El Fomentador

Alive and well in Mexico…

Nationalistic Pride and Prejudice

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//www.latinamericanstudies.org/mexico/lazaro-cardenas.gif” cannot be displayed, because it contains errors. Lazaro Cardenas, Mexican President from 1934 to 1940, revered for nationalizing the railroad and oil industries

I read a recent column by a Mexican author talking about “Urban Legends” in Mexico. He cited examples ranging from a paternalistic political system designed to maintain the status quo to the reform of Pemex. I agree with much of what the columnist says. For example, that the political process in Mexico remains sort of a veiled mystery that “reflects [Mexico’s] particular idiosyncrasies” and the political class has convinced themselves and many of the people that “therefore [Mexico] can never be governed under modern democratic institutions”. He refers to Mexico’s “outdated worldviews” and says that “development has stagnated because certain sectors of the political class still manage to use urban legends successfully.”

All of this is, sadly, true, but I believe the author is confusing the idea of urban legends with the nationalistic propaganda that citizens have been force-fed for decades. A citizenry that has been left purposely undereducated and misled for centuries by the ruling class, be they Aztec kings, Spanish conquistadors or self-serving, modern-era Mexican politicians.

He says, for example, that opposition to Pemex reform is based on the long held belief that “the nation is the owner of natural resources, especially oil”. I agree. I also believe that the multi-national oil companies were cheating Mexico before the industry was nationalized in the late 1930’s. I certainly don’t trust oil companies. But I also believe that, since that nationalization, corruption has cheated the Mexican people out of any benefits they may have derived from the value of the natural resources. (Along with the stories that the Mexican government secretly sold oil to Hitler.) Profits have been siphoned off by political insiders and by the leaders of the workers union. Now we hear that the oil is running out, and that only massive investment in infra-structure can save the industry by going after deep water oil deposits in the Gulf. Unfortunately, because seventy years of profit have been stolen and squandered, the only source for that investment is foreign capitalists. I don’t trust capitalists either, but I can tell you that the system is working better than the quasi-socialism, or rose-colored communism, or whatever the system has been in Mexico. I believe that some sort of rational immigration policy reform between the US and Mexico is necessary. (I believe Mexico needs to take responsibility for addressing the issues within the country that are causing people to leave. I always tell people that regardless of the propaganda spewed forth against the US, you don’t see Mexicans migrating to Central or South America).

My point is that urban legends are stories like the one about the guy that was injured when he was blown off his toilet seat when he threw a lit cigarette in the bowl after his wife had, earlier, poured some flammable liquid in it, (incidentally, the story continues that when the paramedics were carrying the man to the ambulance they were laughing so hard at the circumstances that they dropped the poor guy of off the stretcher), or the woman who found a live poisonous snake sewn into the lining of a coat, imported from China, that she bought at Wal-Mart. Or even the old saw about Mexicans selling baby rats to tourists and saying they were chihuahua puppies. Fine fodder for people with nothing else to talk about, but overall pretty harmless, and as far as believability, about on par with ghost stories told around a campfire.

But, political propaganda, whether promoted by Nazis, Soviets, Americans, Chinese, Venezuelans or Mexicans is designed to control people’s thoughts, actions and lives. It is much more insidious and too important to be considered just a national quirk. It needs to be identified as what it is and explored as to the consequences of perpetuating the ideas contained with in it.

The columnist concludes by saying, that if anyone “tells you something about Mexican history or [Mexicans] ‘nature’, [and] if they are using [Mexico’s] weaknesses–either real or presumed–as an excuse for not promoting change, it means they hope to take advantage of popular ignorance.” A popular ignorance established and maintained on purpose.

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Written by El Fomentador

March 4, 2008 at 9:53 pm

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