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.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Being Consistent, or, Taking Out the Garbage

A document in the state archive of Morelos shows a letter to railroad depots that norteamericanos had been taking pictures of the poor and indigent in the region and exhibiting the pictures in the US. As such, railroad depots were ordered to keep any indigents or other types of poor looking beggars off the platforms so US Americans couldn`t see them. Well, since passenger train service in central Mexico is involved, you know it was not all that recent that such an edict was issued... but this one was 1935.

In 1910, Porfirio Diaz cleanded up the streets of Mexico City for the big centennial bash. As a reward (for that and so many other order and progress actions), folks in Mexico purchased Don Porfirio a one way ticket to Paris. Gaenerous, no? Later, in 1947, the state of Morelos issued cards to tourists explaining that there were so many other nice things to take pictures of besides the beggars, while just a few years later Aleman and his tourist drive would simply toss the poor of Acapulco out on their ears. I understand that Rudy Giuliani and his plan for DF were rejected, but I noticed a real lack of beggars in the north of the city on Molino a few weeks ago, along with tamaleros and other mobile vendors. I suppose what I mean to say is that if nothing, we can give these progress and order types points for being consistent.

I woke up this morning in Cuernavaca to machine guns shooting (I lived in East LA in the early 1990s - I do know what machine gun fire is). I have no idea what happened, but the progress and order folks need to know that the folks that react against them have a pretty good track record of consistency as well. Be they narcos or revolutionaries, somebody who likes a little bit of chaos is going to crash the party. Then again, that is what hegemony is for, no?


jennifer rose said...

Estadounidense tourists who wouldn't give a poor person in their own country a second glance seem fascinated with poor people in other countries, photographing them, slum tours. On the flip side, Mexicans visiting the U.S. don't seem as interested in the plight of Estadounidense poor. It must be an Estadounidense thing.

JHD said...

I think the American exceptionalism is at play on this one. Seeing the US as the land of opportunity means that the poor are just lazy and not an extension of the system. Other countries, however, must have systems that have created the poor. I also think it fulfulls some sort of class exoticism: if you can afford to take the trip then you probably see those in poverty as an Other.