¡Ask A Mexican! for Oct 14, 2010
One man's take on his culture's stereotypes
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Dear Gabacho: Relying on James Michener for history is like relying on Mexico to stop illegal immigration. So, readers: Gringo Solo’s assertions about lowrider tattoos, embarrassed families and feral dogs are damned lies; every other wild detail is true.
And Solo forgot to mention Mexico’s other fetishized chopped-off body parts: Pancho Villa’s missing skull; the severed head of patriot Miguel Hidalgo; Emiliano Zapata’s mustache; and the pickled remains of Mexico’s first president, Guadalupe Victoria (legend has it that two gabacho soldiers during the 1848 Mexican-American War tried to drink the liquid that preserved Victoria’s innards and promptly died).
I could cry double standard, given America’s love for breasts, skin color and Britney Spears’ panocha, but I’m not. Mexicans do obsess about the body parts of dead people, but that phenomenon is better understood in the context of two mexcellente traits: the Catholic tradition of relics and megalomania.
The use of messianic imagery was significant on two levels, Columbia University professor Claudio Lomnitz wrote in his essay Passion and Banality in Mexican History: The Presidential Persona. It was a way of identifying the presidential body with the land, and it cast the people as being in debt to the caudillo for his sacrifices.
Lomnitz concludes that passage wryly: Sovereignty, that location where all Mexicans are created equal, has been a place that only the dead can inhabit, which is why we sometimes fight over their remains. And ain’t that the pinche truth.