Has it really come to this? God...
Yesterday morning, after enjoying a long weekend here in Mexico —well, as much enjoying as one can have without any money— I arrived at the former strip mall where the small office I work in is located.
I work for a very mall Architecture office, and recently we've been through particularly harsh times. On top of the fact that Mexico was one of the nations where the last economic crisis was felt the harshest, things at the office were getting tougher even before that. Long story short, there are currently two persons working here: myself and my workmate, the accountant; and our list of possible projects is on an indefinite stand-by —there was a Real Estate "bubble" in Mexico city over the past few years, and we all know what eventually happens with every bubble...
So, I was walking down the hallway at 9 in the morning, ready to open the office —I'm usually the first one to arrive, plus my workmate is coming to the office every other day currently— from the distance one can look not only the main windows of the office entrance, but also a small window from the top floor, and it was through that window that I noticed something odd.
From the distance it looked like a small glowing orange light. My first though was that my boss had left some cell phone charging or maybe a laptop; but then I realized this was not an electric light: it was flickering.
I panicked; I immediately though "SH*T! a fire!!"; I rushed to open the door, and the smell that poured down from the inside confirmed my suspicion: something WAS burning upstairs.
I climbed the 12-steps staircase as quickly as I could, and in the still-dark small attic-like space where my boss holds his desk and files, I scanned the surroundings and found the source of the flickering flame: a candle inside a transparent glass, the same type that you find inside Catholic temples.
"What the Hell?"
The religious candle, or veladora, as we call them around here, was over a desk on top of a sample piece of glass that we used in one of our projects a few years ago; it was obvious that it had been lit many hours ago, as the flame had consumed most of the candle, and the top of its glass presented smoke stains.
After calming me down a bit, I started to notice other strange things: the top of my boss' desk was rather filthy —and that was a shock considering his anal-retentive obsession with order and tidiness!— and it was covered with grains of salt. The floors upstairs and down were also covered with what looked like grains of rice and corn; and as I was retracing my steps to the entrance of the office, I noticed something else: the transparent glass of the metal door had weird stains, as though someone had sprinkled some kind of liquid on it from the inside.
It didn't took me long to add 2+2 on this whole mystery.
It was hilarious and pathetic at the same time: My boss had commissioned a limpia.
The limpia, or cleansing ceremony, is a sort of syncretic ritual that combines elements of the Catholic faith along with the pagan traditions left by our Mesoamerican ancestors. The purpose of it is to eradicate 'bad vibes' allegedly surrounding a person, an object or a concrete location. These kind of rituals are a very suggestive proof that, deep underneath, all Latin American countries still hold a pagan cosmovision; that one needs to perform rites and ceremonies to appease the spiritual entities that govern or influence the fates of our lives.
It also shows that such beliefs are not to be found only with the 'uneducated' illiterate masses who lack a good education. The idea that one can be affected by 'negative energy' is quite common among the Mexican higher classes as well —my boss has a college degree. Politicians and celebrities are known to seek the services of astrologers and shamans that would enable them to attain more status, or fend themselves against the attacks of adversaries.
Magic syncretic rituals can range from the seemingly innocuous —like the young teen asking St Judas for a boyfriend by placing an image of said saint upside-down, which to me always seemed more like a kind of spiritual coercion!— to more complicated ideas that demand the use of elaborate magical paraphernalia, plus the use of a 'professional'.
In Mexico city there's a very special place called El Mercado de Sonora, which is quite literally the Mexican version of Harry Potter's Diagon Alley; a place where you can purchase magic items of all kinds —and I do mean ALL— for using in both 'white' or 'black' magic rituals. Need a monkey tail to perform a love ritual? no problem! white candles to defend yourself? black candles to curse someone? an illegal endangered animal like a rare desert lizard or an ocelot? fancy an effigy of the Santa Muerte do you? you ask and either they have it or they can find it for you... for the right price, of course.
*Youtube video of some Gringo tourists visiting the market:
Back to my tale of my esoteric discovery, I didn't know what to do. Do I leave the candle lit or not (more on that later)? I eventually decided to phone my boss:
Me: Um, yeah? there's this religious candle lit that I found upstairs, wha—
My boss: Yes, I put it there; I'll be right over *hangs up*
And as you can probably imagine, by the time he came he NEVER mentioned the candle, nor did I ask him about it. My boss do love to keep his secrets —which can be a determent in productivity, as he considers the dates of the project deadlines to be a secret too!
So, to me the irony in all this —other than the fact that I had further proof I work for a complete pendejo— was to realize that some people will ALWAYS try to find explanations in external agencies beyond their control; just like that Vatican exorcist who sees the work of the Evil One in the recent calamities that have befallen on the Catholic church. Not once do they stop to consider that perhaps, just perhaps, the root of the problem lies somewhere a bit closer to home.
Take for instance the candle I found: clearly, the fact that someone decides to place a burning candle inside an unventilated room choke-full of flammable items —and with a FRAKING WOODEN FLOOR on top of that— shows a complete disregard to public safety and the needs of other people. And that is IMHO the very root of the current economic predicament in which my boss finds himself currently; this is the kind of man who thinks he's entitled to double-parking or be late with the fortnight salary payments —when the office phone rings and I hear it's from the bank, I just hang up— who thinks it's more important to satisfy his own personal aesthetic quirks than actually solve the needs of his clients. I could go on and on here...
I believe in the laws of Karma, not out of any mystical spiritual notions, but for its pure practical simplicity: what goes around comes around is in pure accordance with the laws of Physics. No matter what you do, sooner or later you'll have to respond to the laws of Thermodynamics, baby.
Abiding to the golden rule is just plain common sense. It's playing the odds, because there are a lot of people in this world and there's only one You; and sooner or later you'll be face to face with someone with more power than you.
Does that mean I think magic rituals are pure hogwash? not exactly. What I think is that, even if rituals can attain power, that power *must* be provided by the people believing in that ritual. And the way a ritual gains power is simple and universal: through sacrifice.
Sacrifice literally means "to make sacred", and in order to do that it is demanded that what is offered must be something valuable to the participant of the ritual. For Abraham, there was nothing he wanted more than to have a long line of descendants; so what does Yahweh demand from him to seal their pact? the life of his only son —I'm not condoning the validity of human sacrifice *OBVIOUSLY*, nor the moral high-ground of the Old Testament; I'm just trying to show that throughout history people have considered magic rituals to be something which demand costly offerings. And even that still makes sense to our 'modern' Western mentality; that's why we have a high respect for people who hold PhD's or a black belt in Karate.
So I ask you: what better sacrifice could be offered, in order to improve your life and your economic situation, than to commit yourself into improving your attitude toward other people? to stopping thinking about Me Me Me for a change and strive to be kinder to your fellow man?
Meh... I guess it's always easier (and CHEAPER) to pay a few pesos in candles, some rice and vial of holy water in order to scare away the bad juju. After all: it's NOT my fault that things are not turning the way I want, is it??
So, if you've been patient enough to read up to here, I bet there's a nagging question burning in your head: Why o WHY are you still working for this moron? Weeell... that's a topic for another blog, I'm afraid.
In the meantime, pray that next week I won't find a headless black chicken next to the fax machine ;)