I read your article (here) about Julio Torri Cervi for the second time. The first time was several years ago.
Somehow his name came back to my memories and after doing a google search I found what you wrote about him. All in all, you’re right about him, but to me, he never struck me as someone who wanted to die in anonymity, but more or less like someone that wanted to go through history as the “Buddha of Tulancingo”.
He ran around claiming that he didn't want to use his uncle ‘s name to gain notoriety, but in the same breath he tried to portrait him as a pillar of the mexican intellectualism. We have to remember that Julio Torri’s (the uncle) literary production was rather squalid and his resume consisted mainly of his friendship with Vasconcelos.
I don't want to take anything away from Julio my friend, he was well educated, spoke several languages, artist, writer and a philosopher of sorts… but he was not humble, nor shy about his qualities or qualifications nor the things he wanted out of this life. I don’t want to say that he was a con man, but he came to Tulancingo selling ‘snake oil’ and we bought it! Instead of blowing up his cover and showing up what he really was... a pretender.
When we met he must have been in his early forties, but I thought he was something like seventy because that was the image he wanted to portray… ‘an old wise man sacrificing himself out of the glory of this world just to save poor Tulancingo from its ignorance’
When I heard that he became a clergy it didn't surprise me, it made total sense with the kind of persona he wanted to portray himself… A mystic ascetic holder of a secret knowledge. In reality, he was an atheist with little respect for organized religion and his contact with the church had the only purpose of securing a contract to paint the murals of the cathedral. I guess along the way he found that becoming a priest would secure his future at the age of retirement
I met Julio when I was sixteen years old. I was a student at the Preparatoria Numero 2 and he came to give a lecture. It must have been about literature, I think, because when he finished I approached him andI asked if he would be willing to read some of my poetry. He agreed but asked me if he could take my poems with him and we could talk later. I said yes and we agree to meet at the Colonial hotel later that week. I don't remember what poems I gave him, but I'm sure they weren't good at all. I remember that one of my poems was titled “Soneto” and he read it and said “this is a poem, but not a soneto” and proceed to explain to me what a soneto was.
From then on we met frequently and had long talks about philosophy and the meaning of life. I met his friend Otto and his girlfriend and for what i can infer now, I can tell that they either met through the dianetics or they introduced him to the dianetics (nowadays known as scientology) I always had the feeling that otto and his girlfriend were more interested in finding gold hiding in old houses using the dianetics methods. Meanwhile, Julio was painting and Otto would do the rounds through the art galleriesi n Mexico city.
One day my mother asked me to invite Julio out for dinner in our home We lived in El Paraiso, which, at the time, was just a rural town with no running water, sewer or electricity, the roads (we used to call the streets) were just a trail path through the nopal cacti and my house was just a shack or a hut . He
said yes and came over. My mother made some chicken and rabbit Mixiotes but they turned out to be too
spicy for Julio who had some heart problems at the time. Nevertheless, the dinner was a success and
my mother (an intellectual of sorts) had a great conversation about art and music with him. We had a
dog with a litter of puppies and he took one with him and name her Pascuala.
After that,against my mother's wishes (I was a minor at the time) I spent several weeks at his house in
“Cerro verde”. That was the time when he was starting his series of ‘Retablos’ and if you happen to see
one of them you'll see a puppy next to Santa Pascuala and her missing foot, that was the puppy we gave
him, He later gave her away because his lifestyle did not aloud him to take care of her.. He was making a
portrait of a woman who was the daughter of a factory owner in tulancingo, and a nopal cactus landscape
that was fascinating because it looked like it was photographed from above… I wish I had that one.
We continued to be friends. We have dinner often at the archidiocesis of Tulancingo because he was
lobbying the archbishop to aloud him to paint the cathedral murals.
At some point I was admitted in the school of Veterinary medicine at the Universidad Metropolitana and
soon after I moved to Mexico city. After that we saw each other less often but one day we had a very
agitated conversation about something. It must have been politics or something in between. He used to
dream of the old times when the intelectuals used to rub elbows with ‘la creme de la creme’, and I was a
a young dreamer os a better world with social justice and equality of wealth and rights.We argued and I
stormed out of the cafe very uneasy. Couple weeks after I read something he wrote in ‘El Sol de Hidalgo.
In that article he was talking about what we talked about that night. He didn't mention my name, but he
said that ‘someone who thinks that just because he is very good at playing chess, can have an opinion
about…’ I can't say with certainty, I just know it was me who he was talking about…
We never saw each other again. Life took me all the way to chicago and just recently, in the last year I
have some contact with some pieces of my past life in tulancingo. I know he is dead, I know many
people have no respect for him, but for bad or for good he left a mark in my life.
One day he saw something I wrote and told me “It reminds me of a poem by my uncle Julio Torri:
This is the poem by his uncle:
¡Circe, diosa venerable! He seguido puntualmente tus avisos. Mas no me hice amarrar al mástil
cuando divisamos la isla de las sirenas, porque iba resuelto a perderme. En medio del mar
silencioso estaba la pradera fatal. Parecía un cargamento de violetas errante por las aguas.
¡Circe, noble diosa de los hermosos cabellos! Mi destino es cruel. Como iba resuelto a
perderme, las sirenas no cantaron para mí!
I Don't remember what I wrote back then… But at this point, it doesn't matter anymore… Ironically, that
poem of his uncle has been the compass of my life.