I recently returned from a visit to Mexico where I went to see my wife’s family. They are an excellent bunch with a love for beer, conversation and avoiding any discussion of politics, except when you lay down hate for the telenovela president, because he is a priista. I went to baptize my son in a cathedral in Cuernavaca. It was a striking structure built after the conquest, truly a monument to architecture and genocide. I also went, as I often do, to get away from los yanquis. [As a disclaimer, I am the descendant of a motley crew of Europeans from different countries who arrived in the USA in the early 1900s; therefore, I am a yanqui] To get the hell away from poor news and journalism, to get a breath of fresh air buying a copy of La Jornada for 10 pesos or Proceso. Mexico, where they murder journalists as sport, and where the journalists don’t seem to give a damn; they are brave, so very damn courageous. I have some observations and notes that I want to bring up, a line here or there, a statement, maybe more.
Mexico City is beautifully schizophrenic. It is a bricolage that slams you with its wild disparities and hybridities. The buildings mush together, a grey concrete structure on top of the pastel orange painted house slowly chipping away, the mark of a house owned by a family with just a bit more. A line of graffiti after the image of Zapata right next to a painted advertisement for a concert by La Arrolladora Banda el Limón, or the statement “Capitalismo es inhumano” (Capitalism is inhumane). It is a slogan used as a jab at the destructive economy in so few words. It is a slogan probably written by some wild youth who added the anarchy sign below it. A boy or girl after my own heart, or maybe to imagine a 70 year old grandmother who has finally had enough and grabbed a can of spray paint in a last ditch effort to vent frustration. I can see her now, carrying a bag with the day’s meal from the public market and those black shoes on, always those black shoes. I imagine her waiting for the police to pass by, always with their lights on, as she quickly puts it on the wall. If only the light didn’t turn green on my way through the Coyoacán delegation, I just may have taken a picture.
We went to Estadio Azteca to see a match between América and Queretaro. We sported our jerseys, gave our support. It was a shitty match. And the police are always in the way, along with the metal fences and barbed wire. Such fervor under military conditions with chants, flag waving, and running up and down the bleachers after a goal. Although, this time there was no running, because there were no goals. All of this maddening police-state apparatus in place to stop the sporadic violence of people who place their desire wholly in the hands of capitalist-owned teams; people who may or may not be marginalized, people who may just like the taste of violence, of the fist connecting with a jaw and the raucous carnival of explosive collectivity, of mob rule. The game of soccer is beautiful, a game played in a smooth space where each team is a collective and positions can be interchanged when necessary, when the world seems to reassemble in an instant. Yet, the joy is gone, sapped away, given over to the realization that too much desire is invested in something that is never truly of, by, and for the people. At the end of the day, this is for profit, not for sport. Otherwise, the capitalists would leave it on a dirt pitch in Toluca to be played by those who truly find joy in the game.
What to make of a city where they build freeways above other freeways, even when they know an earthquake is never far off in time. More roads, more cars, more pollution as a never ending cycle as more and more people flood the city daily. On a good day, when the wind blows furiously, the air pollution lifts and you realize you are in a valley surrounded by glorious mountains with Itza and Popo off in the distance. Those two volcanoes are a constant reminder you are on the edge of volcanic eruption. And Popo is active my dear friends, he spews ash to let you know so. Not every day, but once in awhile, every now and then. Earthquakes, volcanoes and pollution! Yet, still enchanting, still a place I truly love to be.
The segundo piso, where breaking the speed limit is done with ease as long as you know where the speed monitors are, posted blatantly for all to see.
In my in-laws’ kitchen there is a small television with only antennas. For breakfast we put on HOY, a horrendous program where commercials and skits blend together. At least I can have a good laugh when the horoscopes start or when they run snapshots of the novelas (or comedias as my suegro likes to call them) that are currently running on all of Televisa’s channels. Because, you get great cultural criticism when you are pushing a product owned by the station that currently employs you. Cue cliché line about how a show really gets across the concept of love as it rehashes for the millionth time the idea of broken romance. Well, escaping Gringolandia in a hegemonic world means you might run across the same inane crap wherever you are on the globe.
I would like to ask, where the hell The New York Times’ section is for Society and Justice. Oh, that’s right. They don’t and never will have one. Open up your daily copy of La Jornada and they got one. Now there is a paper for the people, a bunch of muckrakers ready to push forward the people’s agenda. You got a protest, they got you covered. You’re a self-defense force in Michoacán, and they will make sure people know the government is planning to screw you over and not help you out. And they aren’t just running it for circulation; they are doing it because that is what journalism is supposed to do. The United States is always acting high and mighty wanting to tell the Mexicans what they should be doing. Well, here are the Mexicans showing what American journalists should be doing. I figure they won’t get the message, which would be accepting the world doesn’t revolve around us. O to be part of an Idiotic hegemony!
In Mexico City, the poor and informal proletarians are in your face. They are there to make money selling loosies and washing windows, maybe even juggling. A constant reminder that economic growth means jack shit, ‘cause people are going hungry and there ain’t no relief coming from proposed and/or enacted policies. That guy bouncing between cars holding thirty cell phone chargers get’s to let you know he is real. Not just some figment of the popular imagination, but a living, breathing human being who takes 10 or 12 hours a day to make enough to eat, going car to car. The ambulante is a hero, a captain of industry. Sadly, he doesn’t get government subsidies, so they call him a shitty capitalist. They, the elites, the middle class, they heap scorn upon him, because he didn’t play by the right rules, the rigged ones.
I remember reading in one of Cockburn’s books about French bread and bacteria. I think it is analogous to Mexican tacos and vats of grease. Sometimes your health regulation destroys the flavor. What is life without a bit of risk?
If you get a chance and can wait, hit up La Casa del Toño for a bad ass and cheap pozole. You won’t be upset. Or go to Fisher’s, but only for the breakfast menu. Get there michelada, they throw a bit of cracked pepper in it. As well, if you are in Cuernavaca, pass by Taqueria Erendira. I recommend the torta with chorizo and cheese. Best damn thing ever. Go at like 2 in the morning, preferably slightly inebriated. Mila will be there. Or Fonda La Güera and get the cecina bañada. But watch out, they close at 6. And of course, always look for taco stands packed with people, like New York delis, you only wait for the best.
It was 100 years in April and barely a peep in America, but in Mexico they remembered. In April of 1914 the gringos invaded Veracruz. The New York Times printed an article about it by the court historian Enrique Krauze. As best as a fence-sitter could, he represented the anger and angst of the people during the invasion. He wrote of their rage, the rage of a people when invaded, of the ability to rise up when threatened; another form of collective violence, a righteous one. He ended with a general set of demands that have arisen as the imperial era of the northern neighbor draws to a close. No more, por fin, to the yanqui imperialist, as best as I can sum it up.
Buy every book by Paco Ignacio Taibo II you can. Also, watch him on YouTube. Thank me for the tip later.
Andrew Smolski is an anarchist sociologist based in Texas. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org