Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Antisemitism in Mexico

Yesterday, one of my Enchilados-in-Law sent me an op-ed column that appeared on the Mexican newspaper Reforma, commenting on the tragic deaths of a very prominent Mexican Jewish businessman and 4 members of his family in a helicopter crash. The columnist, a vantz named Froylán Lopez Narváez (who, if memory serves, has never been Jew-friendly), wrote a bizarrely baroque article, implying that people (including the Mexican President and the Mayor of Mexico City) were sending too many sympathy notices in the paper. Basically, the guy resented that such privileged people would merit such an outpouring of sympathy. He used some sneaky epithets that gave one the sinking feeling that what he objected to was not only that they were rich, but that they were Jews.  
This, in supposedly the most respected newspaper in Mexico, which obviously is not saying much and just goes to show more than anything else, the pathetic level of journalism in Mexico. This column would not have passed muster anywhere where there are decent editorial standards, let alone for its content; for the almost unintelligible way in which it was written. Dude, if something is bothering you, go ahead and say it. What exactly is your beef?
It is certainly not this businessman's fault that Mexico is a country of entrenched social inequality and corruption. He is certainly not the only entrepeneur to benefit from the status quo or to be close to power. Mexico, a country where many people still live in crushing poverty, has the obscene distinction of being home to the richest man in the planet (who, by the way, is not a Jew, although some have accused him otherwise).
I bring this up, because Mr. Ex-Enchilada posted something about Mexican Jews in his blog, with lots of comments asking about the state of Mexican antisemitism.
I would say, by and large, Mexicans are not virulently, violently antisemitic. They are just prone to the usual entrenched, ignorant, medieval prejudices and stereotypes generously spread by the Catholic church and/or resentful lefties. My favorites are the Mexicans who admire the Nazis. I always think that had Hitler succeeded in conquering the world, they would not be far behind on line for the gas chambers, given the Nazi insistence on Aryan good looks.
Mexicans are paradoxical. They are in general happy to live and let live, but they are also enormously prejudiced, and not only about Jews. Mexico is a country that peacefully tolerates diversity but that is not used to a lot of difference. It is a highly hierarchical, stultified, not very diverse or upwardly mobile society. Hence, prejudice is rampant. The attitudes towards gays and Jews and blacks are provincial and narrow minded. The way better-off Mexicans treat the Mexican poor is far more cruel and offensive than the way they treat others.
Mexican Jews have never experienced antisemitic violence (like in Argentina, France, Turkey, etc), but sometimes the language has been revolting. Sadly, many times from journalists and "intellectuals".
I hear that the comments section of El Universal on the death of the Jewish businessman was rife with horrid antisemitic comments, no doubt aided by the internet anonymity that is so abused by cowards. They apparently have been deleted.


  1. Anonymous2:44 PM

    Prejudice is definitely not rampant in Mexico, although it might seem that way if you analyse it with American values in mind. Similarly, if you hold the U.S. against what is considered prejudiced in Mexico, Americans would be considered like a very prejudiced society.

    A clear example is how pointing out a person's race/religion/physical features doesn't, by itself, carry any negative (or positive) connotation in Mexico.

  2. "Mexico is a country that peacefully tolerates diversity but that is not used to a lot of difference .... The attitudes towards gays and Jews and blacks are provincial and narrow minded". To me that summed it up.

    I personally haven't seen it much with Jews (mostly because I didn't know any when while living there, though in the north there are several traditions that can only be traced to Jewish beginnings) nor blacks (because we're all different shades of brown, but truth be told there aren't many blacks, and here I do believe Anonymous had a good point, as we don't really hold the same values and don't have the same issues that resulted from the civil war in the US), but definitely with the gays (because it is, after all, something that their dominant mothers surely didn't help with).

  3. Agree that there is definitely not a lot of tolerance for variety in Mexico, as you might call it.

    On contact, as is usual in these cases, those prejudices hopefully disappear.

  4. Anonymous1:35 PM

    Antisemitism and racism in Mexico are growing day by day.