The Hundredth Meridianrnby Chilton Williamson, Jr.rnIn MexicornThe man and the bull stood facing onernanother across the yellow sand midwayrnbetween the center of the ring and thernbarrera. The bull was smaller and less ferociousrnthan the big fighting bulls; thernman was young, not out of his teens, andrninstead of the matador’s costume of embroideredrnsilk he wore a suit of tight-fittingrntan cloth, and under it a stiff whiternshirt. He was a novillero facing his firstrnbull, and although he was doing betterrnwith it than the novillero of the Sundayrnbefore had done with his, still he wasrnmaking some terrible mistakes, turningrnhis back at a 45 degree angle to the bullrnas he walked away from a series of incompleternpasses. His death, if it happened,rnwould be witnessed by a handfulrnof spectators—family, friends; spectatorsrnat the sorteo which had preceded thernprofessional fight scheduled to commencernat 6:30 that evening; employeesrnof the Plaza de Toros Monumental—andrnit would probably not be written up inrnthe Diario de Juarez the next day.rnAt a quarter past one, with the sun justrnpast the overhead, the temperaturernapproached 100 degrees. Many of thernwomen sitting on the concrete benchesrnwere under umbrellas, while Jim Rauenrnand I stood sweating in our straw hatsrnagainst one of the iron fences anchoredrnright and left of the entry to the arena. Itrnwas warm to be standing out in thernSeptember sun of Mexico, too warm tornbe fighting a bull, and far too warm to berndoing it encased in a suit that looked as ifrnit had been made for the hero of a 19thcenturyrnromantic opera. The novillero’srnassistants were dressed as uncomfortablyrnas he, and they too made bad mistakes.rnThe fight proceeded by fits and starts,rnand at last the novillero took up thernmuleta. His incomplete motions arrestedrnthe bull prematurely, causing him torntry to hook the man with his horn as hernpassed. This happened several times beforernthe boy, in an attempt at imitatingrnthe nonchalance of the matador, turnedrnhis back on the bull to look up to thernspectators. The muleta fell in the sandrnas the bull, charging, caught him in thernseat of the pants and lifted him betweenrnthe wide-set points of the horns. Hernlanded ahead of himself in a sitting positionrnas the assistants ran in flapping theirrncapes to draw the bull off and sprintedrnbehind the burladero, from which hernemerged limping with a tear in the leg ofrnhis tan suit, determined to make the kill.rnHe killed poorly, but at least he was notrnkilled himself and he killed better thanrnlast week’s novillero had. “That kid is goingrnto be sore for the next month,” Jimrnsaid. Around us the women were gettingrnup from the concrete and folding theirrnumbrellas. “Let’s walk over to Paco andrnhave lunch.”rnIt was good to be back in irreduciblernMexico, which resists sentimentality asrnstrongly as the United States embraces it,rnand where Mexicans are not a “minorityrngroup” but simply real people. In fact, itrnis worth becoming a member of a minorityrngroup yourself to be here. Except yournare never treated as such in Mexico. Insteadrnyou are regarded as either a targetrnof malfeasance, from shortchanging byrnshopkeepers and taxi drivers to murder atrnthe hands of banditos and the federales,rnand everything in between; or, as is farrnmore likely, a curious but for the mostrnpart welcome guest, by generous hosts.rnIf it were not for a government evenrnmore awful than our own, I would probablyrnbe a resident alien down here now,rnhaving willingly surrendered my legitimaternplace at the Greatest Trough OnrnEarth to the next illegal paisano arrivedrnin search of the Good Life as exemplifiedrnby Time Warner’s culture. Bill Clinton’srnwife, Jack Kemp’s politics, and Bill Bennett’srnvirtue.rnThe mystery of contemporary Mexicornis not the heart of darkness lying behindrnthe charm and intrigue, but the differencernbetween the Mexicans you meet inrnMexico and the ones you encounter onrnthe American side of the border. (I amrntalking not about the long-establishedrnMexican-American community of thernAmerican Southwest but last night’srnarrivals, their hands bloodied fromrnclimbing wire fences and their wet shirtsrnsticking to their backs.) Open-borderrnenthusiasts will protest that being huntedrndown by helicopters, Broncos, andrnGerman Shepherds changes human beings,rnand they have a point. There is alsornthe fact that Mexicans arriving in thernUnited States today come from deeperrnwithin the country than they once did,rnand that many of them are not reallyrnMejicanos at all—they are Indios. Still, arnvisit even to a demographically swampedrnborder city like Giudad Juarez, with itsrnproliferating colonias along the riverrnagainst the ragged desert mountains,rnsuggests that America is receiving in substantialrnnumbers not necessarily thernpoorest of the Mexican population, butrnvery likely the worst.rnPathetically the Mexican authorities,rnlike those of every Third World country,rndiscourage foreigners from experiencingrnwhat is most simple and touching aboutrnMexico. The travel agencies will tell yournthat there is a single train daily betweenrnNogales, at the Arizona border, and Hermosillo,rnthe capital of Sonora, and nornbus service at all. I learned of the existencernof a second train from a Mexican-rnAmerican gentleman in the lobby of thernAmericana Hotel in Nogales, Arizona. Itrnwas, he explained, a second-class train,rndeparting at 7:45 in the morning and arrivingrnat 2:00 in the afternoon after a runrnof 174 miles. “I’m in the produce business,”rnan American businessman told mernthat evening at a restaurant on the Mexicanrnside where we were eating supper.rn”I deal with these people all the time.rnWhatever you do, don’t take the busrndown there. They’re a wipeout. Andrnyou don’t want to take the second-classrntrain, with the pigs and the sheep andrnthe goats.” “It isn’t dangerous, is it?” Hernshrugged. “You’ll be uncomfortable.”rn”And why,” his wife wanted to know,rn”when the other is only fifty-six dollars?”rn”iHay una plaza de toros en Nogales?”rnI asked the taxi driver as we rode the fivernkilometers from the international cross-rnDECEMBER 1996/49rnrnrn