Mexico, or perhaps more specifically, Mexico City – the Pure land. Pure not in the sense of not being mixed with any other matter or free from dirt, but pure in the sense of honest, real, unobscured, and unobstructed, something quite scarce in this modern day and age.

Maybe unknowingly and unconsciously I was drawn to this land, like many of my other travels and adventures, trying to find the footsteps of the beat writers and poets of a previous era left behind in this place, not for easy and cheap ways of getting high, but perhaps to find, or even rediscover a part of myself.

Much different to most of the rest of the world and other cities, this is wild, free, ancient and ancestral land you are walking on, and you better tread lightly. Every smile, every wave and every friendly greet, a welcoming of a stranger into their sacred land.

There’s undeniably a contagious energy in the city like no other – A creative energy, a sporadic transformative energy; which you have no choice other than to inhabit, to embrace and immerse yourself fully into it. Instead of trying to argue or fight it, because of the person you once thought you were, you simply have to hand yourself over and let its currents sweep you away and spit you out on the banks again. This city will be a revelation to a part of your life you never even thought existed.

This land, these people, hold wisdom and knowledge not just to our past, but perhaps even to our future, but in order to obtain some of this wisdom, you first have to get on their pace, because here every one is moving to the same time and there’s only one sort of time. Tranquilo Amigo. This wisdom is not obtained by rushing. It’s in the tranquil silence in the midst of the hum of the city where you let the rushing of the world go by, and with a calmness of mind let the waves of life drift you to new cultural shores.

Sometimes that means you end up meditating underneath a cactus next to the ancient Teotihuacan Pyramids. Sometimes that means you end up, in the early morning hours well-passed midnight, as an uninvited yet warmly welcomed guest at a stranger’s 40th birthday party – Somewhere in a side ally in the middle of the city where you can’t even remember how you ended up there in the first place.

Don’t think just because this is a Pure land, it’s without pain and tragedy – that’s not Pure, that’s not honest. Sure there is poverty and sorrow all around, but materialistic poverty. I greet these people, look into their eyes and see something radiant, like the eyes of the saints that walk among them; a priceless treasure that they hold inside of them that you won’t find anywhere else anymore – An acceptance and gratitude of this life and its pain and its suffering, a sort of Buddhistic contentment you’ll perhaps only see in the east as well.

They use their suffering as a guiding principle to more wisdom and contentment. They know our real riches don’t lie in money and earthly belongings, but in moments spent around a table with loved ones enjoying simple food — rich in flavours and spices made by weary hands and from old family recipes — singing and dancing with friends and family or perhaps just being in each other’s presence under the noonday summer sun in a park in Roma. The real riches of life lie in the quiet moments spent when present with the one’s dearest to you – Like the indigenous people of the North Americas once described it; that moment when you know you’re on the edge of a thinly cut blade, to the one side the future, and the other the past, but you’re dancing on the edge between them. It lies in the Pure relationships with other people, and these people know this, they live this.

It’s important to constantly remind yourself that you are dealing with a different realm when you enter this land, where different rules apply and nothing of your previous “known” life matters. It’s like staring at your own reflection in a rain puddle next to the road, you see yourself staring back at you, but something seems unfamiliar, it’s a different version of you. This is a dreamy city where everything reverberates on a different frequency, and the sound of the wind through the leaves of the park trees testifies to this.

Perhaps a part of this underlining burden these locals carry within them is because they know their ancestors were the origins of humanity and now they look around at all these foreigners and tourist walking their streets and see what we have become, or rather what we have forgotten.

Here you begin to learn and see that life doesn’t work in black and white, but in a gradient of greys, where lines are oblique – but it’s in the obliqueness where the raw Purity and beauty of life lies – It’s a world that fluctuates between the real and the “fictitious” that in the end renders a much clearer image of what real life actually is.

I’ve looked at these images several times, pondered over this blank page for weeks before I started typing these words, and realised in the end, this is all that it is and ever will be – just words and a few moments in time captured on celluloid. But in order for all of this to really make sense, and carry some sort of substance of value for the reader/viewer, it needs to be experienced and felt. It’s the only way. Like this Pure land, Pure life can only be understood when experienced, when felt. And that means the pain with the beauty.

Although these special and perhaps sacred connections won’t last forever and will inevitably come to an end as you must leave this place again at some point, they will stay with you forever.

In the words of the iconic beat poet Jack Kerouac, “(Mexico) was like leaving a church on Sunday, taking off the formal suit and put on an overall. Even love was more intense in this country…”

~ Willem

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About the author

Avatar - Willem van den Heever

Willem van den Heever

I'm an independent filmmaker, photographer, writer, environmentalist and explorer from Cape Town, South Africa. In 2015 I graduated with a BA Film Arts degree from The Open Window Institute of Film Arts, in Pretoria, South Africa and have since travelled to...

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