In Mexico, a universal struggle against power and forgetting

Source: John Pilger

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Alameda Park is Mexico City’s languid space for lovers and open-air ballroom dancers: the gents in two-tone shoes, the ladies in finery and heels. The cobbled paths undulate from the great earthquake of 1985. You imagine the fairground sinking into the cobwebs of cracks, its Edwardian organ playing forlornly. Two small churches nearby totter precariously: the surreal is Mexico’s facade.

Hidden behind the poplars is the museum where Diego Riviera’s mural Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park occupies the entire ground floor. You sink into sofa chairs and journey for an hour across his masterpiece. Originally painted at the Hotel Prado in 1947, it was rescued and restored when the earthquake demolished all around. More than 45 feet long and 14 feet high, it presents the political warriors of Mexico’s past, from the conquistador Hernando Cortes to Rivera himself, depicted as a child holding the hand of a fashionably dressed skeleton, the iconic symbol of the Day of the Dead. Standing maternally beside him is his wife, Frida Kahlo, Mexico’s artistic heroine. Around them parade the impervious rich and unrequited poor.

What is it about Mexico that is a universal political dream? As in a Rivera mural, nothing is held back: no class martyrdom, no colonial tragedy. The message is freedom next time. The autocracy that emerged from the revolution of 1910-19 gave itself the Orwellian-name Party of the Institutionalised Revolution. This was eventually replaced by businessmen promising a pseudo democracy, which in 1994 embraced Bill Clinton’s rapacious North American Free Trade Association (Nafta). Within a year, a million jobs were destroyed south of the border, along with Emiliano Zapata’s revolutionary triumph, the constitutional protection of indigenous land from sale or privatisation. At a stroke, Mexico surrendered its economy to Wall Street.

The beneficiaries of the new, privatised Mexico are those like Carlos Slim, now ahead of Bill Gates as the world’s richest man, whose fingers are lodged in every imaginable pie: from food and construction to the national telephone company.  A US diplomatic cable released by WikiLeaks says, “The net worth of the 10 richest people of Mexico – a country where more than 40 per cent of the population lives in poverty – represents roughly 10 per cent of the gross domestic product.”

The last election, in 2006, was won by Felipe Calderon, Washington’s man, followed by persistent allegations that it was rigged. Calderon declared what he calls “a war on drug gangs” and 50,000 dead are the result. No one doubts the menace of the drug cartels, but the real “security issue” is more likely the resistance of ordinary Mexicans to an enduring inequity and a rotten elite.

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