I recognize evictions occur in different ways and scales: forced migration, gentrification, environmental change, waste management, nature’s exploitation, financial dependence, social exclusion, and discrimination, these take forms of dispossession and displacement. Similarly, detachment from our pleasures, and desires; the confinement of our bodies to set shapes, structures, colors, and textures go along with the shaping of our thoughts and emotions, and this is another form of eviction - maybe more pervasive - of the self and the flesh.
Perceptions of space depend on each of us, and at the same time, our perceptions shape different practices towards space. Consider the example of a vacant lot, a place with no prescribed meaning; in Detroit, old-time residents of the North End see vacant land as an endangerment to their neighborhood, as a sign of decadence. For white newcomers, in contrast, the abandoned places are perceived as a connection with nature and bring tranquility. (Figueiredo, 2016) This project seeks to formulate an archive of testimonies that scrutinize the ways we relate-inhabit, collectively and individually, different territories.
In the last year, I’ve addressed partially the impacts these processes have on bodies and memories, particularly by working with migrants and recently by narrating my happenings. The feeling of being trapped and ripped out from what has grown attached to you can be destructive and powerful, I’m interested in exploring it from different territories and emotions. The following recollections take different formats and were completed in the past year, they present intersections of personal narratives presented in visual and written memories. The pieces also intend to reveal and inform about urban processes such as political relations of space, women's presence and position in the urban landscape, and the use of informal/improvised mechanisms as means of resistance or abuse.
LA CASA AMARILLA
Filled up by hollowness, like the one provoked when stopping in the middle of the highway to face an infinite horizon, and the greatness of your surroundings stands next to your insignificant size.
That’s what you feel when you are in front of the Yellow House.
It is a brick and cement building, it reminds you of a hospital or a parking lot; a stable and solid building, something permanent even if it’s still unfinished. There are no doors, the windows are broken, and big holes travel through the walls which are crowded with corners.
The Yellow House inhabits possibilities: the holes on the walls could be transparent windows that allow reaching to foreign intimacies or heavy wooden doors that separate worlds. Everything here is only possibilities, feelings of emptiness emerging from a shell structure. [obra negra]
Actually, the house is dirty white, tainted by time, but my memory of it is yellowish. Not a warm nor dense yellow, but one worn down, mixed with cement and scrambled with tones of white, grey and black. The abandonment consumed – slowly - the original color, letting inside stories from the past that were hidden within the layers of paint. In the same way, the Earth – the origin of space – recovered its authority during the years of abandonment. Now you can see the plants and herbs, not of small size but quite significant, meddling between the cracks of the walls, flirting with the stability of the frames, and reclaiming their presence in the most hidden of places.
The image of abandonment: a landscape of previous human presence – the idea of a home or a shelter – and the cement are intertwined with nature which seems to want to kick us out. It has, in a chaotic but sensitive manner, regained its dominance over the House, over the concrete and thus opposing the ridiculous idea that human power is stronger than her, an entity which is endless and undefinable.
When you’re inside you feel an overwhelming nostalgia.
You live the memories of a peak-time that was demolished by time.
Playing to be daunting, we decided to stop abandoning and begin living.
We decided to stay and dance surrounded by the trash, the green and the memories.
IF OUR RUINS COULD SPEAK
Location: Crestón 372 Jardines del Pedregal
Date: April 5, 2019
Description: eviction without notification
give us rooms to inhabit the now even when it seems to be death
my skin, doesn't hurt as much as yesterday
what is raw is not real
The garage door is grey, metal, and feels cold on my skin, next to it there is a yellow path that guides you downhill towards the main entrance of the house. When we were ten my sisters and I would bring the hose to the top of that hill, sprinkle some laundry or dish soap on it and let the water run. The path would become slippery and we would push each other to slide down as fast as we could, maybe with the hidden desire to smash against the wall and trespass it. We would run back up, anxious to slide down again, to be pushed, to get scared, to scream while gliding down, and to come through scratched. But it wasn’t easy to feel that rush again, we had to walk uphill and the volcanic rocks that covered the surface of the garage would press against the soles of our feet. The neighborhood we used to live at is called El Pedregal because the settlements are made up of black, sharp volcanic rocks, they hide under the fancy houses with big backyards and tennis courts. During the earthquakes of 85’ and 17’ which tore down hundreds of buildings making bodies and homes vanish; in El Pedregal the ground moved slowly like a heavy ship. I remember that while the ground trembled, I was in my backyard with my two dogs, one on each side, the three of us kept our balance swinging side to side as if we were slow dancing in fear with the core of the Earth.
