Thursday, February 02, 2012

Table for One

Apologies again for the minimal posting.  None of the Mexican-American kids we spent the day with knew the historical significance of today, so we thought we'd repost this item from a few years ago.  Not that they'll read it of course, because they're busy with homework.  You, on the other hand...
Monday, February 02, 2009
A Simple Twist of Date

Enjoying the holiday? No? You must not live in Mexico! As always, to figure out what the holiday is, we pull out the city map - Cinco de Mayo St, no; September 16 St, no; November 20 Ave, no; 1857 Blvd, no...wait, February 5th Ave - close enough! So today is the day we celebrate the Constitution of 1917, written right here in Querétaro's Teatro de la Republica. But since, like the US, Mexico often moves its holidays around to form three-day weekends, today the entire country is taking a day of celebration and rest on February 2, the 161st anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican-American War and ceded about half the country's territory to the US. (This sort of thing is not uncommon: Passover often falls on April 20, for instance, forcing Jews to hold the Seder on Hitler's birthday.)

That it's also Groundhog Day is appropriate, since a huge chunk of the populace wakes up every morning still seething about this.

A couple of years ago, a friend of ours came for a visit and asked if we could take him to see the table where the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed. [The treaty was signed in - duh! - Guadalupe Hidalgo, but after it was ratified by the US and Mexican Congresses, the president affixed his signature in Querétaro, where the government had moved after Mexico City fell to US troops.] We chuckled knowingly, made a mental note to find to what the hell the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was, and vowed not to invite any more university history professors to visit without doing our homework first. Then within 24 hours we came down with typhoid fever and ruined everybody's vacation. We never thought of the treaty or the table again until it just suddenly popped into our heads about a year ago.

Since then, we've been on a minor quest to find the thing, stymied at every turn by what we took to be official stonewalling. We were even going to write a humorous story about the way the city was hiding this shameful piece of office furniture. Of course, what was really happening was - because we're idiots - we'd been inquiring about the "treatment of Hidalgo." A typical interaction would go like this:
    "Do you know where I can find the table where Hidalgo received his treatment?"

    "Um...treatment by whom?"

    "The United States, of course."

    "I don't know what you mean. The United States had nothing to do with Hidalgo."

    "Ha! Denial, my friend...no es solamente un rio en Egipto!"

    "¿Qué?"

This went on for some time until we started reading a book called Querétaro in the War with the US (1846-1848) (it's a thin book, Querétaro's contribution being primarily moral support and cannon fodder), learned the correct word for "treaty," and realized that the weird object on the front cover was in fact the table we'd been searching for. Bringing the book to the tourist office here, we asked where we might find this object. It's actually displayed very prominently in the Regional Museum in the center of town, the man told us, before lowering his eyes, shaking his head, and telling us the "incredibly sad story" of the US invasion and the loss of over half a million square miles of territory. "But," he said, smiling, "we're starting to take it back!" It was not entirely clear that he was kidding.

Anyway, the branch of the museum that houses the table is (we think rather suspiciously) closed for renovations, so you'll have to settle for a picture of the picture on the front of the book for now.

3 comments:

Don Gringo said...

great story

Anonymous said...

Hey gringo you should search "google translate" before asking a mexican, no seas pendejo.

Burro Hall said...

What a brilliant idea! Run everything through an online translator before speaking to any Mexican. Absolute fucking genius. Totally pendejo-proof.