Juan is a journalist and filmmaker, who, having never met me, decided to invite me along as he and a team filmed a documentary in Cholula, Puebla. In the spirit of adventure, I took a two and a half hour bus ride to meet this guy and see what the filmmaking process was like. I had no idea I’d learn as much as I did, and was swept into the story at Cholula and deeply affected by the passion displayed for filmmaking and the cause. This chat was on the car ride back to Mexico City after a long week.
The population of Cholula is defending their land, their history, and their culture against the project pushed by the government to build, basically, a mall on top of the archeological site.The people are obviously opposed to it and they don’t want it to get built. The government responded by putting people in jail- they’ve now been there for 5 months. My mission for now is to accomplish a good documentary: I want to make the best out of the material we shot in Cholula, and hopefully it will help show the conflict, bring attention to it, and maybe help those that are committed to this cause.
I know for a fact that I would like more freedom in the world. The moment freedom is compromised, something is wrong and something needs to change. Whether it’s personal freedom, freedom of speech, freedom of belief, freedom of traveling, or freedom of whatever… freedom is the face of nature. The moment it’s put in danger, I feel like there’s something to be done about it. My philosophy, then, is to defend freedom.
Can you define freedom for me?
Freedom has to do with getting in touch with nature, which is free by definition. The beauty in a flower is that it just is. It doesn’t make any sense to control that, it’s a natural process. A flower, the earth, the water, the sky, the stars… they just are. Interfering with that natural process doesnt sound like a wise thing to do. We are part of that. We are natural beings, we belong to nature, and there are some things in ourselves that just want to be… just like a flower. We start as seeds and then we become, maybe, a tree. And the tree brings flowers and fruits. We are the same: we are born seeds and we have to become the trees that we are meant to be.
On Mexico City
It’s a very complex city. When you have 22 million sharing one city, you’re gonna have issues, no? There are two sides of the coin. On the good side, it’s a cultural city. I’ve been living there for two years, and I’ve found that it has a lot of theatre, music, dance, culture. All forms of art that you can imagine are there. And we’ve talked about this, but art is not only an amazing value, but a necessity. So that necessity in my spirit is fulfilled: I get to be in touch with lots of forms of art, and meet amazing people that put their ideas into art. That´s one of the good things. The bad things: gridlock, the subway at peak hour, the scarcity of water, trash, pollution. These are things that are not working. I have friends that don’t like Mexico City and despise it, but I am happy with it in the end.
On Being Mexican
It makes me proud that my people have a natural sense of community. For example, in Cholula they have holy religious parties all the time. Cholula is a very poor place; they dont have money for big things, but they manage to put away some of their money towards these parties. They’re not like “this is my party”, no. Anyone that is walking near is invited to share the food, share the drinks, and sing. And if you eat and you finish, it’s like “Serve him some more!” “Do you want more tequila?!? MORE TEQUILA FOR THIS GUY!”. They are so generous it amazes me, beacuse there are a lot of people that have a lot of money but are very self-oriented. And then these people that don’t have any money share as much as they can, and you can see that it’s a very honest thing that they do. Not just in Mexico but also in Central America, Latin America… People have a sense of community, a sense that they’re not individuals separated form each other, but actually sharing something. That’s something that we have in our culture and it amazes me. It moves me to know that I am part of that.
What’s one amazing experience you’ve had?
My trip to New York was very special, because I got the chance to witness a cosmopolitan society. The nature of New York is that people immigrate from many places around the world, bringing something of their own culture. Then they become a new culture when they’re all sharing. Being there and experiencing that was a transformative experience. I dunno, I also got the chance to earn money working illegally in an italian restaurant. I was earning a lot of money and I could afford to buy a ticket to a Paul McCartney concert in City Field Stadim. So I got the chance to see a living beatle give a concert, and it was an amazing concert!
If you had a magic wand and could change one thing in the world, what would you change?
If I had a magic wand, I would change the economic system to something that works. It’s so hard to think of an economic system that works, but I think we have far too much evidence that this one doesn’t. I’m not a specialist, an economist, but this system is wrong and I would change it to…. One that respects the environment. One that respects people not exploits people. One that doesn’t turn tradgedy into good business. That’s one of the biggest contradictions of the system we have now…. The moment something is wrecked, somene is benefitting from it.