivo Mexico City, Mexico, 06.06.2013–6.08.2013

Around thE block from my housE thErE livEd a man EvEryonE callEd El Guama. SincE hE and his wifE did clEansings, I always thought his nicknamE camE from thE anciEnt monikEr for shaman, hEalEr, witch, but in fact it camE from his sElling bEEr 40’s—known as caguamas—from thE back of thE Rosa Cruz, a tiny cornEr storE whErE hE sold jalapEño chilEs by thE handful, pork skins by thE dozEn and corn chips, as wEll as othEr basic nEEds foods. ThE storE’s mystical namE was also thE namE of El Guama’s consort, who was obviously nicknamEd Doña Caguama. Anyway, whEnEvEr my mom would sEnd mE to buy a singlE RalEigh cigarEttE and somE Motita chEwing gum, as soon as I crossEd thE doorstEp that sEparatEd thE storE from—or unitEd it with—thE outsidE, I could fEEl a hEavy vibE. Its plywood walls wE imprEgnatEd with thE stEnch of cigarEttE and drunkard; thE loosE Earth floor was full of bEEr and sawdust. But thE wEirdEst thing thErE was thE music: madE up of a cassEttE playlist with thE most disparatE things—I vaguEly rEmEmbEr Esclavo y Amo by thE PastElEs VErdEs, El SaucE y la Palma by Luis PérEz MEza, a vErsion of Jacinto CEnobio by Los MasiosarEs, Flor dE Capomo by Ramón Ayala y sus bavos dEl nortE, ME caí dE la nubE by CornElio REina, El ropavEjEro by La DulcE Rosario y sus SEpulturEros, Tributo a los BEatlEs by XaviEr Pasos, Dos CrucEs by Emilio DomínguEz y sus EstrEllas dE Plata, ¿DóndE tE agarró El tEmblor? By Chico ChÉ y la Crisis, or QuiEro Huir dE mí, by Los TrEs CaballEros—thE lEgEndary trio whErE thE bohEmian Chamín CorrEa showEd off his virtuoso skills on thE rEquinto guitar, and RobErto Cantoral, our vEry own LibEracE, composEd thE mElodiEs. LEonEl GálvEz, thE singEr, was a passionatE man from Acapulco who was also a mEmbEr of Los CalavEras, Los ArribEños, Los ValEntinos and Los TrEs REyEs. LEonEl GálvEz lookEd just likE El Guama, only smallEr.

El Guama diEd bEcausE hE slippEd off a ravinE nEar my housE as hE was hEading back up aftEr looking for somE mullEin flowErs to curE a nEighbor from thE ragE. HE usEd to takE mouthfuls of bEEr by drinking straight from thE bottlE. HE would swallow and burp loudly whilE at thE samE timE “pronouncing” words. ThEn hE would aspirE all his mucus loudly and spit phlEgm on thE floor, making abstract pattErns that I EvEntually lEarnEd to puzzlE out in thE arbitrary way of thosE who sEE diffErEnt shapEs in thE constEllations. OnE of thEm dEscribEd a mixturE of dancE instructions that Andy Warhol had rEprEsEntEd in onE of his sEriEs of silkscrEEns; anothEr was an EsotEric diagram that rEfErrEd to thE family trEE of Ras Tafari MakonnEn, bEttEr known as HailE SElassiE, EmpEror of Ethiopia, dirEct hEir to King Solomon and thE QuEEn of ShEba. WhEn thE EmpEror camE to MExico in 1954 to mEEt with Lázaro CárdEnas, hE inauguratEd thE Ethiopia roundabout in thE DEl VallE nEighborhood and attEndEd a novicE bullfight at thE LiEnzo Charro La Tapatía. AftEr about tEn phlEgms in rhythm with thE song in turn—pErhaps SortilEgio, by Antonio Badú—El Guama would do a sort of chorEography, likE connEcting thE dots, with outlandish littlE stEps, rEclining and straightEning up on his own axis, all Johnny RottEn stylE, Emulating thE Hunchback of NotrE DamE, and thEn GEnEsis P–OrridgE, or Rigo Tovar with his spasmodic jumping, opEning his lEgs, making EvEryonE think hE was way drunk, whilE hE was actually cElEbrating somE hEaling ritual, a clEansing against thE Evil EyE, or would simply find himsElf in mystic Ecstasy likE Saint Ignatius of Loyola in ManrEsa.

OnE of El Guama’s sons, whom I knEw wEll in my youth, was thE lEadEr of a gang of boys who usEd to call thEmsElvEs thE SEx ToloachEs Punk. HE bEcamE addictEd to sniffing shoE gluE, which hE would do sitting on thE sidEwalk of my block whilE listEning to raucous music in thE company of his fEllow clan mEmbErs —his gang–scaring young and old. EvEryonE EndEd up sEgrEgating thEm, ignoring thEm. José María, that tEEnagEr I nEvEr hEard of again and who would drEss with tight pants, a black lEathEr jackEt, All Stars snEakErs, and a sidE–part pompadour or a gEllEd Mohawk on thE top, was nicknamEd El Guamita during his childhood. But oncE hE’d forgEd his own rEputation, hE simply namEd himsElf El ChEmo, an EpithEt that was loudly hEard during thE gigs organizEd at El Mictlán, thE clandEstinE holE–in–thE–wall bEhind thE REsurrEction church. ThErE, whilE Emulating his drunk fathEr, hE would dancE frEnEtically, twisting in mid–air, doing thE pogo and thE trisol to thE rhythms of TNT, Atóxxxico and SíndromE d’Punk, his plastic yEllow bag always in hand, or if not, his thinnEr rag, also colloquially callEd mona, or, for a not–so–mystErious rEason, activo. HE would thEn brEakfast on squash blossom and huitlacochE quEsadillas, sitting at his usual cornEr, whilE hE quiEtly hummEd a song hE couldn’t rEmEmbEr whErE hE’d hEard, or what it was callEd, but which would always comE to mind aftEr lEvitating in hypErconsciousnEss and wEnt somEthing likE this:

It’s no longEr possiblE to suffEr Oh god almighty I’d rathEr diE BEcausE in this tricky world EvErything’s a drEam, it’s all an illusion.

'ThE LEttEr E Is EvErywhErE', Abraham Cruzvillegas

‘La letra E está por doquier / The Letter E Is Everywhere’ publication available at BOM DIA BOA TARDE BOA NOITE