In Quotes: The Labyrinth of Solitude

My great-grandmother Matilde V. Tellez at an unknown Los Angeles park, circa 1940s.

Octavio Paz lived in Los Angeles during the late 1940s. Below is an excerpt from his book The Labyrinth of Solitude.

When I arrived in the United States I lived for awhile in Los Angeles, a city inhabited by over a million persons of Mexican origin. At first sight, the visitor is surprised not only by the purity of the sky and the ugliness of the dispersed and ostentatious buildings, but also by the city’s vaguely Mexican atmosphere, which cannot be captured in words or concepts. This Mexicanism – delight in decorations, carelessness and pomp, negligence, passion and reserve – floats in the air. I say “floats” because it never mixes or unites with the other world, the North American world based on precision and efficiency. It floats, without offering any opposition; it hovers, blown here and there by wind, sometimes breaking up like a cloud, sometimes standing erect like a rising skyrocket. It creeps, it wrinkles, it expands and contracts; it sleeps or dreams; it is ragged but beautiful. It floats, never quite existing, never quite vanishing.

6 thoughts on “In Quotes: The Labyrinth of Solitude

  1. Paz, stuck between two worlds and maybe both foreign to him, being that I have found most Mexican intellectuals to be disconnected from reality anyway. The sueno dorado of the immigrant has always been about the family and upward mobility, a better life in the future. Paz never had to worry about those kind of issues being from another economic class.
    And speaking of families and immigrants and upward mobility Chimatli, this picture sure reminds me of scenes my own family used to have, family picnics and get togethers once or twice a year, when familia from all over would get together at places like Griffith Park, which looks to me like where your great grandmother was when this picture was taken. Could it be?

  2. Anyone remember the old men, who would play chess or checkers on bus benches. They were maybe armenian or jewish. They would dress with suit coats sometimes hats. I remember when I felt the “vibe” of the world changing. Bobby Kennedy shot, Charles Manson murders, ELA riots. I suddenly knew what fear and confusion felt like. Like my little warm world was unraveling. Oh just thought of another landmark. Home Saving building on Whittier blvd. The mural. Man, the memories flood back, once you scratch the surface. I wonder what our kids have as “sweet” memories? I used to take my daughter on train trips on the amtrac, up to san luis obispo, so she could have some interesting child memories. Hope she does. She is busy building a future right now, to look too far back right now. Peace

  3. DQ, it could very possibly be Griffith Park. I think my great-grandmother was already living in Echo Park when this photo was taken. You might not be able to make it out but there is a merry-go-round in the background. My grandmother and her sister are sitting on it. Do you remember which parks had covered merry-go-rounds?

    Roberto, I was wondering what Hydrox was! It sounds like a cleaning product and I couldn’t understand why they would take a box of it to the park. Thanks for the clarification. 🙂

  4. Being raised on the Eastside (Lincoln Hts), and almost never leaving the area as a small kid the only merry go rounds that I was ever aware of were in Lincoln Park and Griffith Park. But usually big family picnics for Chicano’s took place at Griffith Park in my experience, because there was enough parking and room for big families to have reunions. And in those days there was a lot of discrimination as to what parks Mexicans and Blacks could feel at ease at.
    Come to think of it some forms of discrimination still exist. For years my wifes family got together for an Easter picnic at the Arroyo Seco Park at the end of San Pascual St just over the line from HLP in South Pasadena. The park is a popular place for picnics on Easter and is filled with mainly Chicano families from HLP and LHT’s, the South Pasadena POlice hate this scenario and demonstrate it by locking up the newer baseball diamond , and walking through the picnic areas like the Gestapo arresting or ticketing anyone who is discovered drinking a beer or alchoholic beverage, then they hassle everyone about parking in the lots and give out a shitload of tickets every year. But screw them, we always have fun anyway.
    Your great grandmother at the picnic looks so familiar Chimatli. Those women at the picnics always dressed up sharp because they knew they would run into relatives they hadn’t seen for a while and wanted to impress. And how I recall those old stiff high wooden picnic tables like the one shown in the photo. They were designed in a way that made one have to sit up straight, no slouching!, and you always seemed to end up with splinters in your ass from those old wooden benches. But what fond memories I have of those old time family picnics.
    By the way Chimatli, have you continued to look for the “cave”? I think about it every time I drive by on Griffin and look up above the “baby jungle” . The old buildings that used to house the Indian Head Water Co are still there at 3640 Griffin Ave. (a very large hint for you!), but don’t try to walk up through the baby jungle to the top because it is full of poison oak at this time of year. Us kids used to get that poison oak every year and my Grandmother would make us take cold baths with Purex in the water, then we would be covered with Calamine Lotion, it never helped.

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