Friday, September 21, 2007

My favorite guilty pleasure, lately, is watching the you tube video of Shakira doing "Hips Don't Lie" at the Grammys. I had heard her years ago, and it's not really my thing, but this year, as I was trolling the interweb, I saw an article about that performance. The writer, entranced, was going on about how she should have her own show, every night, in which she'd just perform that song, and he'd watch it every night forever. So I googled it.

It really is the sexiest thing I've ever seen happen on TV - she's barefoot, with tangled curls of hair cascading around her, dancing as if she's actually dancing, with a wild, unchoreographed edge. And man, it is SMOKING. She looks like a maenad about to run loose on the hills, like a pocket-sized fertility goddess.

It's an intriguing clip for other reasons, too. It's surely the only time a Haitian and a Colombian have stood together on an american stage, on national television, and yelled 'why's the CIA gotta watch us?' as the crowd cheers them on. More than that, it seems to seems to embody my favorite social trend - the latinizing of North America.

I've heard it before, and say what you will about how immigrants will overload our health care and educational systems and flood our low income work force and ect ect ect. I've been unemployed and disabled in southern California; I know what it's like, dealing with doctors so overloaded they wish you'd just take yourself outside and die without fuss. But we have to admit that the American Dream, as our parents and grandparents knew it, is over. Depending on which commentator you prefer, the gap between the rich and the poor in this country is analogous to either the income gap in pre-revolutionary France or that in the US just before the Great Depression. Let's face it: we are going to be poor. Really poor.

And if we're going to be poor, I want my goddamn taco trucks, I want to buy my medicinal herbs in baggies at the corner store, and bottles of cheap moonshine in artfully scavenged bottles, I want tamale carts on the corners, and on Friday nights I want to see teenage boys, stiff and awkward in their brocaded coats, playing off-tempo mariachi music in gas station parking lots. I want to dance in my garden while my neighbor's mambo band practices on the lawn, and afterwards drink shitty beer on the stoop while the warm evening cools into night. I want to be poor with style and grace.

And they are all waiting for us, our long-lost kin, our cousins, our neighbors - for all that the media wants us to fear the barbarians at the gate, a vast alien tide of brown waiting to drown us, they are our relatives; no matter our nationality, Latin America encompasses it. There are Eastern Europeans whose grandparents fled oppression, and French and Irish families descended from the men who came to fight in various wars and revolutions, Scandinavians and Jews and Africans, tied to us northerners by the immutable bonds of blood and history. And no matter how hard the government tries to keep us apart, with walls and towers and guns and barbed wire and checkpoints and helicopters and cameras, the border just becomes ever more permeable and slippery in response, because the gods of borders are gods of trickery and transformation, and will defy the efforts of petty men to impose order upon them.

And someday, when the border implodes and the south rushes north, we will all dance in the streets. We will plants vegetables in our back gardens and flowers in the front and take back warehouses and office buildings and paint them shades of blue and live in them and we will speak something that is neither Spanish nor English but something new and beautiful and fresh.

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