Last week I read a most interesting editorial by Carlos Fuentes in “El Pais” (a newspaper from Mexico City.) In this piece Mr. Fuentes gives historical perspective to the current situation in Mexico…

He begins with the French Revolution of 1779, explaining that while it sparked technological progress, the students, factory workers, laborers, and farmers were excluded from the generated wealth.

He says that in Mexico in 1810, similar discontent raged and led to independence from Spain.  In 1848, in France and Germany, the working class rebelled. In Austria and in Italy, the story was similar.

Moving forward through the centuries, we see many significant periods and events, most of them triggered by the inequality of society. Those that had… had a lot; those did not have… had nothing!

In 1968, all over the world, the same inconformity was expressed  (Paris, Tokyo, Kent State…) and nowhere was this more true than in Mexico. The country is still reeling from the Students  vs. Army confrontation at Tlatelolco.

In 2000, the right wing National Action Party (PAN) party finally triumphed over the  70+ year hold that the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) party held in the country. The citizens hoped for more equality but according to Mr. Fuentes, the changes affected by the new leadership might have been significant in the 1970s but  in 2011, they are laughable.

And now, Mexicanos  are once again claiming their rights in Mexico. More than 100,000 marched for 2,000 kilometers, from Mexico City to Ciudad Juarez – their message is loud and clear: ¡Basta! – Enough Violence!

Throughout the world, there is a demand for institutions, societies and lifestyles that meet the local culture’s needs but also contribute positively to the international panorama.

The article ends with an admonition that must be foremost in our minds during this time of change. We need to open our eyes and realize that everything we do today will impact our lives tomorrow. The “house of cards” we live in must be given more substance.

Carlos Fuentes (born November 11, 1928) is a Mexican writer and one of the best-known living novelists and essayists in the Spanish-speaking world. He has influenced contemporary Latin American literature and his works have been widely translated into English and other languages.

As a long time resident of Merida, I am amazed by the number of other nationals (mostly Americans and Canadians) moving to the city. The recent statistics from Immigration claim there are 6,000 permanent foreign residents (this does not take into account the winter guests and other part-timers)

My favorite Carlos Fuentes books is “Aura.” It is available in English. I feel that as international residents of Mexico, it is beneficial to read works by the country’s  writers.  It shows respect for our adopted country and the citizens appreciate it. (not to mention how much you’ll enjoy the books!) This website has a comprehensive list of Latin American works that have been translated into English.

*All images are from Google



Filed under Vida Latina, Writing

11 responses to “Perspective

  1. Fuentes is better known for his cynical or perhaps bitter “take” on the Revolution in “The Death of Artimo Cruz”, “The Days of Laura Diaz” and “The Old Gringo”,

    Aura is a favorite of mine, too. it’s one of those novels EVERYONE should read, if just for the creepy ending. Which I won’t give away.

    Aura is one of those classics that has received the back-handed compliment of being banned for promoting thought. Fuentes once joked he should share some royalties with Fox Administration Secretary of Education (the late) Carlos Abascal, who attempted to have Aura removed from Mexican prepas, because Abascal considered it anti-Catholic and sexually perverse… naturally making it a best seller long after its 1962 publication.

    What seems important about the demos isn’t that they’re happening (this administration, like the previous one, organized — and pumped through Televisa — several “anti-violence demos” that attracted massive crowds. These are smaller events, but citizen organized, and attracting the intellectuals as well as the ordinary people. While they don’t, in themselves, create change, they indicate that change is in the air. More interesting than the demos themselves is the defensive attitude taken by the Administration, and the growing sense that people just aren’t buying what the state is trying to sell.

    • Thanks Rich… Fuentes is one of my all time favorite authors, especially for the way he combines thought provoking portrayals with other-worldly imagery…

  2. Do you know if Carlos Fuentes’ book “Aura” in English is available anywhere in the Merida area?

  3. YucatanMan

    From experience, marches accomplish one major goal:

    They empower the people participating to express their desires. Marches rarely lead to immediate change by the powers that be. But they lead to a change among the people in them: They realize, weakly or strongly depending on the turn-out for the march, they are not alone in their goals and desires. People witnessing the march are also affected.

