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My eccentric opinion of “Sub-Comandante Marcos”

3 June 2006

… is that he’s only useful to the Mexican right and to PAN. Apparently, I’m not alone in thinking this (Rodolfo Soriano Nuñez writes about this in his political science blog, “Mexico Desde Fuera“).

I don’t pretend to Professor Soriano’s learning, nor am I a rigorous student of this matter. My arguments are simple:

  • Indigenism, by definition is reactionary. These are people fighting to preserve “traditional values” — which may be of real value, but are not necessarily so. Traditionalists don’t like change — everyone likes to gloss over the fact that Maximiliano’s biggest supporters were traditional indigenous groups (who felt threatened by the social and economic values of an unknown, untried modern state), as were the Cristeros (which was cynically exploited by the right and William F. Buckley Sr — the Texas oil man who was always looking for a way to force the U.S. to intervene in the 1920s). Everyone forgets that Emiliano Zapata’s family had backed Maximilanio during the French Intervention.
  • ELZN is quite right in seeing “globalization” as a threat, and their critique is quite cogent — and probably correct. However, beyond vague and romantic notions of a return to the land and self-sustaining communes, they don’t offer much to a modern urban country like Mexico. They are no threat to the “powers that be” — nor, do I think, do they intend to be.
  • I’ve noticed that ELZN actions are never directed against PAN. The original uprising was against the PRI… and the Atenco actions seemed more designed to discredit AMLO and PRD than they were designed to accomplish anything substantial.

There’s nothing particularly mysterious, about “Marcos”. I think what happens is that European and North American admirers want to romanticize Rafael Sebastián Guillén as Zorro. Sure, he wears a mask. Some say he’s leading a rebellion against cruel oppressors.A few — like the writer of the Wikipedia article on him can’t quite bring themselves to accept that he’s not a man of mystery, nor — am I sure — is anything more than the PR spokesman for the ELZN. How much power he has in the organization — and whether that organization is not being manipulated by the right has never been clear to me.If “Marcos” is in the tradition of any Mexican “masked hero” it’s more in the tradition of Rudy Guzman — el Santo (about whom the Wikipedia has a very good article indeed!). Like Guzman, Guillín accepts his image (we’re told Rudy Guzman never even went to the market without donning his mask — and was certainly never photographed without it — he was buried wearing it). In Mexico, it’s understood. The masses need a hero, a champion against evil forces from the outside. While in the 19th century, it was the otherwise very silly and plainly insane Maximilio who filled that role, in the media-saavy 21st century, it’s a hero who can appeal to pop culture (Marcos himself once compared himself to another Mexican pop icon — Speedy Gonzales). El Santo fought space aliens, vampire women and Zacatecan werewolves. Marcos fights … what I’m not sure. And to whos ultimate benefit I’m even more unsure.

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