I got a text from my sister Ximena at 7 am. I was still in bed not fully awake, it said “Re! ven nos estan desalojando!” [Re! Come here, we’re being evicted!] I sat up on the bed and answered right away without fully understanding what I just read. Thoughts and images soaked my mind, I started to remember that the house had a mortgage, but my mom never talked about it and the last time I asked she said that things were ok, she said I shouldn’t worry. I was too scared to dig in for more details even if I knew that her reassurance wasn't true. I answered the text with silly questions like “What?” “Why?” I asked her if she was alone - it was a Friday morning and the Easter holidays had just started - I asked because my sister had broken her ankle in December and she couldn’t walk, so I imagined she was there dealing with all of that without even being able to move, like a passive, helpless watcher. I thought she might be feeling the same sensation when you’re asleep and your body is paralyzed but your mind is fully awake. When that happens during your sleep, here we say that death gets on you.
I put my boots on, took my keys and my phone, and went to the house. Crestón #372 Jardines del Pedregal, Mexico City. Got there in 20 minutes, the first thing I noticed was a police van parked at the corner of the street, the type of vans they use for raids. There were three other police cars parked in front of the house and a lot of people on the street taking furniture, trash, and bags out. I got inside the house through the wide-open garage door. People looked at me but no one said anything, I was afraid they wouldn’t let me in so I walked inside acting as if the house was still mine avoiding everyone's eyes.
I’m conflicted about my feelings and about writing about this. Since this is a recollection, it’s tainted with the effort of putting things in perspective, and decorated with rationalities that I use as coping mechanisms. I guess we always seek truth in recalling, although I don’t exactly know what this is, I sometimes say it’s my therapy to deal with loss. Anyway, I don’t like it when I think like that when I find myself justifying my feelings, thoughts, and actions, but I think we all do it - particularly women - it is just that I get this uncomfortable sensation on my chest, and it takes me a while to get rid of it. For this, I don’t have an explanation, it is here, as ungarnished as it can be.
April 5, 2019. We were evicted. I say we, but I wasn’t living at my family’s house when it happened. I had rented a small house in Tlalpan from a Spanish woman. The house had two bedrooms and was packed with books and things, everything was perfectly organized, the walls, the desks, the shelves all of them had a purpose on them. In the morning the sun would come in through the dining room window and warm up the wooden table to later make its way to the kitchen and cook the orange floor tiles with warmth. There seemed to be a line that the sun would not pass, I could see it drawn with light on my naked feet every morning. I moved into that house in February and two months later the eviction happened. My three sisters, my father, and my mom moved in with me. We have two dogs, Martina a Great Dane, and Ramona a Husky, we had to ask a friend to take care of them, they were too big for my house and I was taking care of two cats, it would have been a massacre to let them in. When they moved in, I moved out, and I didn't see that light on my feet again.
THE PEDREGAL HOUSE [CRESTON]
My grandparents gave my mom that house when she got married. My grandfather Erasmo Salgado was a man with very little education but great charisma, he left his hometown in the State of Mexico when he was 13 to make it in the big city, now I feel I’m writing a cheesy novel, but it’s the truth. He started with a liquor and grocery store, una tienda de abarrotes, in Tacuba, a low-income neighborhood in the city that has grown foreign to its roots. At nights, the old flour factory next to the market I used to go buy tortillas when visiting my grandmother, transforms into a massive rave, where naked bodies painted with textures, colors and substances take over the vacant structure. Erasmo started delivering alcohol to a good number of cantinas, the business was booming, he bought some property, was able to travel, get my mom and her brother through private school and university. He acquired all the things that signified a social scaling up: tv, cars, education, good food, big parties. Back then, the Salgado were Tacuba’s thriving middle-class family.
