“So what are we going to do? What can we do?”—Rosa Amalfitano
Fate is often the answer to the question Why me? For the women of Santa Teresa (and Juárez), the question might be more “Why us?” but the answer is the same: it just is, it’s fate, what can you do? No one knows how to stop the killings—they barely even receive press coverage anymore—they have become part of the landscape. “A sketch of the industrial landscape in the third world,” Fate calls his proposed piece of reportage. “The problem is bad luck,” said Rosa. From the stands of the arena, Fate can her them singing “the battle hymn of a lost war sung in the dark.” The fate of the city and the fate of the women are intertwined. Maria Bustillos asked earlier about why Amalfitano allows Rosa to go out into the city alone at night. What motivates a woman living in Santa Teresa to keep living there and venture out alone at night? Part of it must be the surreal nature of murder and kidnapping. They are such grand, cinematic concepts that they seemingly don’t apply to real world people—until they do. The difference between living in the shadow of constant murder and death is a pale illusion, a dream of never awaking. “You have to listen to women. You should never ignore a woman’s fears.”
The issue of machismo also arises in this section—not just because it is based around the boxing match, but because Fate is in some ways an intruder. His masculinity operates on a different frequency. He is aware that he can be easily perceived as a big black American dude, a scary presence to the shorter, somewhat homogeneous Mexicans, but the only time he tries on that persona, it doesn’t work on the form of machismo he encounters. What he perceives as sexual jealousy on the part of Chucho Flores and Corona (towards Rosa Amalfitano) turns out to be indifference on Chucho’s part (“I’m not jealous, amigo”) and sheer violence on Corona’s part (a gun? a murder? what did Fate do besides barge in on your little cocaine session?). Bolaño shows us how bizarre interactions between people can escalate into violence and then not fit neatly into explainable categories. If Corona does shoot Fate in that situation, how would you summarize it? A group of friends (former lovers?) were having a “party” at a house and the foreigner threatened a woman? Is it classified as a “domestic” situation? Of course, Chucho’s indifference in the house is contrasted by his violent jealousy earlier in the coffee shop when he calls Rosa a whore for kissing a classmate. Is his “indifference” in the house really just cowardice? Chucho comes off looking like the weakest sort of macho man. Are women in Santa Teresa being killed not because of predators but because of the weakness of men? As Amalfitano says, “They’re all mixed up in it.”
The instant that Rosa Amalfitano takes Fate’s hand and chooses him over the Mexicans, it saves Fate’s life. It is the end of his three days and nights in the belly of the whale. It is the sign that the two of them both have been granted a reprieve. So much of this section reminded me of Pulp Fiction (the boxing match, the girl doing drugs, the gun, the rush to leave the motel, etc.) that I thought that moment of Fate and Rosa finally connecting was the equivalent of Vincent Vega giving Mia Wallace an adrenaline shot to the heart.
Other topics we need to discuss: the end of the sacred (Daryl mentions it here), the end of the old-style movie theaters, the history of film in general, hexagons, the murals (Daryl has a great post on the Virgin here), TV shows.
“We all know things we think nobody else knows,” said Fate.