“No hace falta morir para llegar a La Gloria” is an old Mexican saying that translates, roughly, to you don’t have to die to go to heaven. I didn’t know this until I stumbled onto a mural in San Antonio about ten years ago. It was clever marketing for a restaurant in an upscale brewery redevelopment. It shows a group of women sitting at a table in a manner very reminiscent of Jesus and His disciples at The Last Supper. They must be angels as they have wings. It’s colorful and slightly irreverent yet respectful in a way that is uniquely San Antonio.
If you look a little closer, you’ll see that the table is flanked by two street scenes. The one to the left is San Antonio. I recognize the Riverwalk and the iconic river barges that are a symbol of Texas’ second largest city. The one to the right is México DF, or what we call Mexico City. I know it’s DF because I see El Ángel de la Independencia, Catedral Metropolitana and Torre Latinoamericana.
I also see bicycles…both in SA and DF. In fact, bikes are the common thread tying these two cities and cultures together, at least in the eyes of this artist. This is awesome.
I thought about this as I rode today. I thought about how cars separate us from one another. They enclose us in thousands of pounds of armor and insulate us from our neighbors. They make us feel secure, but that’s just a lie. Thirty thousand people a year die in motor vehicle accidents in the United States alone. There’s nothing secure about a car.
Back to the mural… It seems as though just about everyone laments the fact that different people and different cultures just can’t seem to get along these days. We distrust each other and argue about whose lives matter the most. I can’t help but think it’s a natural outcome of walling ourselves off and hiding behind all that heavy metal.
But if you take away the protective armor, something magical happens. People connect. Different people with different stories and different lives. People who could not be more different. It is the most natural thing in the world. I’ve seen it on my bike. I’ll cross paths with someone who may not even speak the same language I do, but we’ll smile or nod or wave and for a brief instant none of that other stuff matters. We know who we are and it is all good. I can’t explain it and so I’m not even going to try. It is simply enough to know that this is how it’s supposed to be. This is heaven…or something like it.
And all it took to get here was a bicycle.