Raúl Guerrero Montemayor - Vibro Con El Ambiente -Monday, October 03, 2011
|Raúl & Alex, Veracruz 1964|
I returned to Argentina from Mexico in 1965 to do my my military service in the Argentine Navy. But my real reason for the return was to find my father. I found him and we had many pleasant father and son afternoons until about 6 months later he died.
Between my leaving Buenos Aires in 1954 and returning in 1965 I had a few very good surrogate fathers. One of them was my grandmother who taught me many things like humor, Cervantes, about my grandfather, art and spoiled me to no end and took me to see cowboy and war movies. I had the excellent Brothers of Holy Cross at St. Edward’s High School in Austin. They instilled in me a love of knowledge and prodded me to do things I didn’t want to do which now I see as a Godsend, like my now severely limited ability to read musci because of lack of practice. A couple of brothers, Brother Edwin Reggio, CSC and Brother Anton Mattingly, CSC inspired me to pick up a camera a buy one and thus defined my life in the end.
But I had another surrogate father, Raúl Guerrero Montemayor whom I met in 1964. His background has always been a mystery. We know that his father was from the Philippines and his mother was Mexican but nobody has ever been able to find out his place of birth. Was it the US where he lived for many years? Or was it Mexico? We know that he went to a very good prep school in Switzerland and that there he perfected his uncanny ability to master any language quickly. Raúl speaks at least 9 languages and can even speak German with a Yiddish accent or Hungarian with a French accent.
It was Raúl (he was 15 years older) who taught me about the better life of good films, good literature, history and good food.
I remember driving my VW beetle one day around one of the many Mexico City roundabouts (glorietas). Raúl was with me. I spotted a pedestrian crossing so I did what anybody who has lived in Mexico City for some time will do, I honked on the horn and accelerated. Raúl was extremely angry and he told me, “That is a human being you want to run over. Think of what you are doing and stop. Don’t hit him.” In spite of having lived so many years in Mexico City (and perhaps even having been born in Mexico) he had something European about him. It was something almost alien that I soon appreciated and tried to copy.
Raúl became my best go-to-the-movies partner. He always picked them. They were mostly French or Italian films and early Peter Sellers comedies. Perhaps he wanted to instill in me a culture of the avant-garde (we used to drink coffee at a place called Un Chien Andalou (it was actually called El Gato Andaluz) and of the European fine art film directors. It was enough for me that the Antonioni films he took me to, which went well over my head, had the beautiful Monica Vitti. That was enough for me!
With Raúl I experienced the culture of the café and talking into the wee hours of the night. With Raúl I learned to scrounge for books in book bins of the many bookstores that in those days, the 60s, closed around 1 in the morning. It was Raúl who first exposed me to Aldo Ciccolini playing Erik Satie's Gymnopedies.
And as I wrote here, Raúl taught me of the wonders of the sea and its salt. I had until then mostly avoided the sea and the oceans and had no idea how important the sea had been to my mother had been born in Manila.
Because Raúl was of Filipino heritage I learned more about the country of my family and many of its words and some of its language.
There was only one talent that I had in which I could top Raúl. This was eating. We were often invited to the house of my Filipino aunt, Fermina Miranda and my Uncle Luís. We were there for some special lunches where Robby (my cousin and Fermina and Luis’s son), a friend of Robby’s Raúl and I would compete as to which of us could eat more. We would have platefuls of spaghetti and then we would eat T-bones. We would brag, “This is my third one!” Then when dessert came we would do the same. I have to admit that Raúl (not in the least fat and has always maintained a handsome trim line) won many of these. But so did I!
If anything to this day I can go anywhere and hold my ground in any conversation about literature, music and the various other arts. I know about this stuff but Raúl taught me to appreciate art and how it makes us better human beings. While I lose my temper quite frequently I would never honk the horn and accelerate should I see a pedestrian crossing the street.
I called up Raúl a few days ago. He is in his mid 80s and still goes to the office every day. He rents and sells exclusive properties to well heeled foreigners who visit Mexico or come to stay. He frequently goes to out of the way places in Poland or Hungary with his two cousins, one of them being the actress Ivette Mimieux, the other Gloria.
I told him (on Skype), “Many years ago when somebody asked you what you were you answered in Spanish, “Soy híbrido.” (I am a hybrid). By this you meant that you were not Mexican, or Filipino or American but nothing and everything.
I further told him that after having lived in Vancouver since 1975 (when I was about to move to Vancouver Raúl had warned me, “Remember, the fact that the people there will be mostly white it will not mean that they are civilized.”) I still feel like a tourist visiting. I asked him if he ever felt he belonged anywhere. I told him that I had recently discovered that nostalgia for a place only happens when you are not there.
He said that was not true for him. He mentioned listening and watching a Mexican tenor sing on TV in a Berlin program and that he felt huge nostalgia for Mexico even though he was watching it in Mexico.
He told me that one of the most beautiful cities in Europe is Varsovia (so much more romantic sounding in Spanish than the English variant Warsaw) even though most of it is a brick by brick reconstruction of the original city that was bombed by the Germans. And he added in Spanish, “Vibro con el ambiente. Vibro en Varsovia."
He explained that some places give him a felling of a sympathetic vibration much like if you strike a tuning fork and get it close to another of the same type, the other will vibrate along. He belongs when that happens. He might appreciate everything that London has to offer but probably (I suspect he would be motionless there).
In these last few days I have been waiting for that vibración. I have not felt it yet. Perhaps I might have to see L’Eclisse, feast my eyes on Monica Vitti, the rest will surely come. Or could it be that, I too, soy híbrido?