In my own town, there used to be a small classical fountain dedicated by the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. It was long ago torn down. (Who wishes to recall the forces that led to Prohibition?) In its place now sits an honorific statue to the clawed, half-human Aztec deity Coatlicue, the hungry earth-mother goddess. Coatlicue was quite a bloodthirsty creation, to whom thousands of living captives were sacrificed. The goddess was often portrayed wrapped in a cloak of skin and wearing a neckless of human hearts, hands, and skulls. Our town’s new epigraph atop Coatlicue is Viva la Raza — “Long live the Race.” Should there be demonstrations to yank down such a racialist and Franco-ist hurrah? Or are the supposed victims of white privilege themselves exempt from the very chauvinism that they sometimes allege in others? Is there a progressive rationale that exempts Coatlicue and its racist plaque, whose sloganeering channels the raza/razza mantras of Fascist Spain and Mussolini’s Italy? Are we to have a perpetual war of the statues?
I have whale-watched in the rain, or whale- sought in the rain, while our boat hit waves as tall as houses and their spray left me storm-drenched and salt-soaked and blinking against the sting. I’ve watched a Chinese woman sit beside me at the prow, clenching the railing with one hand and a plastic baggie of her own vomit with the other, undeterred, scanning the horizon for unseen blowholes … I’ve eaten mangoes sweet as candy, licked the orange stain around my mouth after sucking their pits for the last flesh.