American Crusade – El Sol de México

Part I: The Journey

The United States is vast. Yes, that is the word. It took me a whole trip, but I have it. It is not big, as if it were already many years old. It is not huge either, as if it escaped from your hands. Even “incommensurable” seems to me a vain attempt to describe it, knowing—as I well understand today—that its extremes can be traversed; that in 85 hours, you can cross everything by train.

Vast. That’s it, then. This is how I think of him with decades of unfounded adulation and years of deafening encounters; Months of separation followed and, now, these days that I have dedicated to traveling the entire country. As vast as the landscapes I have seen these days, pushed by the forces of a train even when, at so many points, I wanted to get off and never return. My only company in the adventure—the one that I chronicle today—has been the countless landscapes, the Americans stressed by the passing of the hours and the silence sheltering a crusade, which is broken with the tapping of my fingers on the keyboard. .

Vast. So is this. More than describing its soil, I am realizing, it is a description of its town. Of all the people I have seen on this trip and with whom, in rare moments, I have interacted. Everything emanates from the vast. Like a plain that stretches to the horizon and, you assume, will have an end that you can’t see. In that moment of loneliness, abandoned in a meadow that is believed to be infinite, the being faces two neighboring realities—the two minds that the United States guides. One is the excessive but illusory ambition to know the distant plains; The other is the appeasing conformity of knowing it is impossible. In my years in the country—which are coming to an end—and this journey that encapsulates so much, I realize that this is the thinking of the United States. A town that is defined by its vastness and the decisions that emanate from it.

The first thing—the adventurous impulse—is what moves me right now. Having already spent five years in its plains, I decided to buy a ticket to cross the country from coast to coast; see, firsthand, those places that I have only imagined but have remained latent among my desires. There is, of course, something poetic; a desire to encounter the infinite and know that it can be tamed; that the United States, so foreign, could also become its own by loving it.

I’m not the first to notice it; not even the first to cross the entire country by train. It is enough to see its authors and singers—painters themselves—to realize the obsession that its people have with traveling such a vast country. Dylan traveling through the south; Keruac writing about his journeys. There is, among Americans, a fixation on getting into cars or caravans to venture to neighboring states (only on my train—blessed train—have I met other pairs of crazy people on the same journey). Everything to check—even if they assume truth—if the green of their trees is the same in all the forests or the distant air, even if it moves with the winds, carries the same aroma of home. It seems undeniable to me, the United States is a country that calls; that begs to be discovered and whose people venture out like intrepid explorers. Romantic but true.

It’s not that it’s perfect either. Sometimes, in their adventure—that inherited by the ancient explorers who crossed their coasts—they ignore scruples and act for no apparent reason. The first of its defects. An inevitable tendency towards discovery without considering the risks. The American, I am certain, has the tendency to do things—to explore the world—without asking whether he should do it. Hence so much hatred towards his people in the rest of the world due to a lack of tact motivated by his sincere efforts.

Not everyone ventures, of course. What’s more, they are the least. Seen in this immense valley, most Americans fall into a peaceful helplessness. Thinking that the world is so vast that it falls into the category of the untravelable. Instead of knowing it, they venture into the tacit belief that it is better to speculate; make it part of categories as vague as the imagination allows. It’s no longer exploring, it’s taking pleasure in one’s place. Like its name itself, so long and tired, but ambitious. The people—their people—are losing interest with each word until they forget the “United” along with the “States” and acquire, in English, the imprecise nickname “America.” A single word—stealing the continent—that generalizes its thousands of hectares, all so different, into precise syllables. As if in a single “America” or in fragmented acronyms (USA; EEUU) there would fit the Pacific Ocean dancing around hills, the arid plains of Nevada or the eternal cornfields within. It is the undoubted comfort of knowing the infinite and being satisfied with seeing it in a symbol without having to understand it.

All of this is defined in that subtle moment; being alone in such a vast country and struggling to navigate it. If someone wants to understand the United States, its people and its virtues; its government and its vices, we must understand how its problems emanate from its territory.

That’s what I feel now, in front of the station, seeing the confused faces of so many when I tell them my plan to leave San Francisco to get to New York. The anxiety of seeing the vastness in front of one. When I talk to people, I observe a certain admiration. The many are confused by the audacity—as if it were enough to see the country on a map to understand it—, a few—from the brave sector—give me drinks while laughing. Everyone, however, says between sighs: “That must be beautiful.” Seeing an entire country from coast to coast and understanding, in doing so, its nuances.

On the eve of the trip, I think about what lies in front of me. On the tracks laid years ago—even centuries ago—that unite the nation and continue to carry passengers to see how they materialize from ideas to wood to steel. In the thousands of people who live in between and the many birds that have to travel the same path through the skies. It is a long journey—a mere eighty-five hours of adventure—but it is the journey that represents that irrational desire for adventure that is so characteristic of the United States. The question is whether one will want to get on the train.

This is how, I am convinced, the country is found. Standing before its vastness and debating whether to explore it. Falling in love with its first-time landscapes, getting fed up with its plains and crying with frustration in the twentieth consecutive hour of cornfields. Moved, only, by the adventurous spirit—or the equally powerful ride of the train on its tracks.

Today, I choose to do so.

This is the story of my journey.

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