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What will we do without you, Monsi?

21 June 2010

Monsi would have loved his funeral at the Palacio de Bellas Artes.  Where Frida Kahlo, Cantinflas and Maria Felix — a nice trinity of Mexico City’s cultural figures, and Mexican culture, with its foibles and passions was the one side of the multi-faceted Monsivias’ witty and ironic reflections  — all previously laid in state, Monsivais’ funeral was disrupted for a moment when the Secretary of Public Instruction — Alonso Lujambio — entered and a mourner yelled out “Get out of here, show some respect!”  Jousting with politicians, and showing his contempt for the inept and self-aggrandizing, as well as demanding they “show respect” to the people:  that was Carlos Monsivaís always.

Sonia Sierra’s coverage of the funeral service for El Universal captures the intense grief of the Mexican artistic and intellectual community, while Tracy Wilkerson’s obituary at the Los Angeles Times (and shame on the New York Times for not putting one up over the weekend) is worth reading for those who don’t read Spanish.

Jornada prints Elena Poniatowska’s funeral oration on the front page today.  It leads off:

What will we do without you, Monsi? You, the most lucid antidote to presidential authoritarianism; the most lucid antidote to the absurd, if not corrupt, attitudes of the two chambers; the most lucid antidote to abuse of power; the most ingenious and persuasive reporter on the attitudes and language of politicians whose “Por mí madre, Bohemios!” provided you and us with so much amusement for so many years?  You fight our political class and our business class; voice your and our outrage with your decisions and declarations as you confront the trickery and unreality in these times of impunity.

An immediately recognizable figure (said to be the only writer all Mexicans knew by sight), there was no need for a formal portrait at the service. A caricature by Fisgón rested at the foot of the coffin, while the photograph was focused on one of Monsivais many — and well beloved — cats, with the writer disappearing behind a mound of papers in the background as he works in his cluttered office.

Always a public figure — from the time he was 15 years old and was front and center at a 1954 demonstration (pushing Frida Kahlo’s wheelchair) — but with a private life he seldom discussed — the essential figure in making sense of  Mexican culture, popular, academic and intellectual was laid out in a  casket draped not only with the Bandera Nacional, and the UNAM flag, but with the gay rights flag as well.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 21 June 2010 3:59 pm

    Thank you so much for all the links to the Carlos Monsivaís obituaries. I especially liked the one by Elena Ponitowska. I admired “Monsi” greatly. I never met him but his articles and books (and those of the exemplary Elena,)explained the Mexico that was beyond my understanding before I began reading their work. En paz descansa…

  2. 1 December 2010 4:52 am

    Was fortunate enough to meet him in London about 20 years ago at a conference on crime and drug violence in Mexico (held at the now defunct Centre for Latin American Studies). We chatted for a while on the legalization of drugs and the Santos vs Tetona Mendoza cartoons (in which he featured!). A great man, wonderful writer and essayist. It was so sad to lose him.

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