The Depths

The sound of the waves on the shoreline, echoing deep into the night. He sits alone in his hotel room listening, sweat collecting on his back, the blasting tops of the waves illuminated by moonlight in his mind’s eye.

“It’s a hard way to make a living,” Otis Redding says, a momentary tune singing in the back of his mind as he wanders down a crowded street. The clouds hang low in the sky so that he is dim in the pull.

Later, a breath of cigarette smoke and laughter, dissolve into the night.

Sometimes he awakens in a sweat, the darkness in the room like the sea. His dreams have him floating through a murky wake, the light of only the moon seen clearly, almost near enough to reach, so that he stretches his arms up, a desperate clawing feeling rising in his throat as he sinks further. Even awake, as he stares around the empty room, he can still feel himself sinking and the moonlight disappearing.

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A Dreamer

During the Wars of Independence and the turbulent years that followed the establishment of the Republic of Mexico many young criollo intellectuals and proponents of independence tried to envision what the new nation might become. Simón Tadeo Ortiz y Ayala was one such dreamer. Born in Mascota, Jalisco to an important merchant family, he left for study in Europe in 1809 just before the first uprisings against the Spanish crown began. When he attempted to return to Mexico to support the revolution he was refused permission to leave Spain. He would not be denied though and sailed in secret to the United States, hoping to make his way south through Texas.

The failure of Hidalgo’s revolution forced him to a life of wandering, from New Orleans to Buenos Aires and Nueva Granada, then to England and Spain, presenting himself as an agent of a revolutionary government. He did what he could in these places to advance his cause and when the wars were at last over in 1821 he returned to a new nation. He dedicated himself to building it, imagining an ordered world, shaped by the ideals of the Enlightenment. What he found was a tumultuous political situation and a country ravaged by more than a decade of war.

He dedicated himself to bringing his imagined community to realization, writing treatises on the subject and becoming an advocate for the colonization of the states of Texas and Veracruz. Those projects encountered numerous difficulties. Settlers arrived during the spring and summer when yellow fever was prevalent, the agent in charge of arranging settlers betrayed him, and he was accused by the government of corruption and incompetence.

On his way to New York to meet incoming colonists he succumbed to cholera aboard the vessel the Spark.