    In this way, one march is not the end in itself, but it gives more people more motivation to work and fight for that end. It is also a public manifestation of the desires of “the people.” With 100,000 people marching, and being cheered at every stop along the way, politicians cannot ignore the subject. They are forced to react. They are made to realize that other viewpoints exist – strongly supported, perhaps – other than their own.

    This one march will not mark a sudden shift in policies. But it may mark the beginning of the end of the policies.
    Shifting gears a moment: “The law” must always conform to mass economic demand. The USA learned this during Prohibition. Banning alcohol — a ‘moral’ move in the face of strong and continuing economic demand — was a vast failure. Throughout Prohibition, you could get a drink in any town of size in the nation. And millions did partake throughout Prohibition.

    What criminalizing alcohol did was to create criminals of people who drank, and more so, those who provided drink. By passing a law, the Congress made vast numbers of citizens criminals by fiat. And this justified armed conflict among the organized satisfiers of economic demand known as gangs and bandits. And it justified on heavily arming the police in order to fight the armed gangs.

    Yet for all the shootouts, for all the people locked up, for all the barrels of whiskey smashed on the ground, millions of Americans continued to drink. Prohibition was a massive failure, something that a nation once possessed of logic and reasoned thinking was able to perceive.

    Congress passed the “Volstead Act” on October 28, 1919, to enforce the (Constitutional Amendment of January 26, 1919)…. Although alcohol consumption did decline, there was a dramatic rise in organized crime in the larger cities, which now had a cash crop that was in high demand.

    Prohibition became increasingly unpopular during the Great Depression, as the repeal movement, led by conservative Democrats and Catholics, emphasized that repeal would generate enormous sums of much needed tax revenue, and weaken the base of organized crime. The Repeal of Prohibition in the United States was accomplished with the passage of the Twenty-first Amendment to the United States Constitution on December 5, 1933.

    Prohibition lasted 14 years in the USA. Richard Nixon declared “The War on Drugs” 40 years ago nearly to this day.

    Why is it taking the USA three times as long to learn their previous lesson over again?
    Criminalization doesn’t stop activity for which there is economic demand, whether it is drugs, labor, alcohol, or anything else. Better to modify demand – re: cigarette smoking – than to enrich organized crime through prohibitions.

    • Thank you for your well thought out reasonable response. It gives us all something to think about…

    • YucatanMan: Excellent take on the effect of marches. Better than mine by far. I tend toward pessimism perhaps too often.

      And, of course, the War on Drugs is a 100 percent failure, plus being counterproductive, and must end. It will in time.

    • I so agree with you so strongly, Yucatan Man!

      Participation does mobilize the participants, as well as the on-lookers. Just imagine, a scheduled march and hardly anyone shows up?

      A personal side–My father, over 80 at the time, marched once again in a civil rights march in Pittsburgh, Pa. I’m still proud of him.

      • The energy we feel from participation is related to the satisfaction of doing the right thing and acting in a brave way. This empowers us and encorages us to do more. That’s why organizers want to get people out to events… they know that once the first step is made, the rest will come…

  4. I am ever skeptical of marches, be they against violence, for women’s rights, collective bargaining, gay rights, whatever. They make the participants feel good short-term, but in the long run, they do little. There are notable exceptions, of course.

    The government is not causing the upswing in violence in Mexico except tangentially by not ignoring crime, which is the Mexican government’s traditional tactic. Bad guys are causing the violence. And bad guys care not a whit about a march.

    The violence in Mexico these days will only end when the United States legalizes drugs. We need more marches above the border, not down here. Maybe that would help.

    • I have never been one to march either but in the case of Mexico, I think ANY public action is a brave, courageous move. I don’t disagree with the government being tough on crime but I disagree with the way they do it – targeting one group, ignoring another. The bad guys are on both sides of the governmental desk so one tends to be rather disbelieving of any initiative. I don’t know about legalizing drugs but I am absolutely positive that if the illegal gun running were to stop, we’d see a huge difference. But that’s not likely is it? Nor is consumption going to reduce. Ah Felipe, it is a very complex issue and no single measure will tear it down.

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