Creston [the house] is in a very wealthy neighborhood, it has a pool, two gardens, it’s over 1500 sq., it’s ridiculously big. This is the first thing that made me doubt what I felt when we lost it - or maybe we didn’t lose it, but it was taken away - the first bit of information or reality that I used to detach myself from the degree of damage that the event caused. This was in perspective a small loss. What we lost was our material privilege. Owning a house is not everyone’s reality, and owning that kind of property is an exclusive experience. So, who am I to complain? - maybe I'm not even complaining, what does it mean writing this? and more to the point sharing it? I still don't know; it's honesty or maybe I just want to feel that rush of sliding down the hill - For a few hours that day, and maybe as a lingering feeling since then, I felt I needed to step up and take on something that I had been resisting to. I remember I was harsh, practical, and non-emotional; I couldn’t afford to make myself feel the broken bits. That day we didn’t only lose material things, the house is a prosthetic memory of who we are as a family. Things are not just things, I am a thing too, we are all plastic that builds up meaning, and in losing some material limbs, like a family house passed through generations bits of me got lost and became someone else’s property.
I got into the house and went directly upstairs to where my sister was. She looked like she had been crying, she was trying to put all the papers and things of value together in a bag, but there were no more bags. She had a cast-boot and couldn’t move much, I didn’t see my dad or my mom, there were tons of people in the house, policemen and about fifty people who were hired to take everything out to the street. Legally they can’t get you out of the house if things you own are still inside, in that case, they would be robbing you. Materiality can sometimes protect you. She told me to go gather important things and look for my mom to see what I could help out with. I don’t recall finding my mom, everything is fuzzy, I went to pick up the things I had in my old room, and went to the backyard to see if people had started taking the things from there and if there was something I could or should rescue.
I wasn’t wearing a bra and I was wearing a white t-shirt, this can be uncomfortable in public, especially while running, and I was running. I ran down the street holding my breasts, there goes a laughable picture, although I have never run with that much conviction. Luckily, it’s such a wealthy neighborhood that no one ever walks around there, not even for a couple of blocks, they always take their shiny SUVs or send their drivers. No one was there to stare at me. I ran down the streets alone, thinking I could somehow fix the situation. I ran because my dad asked me if I could get some cash, he told me to get everything I could. He thought he could get us out of this by bribing, the common go-to practice in this country - I wanted to believe him. I say bribing without a pejorative connotation, bribes are sometimes for survival, and that which is legal is almost, in my opinion, rarely ever fair. I ran and I was upset, really upset, I was so angry at them for lying, for not telling us about any of that, for pretending for so many years that everything was ok, that they had it together when they were drowning, looking at something so dark that they couldn’t even acknowledge it. I got out like 8000 pesos. I was sweating and nervous like a pig about to be slaughtered. I wasn't sure about what I was doing. I got back to the house and looked for my dad. I don’t remember exactly what happened next but he said ok let’s go. We gathered with the leader of the fifty people they had hired to take our stuff out in the bathroom downstairs, hiding from the lawyer and the police, like little kids playing hide and seek. When I walked in, I remembered that’s the bathroom where I spent my 15 years old birthday party, laying on the floor because I have had too many drinks, I was hiding that day too. The man said that if we paid him 10,000 his people would start to leave the house, so they would not finish taking everything out, and we wouldn’t be kicked out. Well, that doesn’t sound like it’s worth the 10,000, I thought. We would eventually be evicted, today or tomorrow, and we would surely need to hire a truck, rent a new place, we needed that money to get through all the hassle that was expecting us, we couldn't escape it. I hesitated. There were only men in the room, my dad, the leader of the group with two other young guys and me, and my white t-shirt. My dad gave me the power to decide, it was my money, but it felt strange that he relied on me, that in that room and in that circumstance all the men were waiting to hear my voice. I said no, the guy got kind of upset, desperate as if he would push us to give him the money, but I said no and left the room.
