So far from God…by guest blogger, Carlos Pascual
Carlos Pascual (Mexico City, 1964) studied film, theater and literature in Mexico City and Los Angeles, California (UCLA), and has written extensively for the press, radio, TV, theater and film. He lived in San Miguel de Allende between 2000 and 2007, writing, editing magazines, and producing theater, documentaries and short films. He has lived in Ljubljana, Slovenia since 2008. He is also a dear friend and admired mentor.
This essay was originally published in Revista Replicante in April 2012
Slovenians have a perfect excuse for any perceived lack of dynamism, for political apathy or for provincial excess: “We are such a small nation!” In Mexico, we have an even more effective excuse, one that hides many sins: “So far from God, so close to the United States.”
This phrase – which it appears has been falsely attributed to Porfirio Díaz – embodies the almost instinctive inclination of many people to turn the powerful into their enemies. This tendency, in some ways a very healthy one to avoid the drastic polarization of a single group, often becomes a tired ideological pet phrase; it is one of the most recognizable features of the high priests of the nationalist left. But has Mexico’s geographical location really been a curse? No, I don’t think so. On the contrary, I think it has benefited us enormously.
The Mexicans’ second great historical trauma, after the Spanish conquest, is undoubtedly the loss of a large part of our territory during the 19th century. But, was it truly ours? Independent Mexico inherited a colonial geographical configuration that never mirrored an organic reality in pre-Hispanic times. The territories that ended up splitting from the republic seem to be areas that, until the 19th century, were never entirely connected to the rest of the nation. If we study the history of nations and their territories, it’s not difficult to comprehend that human populations who share ties to the past and common plans for the future tend to expand geographically as far as their strength – and confrontation with their neighbors – will allow. This is not a story of good guys and bad guys; it is a story of the strong and the weak.
After the “great theft” of land, and starting at the end of the War of Secession, the subsequent governments of the United States have had an ever greater involvement in the destiny of our country; but this involvement has owed its effectiveness to internal political fractures. In fact, much of the meddling has benefited our most treasured historical occurrences – such as the support for the itinerant republic of Juárez against conservative plots that were supported by France and embodied by Maximilian of Hapsburg. Of course, in order to gain that support, these events had to represent some benefit to our neighbors to the north, but does any nation happen to share a border with Mother Teresa?
Our greatest historical disgraces and most outrageous social deficiencies are the product of our peculiar history and our national characteristics (among these, an excessive proclivity for self-pity), and are not the direct outcome of the behavior of a giant White Man who has not allowed us to properly develop.
The most pressing problem is that the way we make these transnational judgements is also how we tend to judge our internal politics; everything is the fault of the president or the men in power. And while we point our fingers at them, we surrender ourselves to mediocre aspirations, to surly individualism and to social corruption in all its forms. And we never seem to ask what kind of Guadalupe-style miracle would be necessary in a society so consumed by the gratifying art of glib excuses for a pure government to emerge like Botticelli’s Venus out of the sea foam.
If the United States has been anything during the 20th century, it has been an enviable commercial partner and an escape valve for our internal social tensions. Furthermore, it has allowed us, through its universal ideological imperialism, to become a cultural exemplar of an importance we may not have reached on our own (the Modelo beer company can’t be thankful enough). The problem is not the United States; the problem is us.
In his book The Next 100 Years, the liberal geopolitical analyst George Friedman, aside from predicting our significant growth in the coming decades, indicates that Mexico will be the only country capable of destabilizing the United States in its hegemonic position during the 21st century. What? Us? Well, this doesn’t fit in with the vision of those who feel comfortable in the role of the victim. The best thing would be – from the classic perspective of leftist-nationalism – to continue blaming those imperialists for our own problems (“the reason we can murder each other so bloodily and behead one another is because the gringos smoke marijuana and sniff coke and then sell us weapons”) and sign this country up as soon as possible for a national course in how to cope with bullying.