Europeans from Cortes to Graham Greene, and Americansnfrom Ambrose Bierce to the contemporary touristnwho is offered sugar-candy skulls to buy on the Day of thenDead and has his car stopped by men in anonymousnuniforms toting guns, have discovered Mexico to be ancountry characterized by a ferocious reality that very oftenncrosses over into the realm of the surreal. Mexican society,nin unsettling contrast with that of the affluent Angloncolossus to the north, is dishnguished chiefly by its medievalnGhristian piety (Gatholicism tinctured, in some instancesnstrongly, with aboriginal paganism) and by the irreduciblencircumstances of its material life. That the two qualities arenjoined cannot be doubted by anyone who has witnessed, fornexample, the celebration of the Feast of Our Lady ofnGuadalupe on the cathedral plaza in Giudad Juarez, wherenmen in rags gibber and weep before candle-lit statues of thenrecumbent Christ and a seemingly endless procession of thenblind, the lame, and the halt raises the temperature of thencathedral itself by 20 degrees and fills it, like a giganticnstable, with a gende animal reek. In Mexico, the spirit andnthe flesh are yoked in a reciprocity that seems scandalous tonthe Protestant Christian, outrageous to the northern rationalist,nand sickening to the squeamish of both parties, none ofnwhom is usually accustomed to being confronted by thatnvision of reality that seems peculiar to the Latin viewer, butnthat is nevertheless as true a one as any available to man onnthis earth.nFrom the bridge that spans the Rio Grande from El Paso,nthe pall of yellow smoke over Juarez was perceptible, and sonwas the odor of rotting garbage and rising sewers. But it wasnunexpectedly quiet on the Avenida Juarez on this EasternSunday, following the excitement and joy of Holy Week.nChilton Williamson, ]r.nChronicles.nBlood at Eastertidenis senior editor for books atnby Chilton Williamson, Jr.nm^ll:nAlong the nearly empty street a few merchants lounged innfront of their shops, and the last black-and-white backsnpressed in through the open doors of the Temple Bautista.nOn the plaza. Bach choruses were piped through loudspeakersnbut within the cathedral a quiet Easter Mass was beingncelebrated before what was much less than a full house. Andriver in the taxi-line on the opposite side of the plaza,nworking with a clean towel that he applied to the automobilenwith swift caressing motions, polished a beat-up yellow-andrednChevrolet with the name “Bertha” in hand-paintednletters on the rear quarter-panel. An old man with a creasednbrown neck and face sat patiently in the head taxi. “A/ Plazande Toros, por favor,” Jim Rauen told him as we climbed in.n”Monumental?” the driver inquired as the engine turnednover with a clanking uproar. “Si, senor,” Jim agreed,nsecuring his walking stick with its carved ivory head betweennhis knees.nThe taxi went through narrow streets and wide ones, pastnpedestaled statues of defunct generals and forgotten politicians,nand between rows of quiet middle-class houses andnmore expensive-looking ones with manicured lawns, carefullyntrimmed rose bushes, and shiny automobiles lockednaway behind iron fences secured by heavy padlocks. In anstreet so narrow that the driver had to slow almost to a crawl,na pair of policemen uniformed in brown stood impassivelyninterrogating a hapless motorcyclist. At the end of the street,nthe taxi made a left turn into a six-lane avenue that passedndirectly before the Plaza Monumental, where gaudy postersnplastered on a facade of brick arches read:nPlaza MonumentalnJuarez, Domingo 15 Abril, 5:00 P.M.nTradicional Corrida de PascuanMariano RamosnManolo ArruzanAlejandro SilvetinnnAPRIL 1992/21n