LAST 100

Smoke and Mirrors

This week I felt slightly caught up in what seemed to be a never ending cycle of revolution. Listening to Dawson, I agreed very much with what he said about the Mexican Revolution. His idea that no one faction ‘won’ the revolution; that concessions, deaths and false promises followed the movements for decades after the heat of the action, was one that filled me with dread. How does one escape a leadership whose priorities do not stand for the people, when the revolutionaries past and future will eventually revert into those they were trying to replace?

What I find especially interesting is the flux of power that Mexico experienced over the course of many decades. People, politicians, leaderships came and went, and the consequences of that just created more divide in the country itself. I understand many of the revolutionaries to be simply a cog in the wheel. The indigenous peoples who fought, took Mexico city, and then promptly left because they had come to fight for autonomy over their own lands. Madero, who rose as the light at the end of the tunnel (of Díaz), who failed to uphold his promises, and suffered the same as his predecessor. The romantic Serrano’s, who can be interpreted as wishing to end ‘progress’, and return to the days before the export boom. And, of course, Zapata and Villa, who were both assassinated upon their withdrawal.

This sway of leadership appeared to be a trend throughout Latin America during this period of so much political and global change. These countries pushed themselves to be seen as equal to Europe and North America, but that very push – the straining at the leash divided them from the North. I found this quote to be very insightful:

In the eyes of North American investors, this was not a relationship of equals. They were the hand of civilization reaching out to lift their lesser cousins. It was a degrading experience, to say the least. Degrading, in part, because Vasconcelos and Darío, like José Marti, Enrique Rodo and countless others, actually admired the United States. They admired the wealth, progress, and modernity they saw there, and adhered to many of the same values that their North American counterparts embraced.”

Notice how the writers of the revolution can be said to have been seduced by the North. These were the representatives of the minorities, of the oppressed, of ‘the people’, yet they were, in some sense, exactly the same in sentiment as the leaderships they so vehemently opposed.

Vasconcelos’ ‘La Raza Cosmica’ was a lot to stomach. His philosophy of three categories that denounced the categorisation of people based on social norms, and instead placed them into very ambiguous yet specific boxes is a theory matched with the philosophers of Ancient Greece.The difficulty was that he supported only some of the marginalised – for example, he stated simply that ‘ugly people’ would not reproduce, so there was no need to worry, whilst supporting the idea of interracial marriages… However, overall I believe that he was a man thinking ahead of his time. There was no space for most people in the 19th and early 20th century Latin America for discussions about the benefits of Mendel, and the morality of contradiction of social norms.

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