Friday, November 07, 2008

Mexico: Bizarroland

Every time one goes to Mexico, one can expect something to punch you in the gut.
Yesterday, my hour and a half trip to the airport was a fitting farewell. The cab driver decided to use an unorthodox route to get me there on time. Traffic chaos in Mexico is a daily occurrence but it was made even more hellish by the crash of a Lear Jet that was carrying the Mexican Minister of the Interior a couple of days before (everybody thinks it was done on purpose by drug lords). The plane crashed on top of a major artery of the city in rush hour. Two days later, traffic was hell. So my driver decided to take Reforma, our Champs Elysees, all the way to the airport. This was far more fun than driving on the freeways. The city government has put lovely sculptures by important Mexican artists on the Chapultepec stretch. They also have a photo exhibit of handicapped people. Then there was a stretch with colorful sculptures of giant alebrijes, who are dragon spirits, or as a cab driver in Oaxaca told me, somebody's dreams made art.

And then came the punch to the gut. On the intersection between Reforma and Insurgentes, the two major Mexico City avenues, appears a large group of men wearing only their underwear (briefs). They are stomping their feet and chanting. Most of them look young and fit. They are manifesting some displeasure with the government and the undersecretary of the interior. Big signs claim that the government lied to them (and this is strange, why?) They are also creating congestion. I snap a picture. One of them happily waves at me, another one seems to be carefully fishing something out of the deep recesses of his ass. It is all very disturbing.

Then I look out the other window and I see a couple of such men, this time older, tied to wooden crosses hanging from posts, which is not only way over the top, but frankly totally indecent. Then in the distance I see a bunch of women, absolutely buck naked, sans panties, sans bra, standing on a dais, chanting slogans. I was so shocked, I forgot I had a camera in my hands. None of them owned the airbrushed, hard-bodies nudes we expect to see when confronted with human nudity. They all seemed overnourished and underexercised, but my question is why are the women allowed, or why do they comply, to be totally naked while the men are not? Unless it's a Spencer Tunick photo, naked people in the middle of the day, in the middle of civilized life, is a very visceral, disturbing sight. The question of course is also, who the fuck are these ridiculous people and why the fuck are they not all thrown into police vans and ordered to dress? If you are Mexican you know the answer, which is coming, bear with me.
The cab driver calmly informs me that they have been there for weeks*. Someone must be paying for the show, I say, and we both surmise (I guess; he knows) it must be that freaking vantz, that pest of the left, our wannabe Hugo Chávez, AMLO (Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador). To me, this grotesquerie bears his signature.
As for the question why is this allowed to happen? For the same reason the government allowed a massive AMLO provoked camp out in the middle of downtown Mexico City for months. Tactics like this are designed as provocation. AMLO, or whoever comes up with these moronic obscenities, wants the government to bring in the police or the national guard and use violence against the protesters, who are supposed to be "the people" (the actual Mexican people are working to feed their families, every day). The government decides they are not going to fall into the trap, so they allow it. Knock yourselves out, is the government's M.O. Nobody can accuse them of trampling anybody's self-expression or their right to protest. It is also traditional for the government to pander and pay lip service to the left, instead of actually helping the poor.
Me, enlightened despot that I am (and getting more despotic by the minute), I would have these people arrested in less time they would take to pull their pants down. I'm sure there is an obscenity law buried somewhere not so deep in the Mexican laws. When I was a teenager, for crying out loud, you couldn't sit in a car with a date without fearing that the police would come and shake you up for committing "faults against morality", so give me a freaking break.
And if you are a bleeding heart liberal, you have to understand that in Mexico there is a traditional practice of paying "the people" to protest. I don't doubt that at the beginning there were actual peasants with legitimate grievances. Now it looks to me like someone is paying for the parade to continue. It took me a couple of minutes to realize I should have taken more pictures, but I swear I was too stunned.
* just google 400 pueblos and you will see many grotesque pictures. You will learn they are supposedly peasants from Veracruz who have been doing this since 2002. Mexicans are both a patient people and masters at passive aggression.

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