About Secret History

Commentary on Latin America.
Mostly about Mexico - but not always.
Designed to encourage readers to learn about
the apparently "secret history" of 500 million people
spread across two continents
- but not always.
You can always count on a little snark.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Viva Mexico

Our little town of 30,000 people out here in the Piney Woods area of East Texas has a pretty healthy number of Catholics. Not too long ago the local Catholic congregation held a "diversity day" parade - a decision that is fitting as it has the most diverse congregation in town with LARGE groups of Filipinos, Latinos, SE Asians, South Asians, East Asians, various recently arrived Europeans, etc.

One of the big floats of the parade was built by the Spanish speaking youth group at the Catholic parish on the south end of town. It was a gigantic red, green, and white thing dripping with young kids hanging off of straw bales, all dressed in the peasant cotton / red scarf set up for boys or the china poblana look for the girls. As the float passed by the statue of the Spanish founder of the town in the main square, one of the boys looked around really fast then threw his machete up in the air and gave a whopping - if quick - Viva Mexico. What followed was rather fun. I gave my automatic Viva from the parade route (I hadn't been back from Guadalajara all that long and such Vivas seem automatic), and I'm not sure who got more stares, the embarrassed kid who shrank down in the straw bales after he shouted his viva, or me, the big gabacho guy with the little blonde boys who responeded to him. Either way, the stares we got were not friendly looks of approbation.

What got me thinking about this was a post I read on the Ask a Cholo web site from a "reader" (are those REAL questions???) about why Mexican and Mexican Americans shout Viva Mexico. The incident in the square came flooding back to my mind, along with statements from Richard Rodriguez in Brown about "culture" and Pamela Voekel's really early work called Peeing on the Palace: Bodily Resistance to Bourbon Reforms. I imagine there was a little bit of Rodriguez's compelling culture driving the kid, but I suppose that the machete made me think that this guy was making his little stand in the middle town with his own sign of resistance.

Thinking about what I said yesterday concerning California or Texas, I imagine in Cali that the float would have been covered with kids shouting Viva Mexico (I actually think I have seen that same float in the Santa Barbara Fiesta Parade with lots of Vivas shouted). Here in East Texas I am having a hard time imagining a float full of shouters.

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