It was crowded by strangers in uniforms and people in normal clothes
Quickly I recognized the one in charge, surrounded, always by at least two persons in blue
He was wearing a suit and kept talking on the phone
He wouldn’t look directly at my eyes even when I dared him to
That was the only thing I had, my voice, my body, and my eyes to yell for loss claims
I screamed and whispered - I spoke up
I cried and I drank
Sat down and stood up
Walked aimlessly and ran with purpose
I remember I sat down in someone’s car,
she told me:
you don’t need to do anything
you can just let it out
it’s not your fault
We were invaded
We were displaced
Stripped from all those things that made us
All that ‘stuff’ those are our limbs
memory vessels that were thrown to the street, now meaningless
scattered all around the city, in trucks, houses, and storage rooms
we were reminded that we’re always only that which we embody, today, right now
that no prosthetics attached count
Remembering the image of the street is indulging. My mom has a lot of girlfriends, they have a group and they meet once a month, they call themselves ‘The Monologue’ because they acknowledge that they rarely listen to each other, but still gather to voice out loud their thoughts and complaints, their lives. They were all there. Hugging us, asking us what they could do, and making decisions for us when we were too tired, oh and also laughing, yes, and joking quite loudly. They tend to be loud; they tend to get noticed without care.
Throughout the day, the street became temporary messy storage of our intimacy. People kept bringing stuff out, unorganized, uncared for, everything was thrown to the street without sense, to the extent that it began blocking the driveway and taking over other houses' front doors. People would slow down while passing by to stare, things like that are not common in that neighborhood. There’s a WhatsApp group of the neighbors, apparently, that's a thing now, we’re not active on it but, that day we joked a lot about how it was probably the scoop of the month.
The neighbors stepped out to see what was going on, I would see their faces peeking from their front doors, only one of them walked out and started helping out no questions asked, the rest stayed still as if the bulks of things on the street were contagious. The owners of the house in front of ours have bodyguards and we’ve always gotten along with them. They were always willing to help us out; you know, we are a family made up of four women and my dad who's absence while seldom, is quite tangible so foreign men were in and out that house lending a hand to do the heavy lifting, this morning though they didn't, they shied away, doors closed. I'm kind of glad.
Since some of the furniture, chairs and couches, carpets, buckets, and piles of clothes began to gather up, some of my mom’s friends sat down on those. I found a bottle of tequila in the back-house and brought it out, we started to drink in the street. I was tired and dirty, I had been crying, yelling, and carrying. We sat outside, letting the size of the problem overwhelm us, and pausing to step out of it with a bottle in hand, this scene reassures me, within all that we made time to laugh.
Some friends arrived with their cars to help us take things to their houses and store them while we figured out what to do. Everyone asked us what to do, what to take, what to throw away, and what to keep. Some walkers stopped by asking how much some of the things cost, maybe they thought it was a garage sale? We sold some things right there on the spot. It started to rain, the clothes and things that were wrapped inside bed sheets became heavier. All of us stopped at some moments to rest, drink water, cry, and look at what was happening; I just wanted to stare at it face to face.
Creston was a mess. We moved back in a year ago, the house had been empty and had been used as a storage space for an architect for the past five years, it was filled with pieces of wood, bags of cement, nails, and trash. The grass was high, up to my knees, and the swimming pool was empty, filled with plants that embraced coca-cola bottles. We had been cleaning it for a year, we lived in a work in progress.
It was a collective space of carnal dreams, it was our empty shell, our old comfortable skin, our ruins were our shelter. We had been embodying the nostalgia of wealthier times gripping to empty rooms. Nature had taken over already, corrupting the stability of the walls with sturdy roots growing in-between. When the financial charade walked in to give us one last kick, they did all the cleaning for us.
That was a Mary Kondo Express, a friend said.