Tuesday, September 14, 2010


As Mexico celebrates 200 years of independence from Spain, the Paseo de la Reforma and the Zócalo will be filled with parades, music, speeches, and displays of military prowess. But as reported in the New York Times this week, an undercurrent of sadness, disappointment and anger throughout the country is making it a challenge to get into a party mood. Clobbered by the swine flu scare last year, a demoralized Mexico faced a year of non-stop bad news about the war against drug trafficking. Images of Mexican beauty Jimena Navarrete, the new Miss Universe, have not been enough to offset the endless newspaper photos of decapitated corpses. And several of the big projects intended to celebrate the event--like the bicentennial tower and the renovation of the Palacio de Bellas Artes--are incomplete, offering a truly dreary metaphor for the state of the nation.
I admit to feeling a lack of celebratory fervor myself. It seems obscene to spend millions of pesos on fireworks when there are so many people without running water, basic health care and viable schools. But it also seems wrong not to celebrate. So I've been trying to take a longer view of things. I prefer to use the Aztec date of 1325 as the real starting point of history here in Mexico City, so the drug wars, the battle between church and state over the new gay marriage law, the economic crisis all seem like small blips on a big radar screen.
A sense of something ancient, with roots deep in the earth, below where earthquakes can damage it, seems to hold this country together. Subliminal reverence for the pagan gods--Huitzilopochtli, Tlaloc, Quetzalcoatl--adds its tint to the worship of the Virgin of Guadalupe.
And it seems to me that the deities have responded, endowing the Mexican people with a remarkable capacity for endurance and an ability to prioritize the finer things in life (family, food, fiestas). Unfortunately there appears to be no god or goddess of politics, so we struggle on.
I've been in Mexico now for more than 13 years, have been granted the privilege of Mexican citizenship, and can think of no place else I'd prefer to live. So in spite of any reservations I have, I'll be out there with the crowd, joining in the grito: Viva Mexico!


Unknown said...

Thank you for that. My desire to move from Boston to Mexico City remain strong with words like that. Now, if only I could convince my boyfriend to take the plunge and move!

Carolina said...

very well put, Jim--what you say makes it a little easier to understand why we all feel such a deep kinship to the Mexican people despite all the problems that seem so entrenched and immovable.

Tere Palm said...

I agree, Jim.

Mexico after 200 cannot celebrate independence as it "depends on" corruption and other interests (not of its people) to "keep going"....

But the festive spirit and values of many Mexicans (food, family and fiesta) will always prevail!

In that sense, Viva México!

Sandra B said...

Hope you plan to describe the activities and excitement in the Zocalo, I've seen some photos of the fireworks -- it must have been awsome.

Thanks for "Mexico at 200", wish I'd been there for 'El Grito.'

Lisa said...

Mexico has had more than its share of fighting and unstable politics and economics. But its people have managed to retain their spirituality and customs for centuries and also share them with newcomers. And that's definitely worth celebrating. I wish I'd been there to join in whatever festivities you had!

Barbara B said...

Jim...I so much agree with your latest posting regarding the celebration in Mexico City (and everywhere else). There is a spirit present in Mexico that I connect to every time I come down to San Miguel and it only happens in Mexico. Everything written in the newspapers only makes fear grow and if it's not Mexico it's another country, another earthquake, bla bla bla. So celebrate my friend. I only wish you were still in SMA. Viva Mexico


Barbara (the lady that took your monotype workshop about five years ago)

Michael Parker-Stainback said...

Jim, I don't want to add anything to what you've said so beautifully, but merely thank you for your wise sense of heart as a response to the Times article. Many of us in Mexico share your misgivings, but also feel it's almost a moral duty to celebrate. Mexico has given me so much—so I'm here to stay. I always claimed I was the kind to ride out hurricanes. So come what may, I hope I'll follow you're example and use my energies to make things better, however that may be.

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