Recent political developments in Mexico and the United States have killed any illusion that political change is possible through the electoral process. Bluntly, “there will be no change” and conditions will become much worse.
The disappearance of the 43 Ayotzinapa normalistas killed any moral authority that the Mexican state had that an alternative political party would make a difference. Almost simultaneously the Republican sweep ended the illusion of free elections, showing the collusion of elected officials and even the Supreme Court justices with Corporate America.
The crises ended the illusion that everyone had an equal vote, exposing the mechanisms of social control. This is important because the illusion creates a conformity and compliance with the laws and mores of society. Social control is the political processes that regulates individual and group and gives the state moral authority.
In Mexico there is no illusion among the masses that they can bring about political and social change through elections. Nevertheless, some had faith that the Partido de la Revolución Democrática (PRD) would end corruption. After all the PRD won the presidential elections of 2006 and 2012 but was robbed.
Political parties excite people, give people hope that they can win peacefully without a revolution.
The PRD was founded in Mexico City on May 5, 1989 by Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas along with other leftist leaders. It coalesced all of the left-wing parties as well as the progressive sector of the then ruling party el Partido Revolucionario Institucionalsuch, PRI. I remember at the time commenting, much to the chagrin of my Mexican comrades that the Left had been wiped out.
However, at the time there was hope. The organizers were convinced that they could unite the voters into a major political party and become an electoral force. The PRD did win important elections such as the Mexico City mayor’s office.
In the United States, the illusion of inclusion is much more engrained and varies from race to race and class to class. Minorities are latecomers to the process, but they are increasingly inculcated with the illusion of inclusion. Their political presence has increased as the number of Latino voters has become statistically more significant.
Mexican Americans are the oldest and most numerous of the Latino groups. Since at least the 1950s, they have had the illusion that they were becoming political players, and would share in in economic its economic bounties.
In the 1950s, Mexican Americans and Puerto Ricans were the two largest Latino groups. In the Southwest anthropologists began referring to Mexican Americans as the sleeping giant. The term symbolized their potential to organize and demand equal opportunity. This became a popular phrase during the 1960s and the 1970s.
The sixties had brought new meaning to the illusion. In 1969, Raza Unida leader Jose Angel Gutierrez wrote, “The sleeping giant awakes.” In 1968 the ELA Student Walkouts and those in Texas laid a context for the future.
During the 1970s, the population grew as did electoral victories. This excited the base and encouraged regional Chicano organizations to take on national aspirations. Chicano leaders became national, and they started the chant of “Hispanic Power”. In 1980, Raul Izaguirre, the head of the National Council of the Raza, announced the Age of the Hispanic. Its popularity grew to the point that the word Mexican became an endangered species. Soon the chant changed to “We’re Number 1.”
The 2010 Census counted 50.5 million “Hispanics” in the United States, making up 16.3% of the total population. (35 million were of Mexican origin). This population accounted for most of the nation’s growth—56 percent– from 2000 to 2010.
The popular illusion was that we could screw our way to power. However, fundamental changes were taking place in both countries. For instance, once Mexican Americans became middle class they had less babies. The poor multiplied and economic opportunity shrank. The price of higher education prevented universal access, and recruitment patterns shifted to bring in students with Pell grants or those attending magnet or charter schools.
In the 1980s, I used to ask my students if they are Bulldogs, Rough Riders, Tigers etc. Today most are from magnet or charter schools. The final implosion will come as the tuition rises and the federal government eliminates or drastically cuts back the size and amount of grants in aid. Then a crisis in confidence similar to that in Mexico will occur.
Meanwhile, it is significant that Iguala’s mayor, José Luis Abarca Velázquez and the Governor of Guerrero, Ángel Aguirre Rivero, are both members of the PRD, although it is evident that they also have ties with the government of Enrique Peña Nieto. Mexico is “a society already divided by social class, skin color, linguistic differences, clothing styles, the size of one’s bank account, zip codes, and a host of other frivolous matters has found new ways of demarcating distinct types of Mexicans: “good” versus “bad”; those that receive justice versus those that do not; and those that can versus those that do not even deserve to try.”
Ayotzinapa sends the message that nobody cares. “Mexico’s political parties are only interested in representing and advancing their own interests. The left has lost its identity in its efforts to reach power.”
Ayotzinapa reveals the deterioration of Mexico’s political and social spheres.
In a brilliant analysis visiting scholar Lorena Ojeda writes: http://blogs.berkeley.edu/2014/11/04/not-everyone-mourns-for-ayotzinapas-students/
“The missing normalistas are poor, indigenous or mestizo (mixed-race), and brown-skinned. Their hair is straight, they are not particularly tall, and they speak with the accents of the countryside. Simply put, they are Mexicans. But their surnames – Tizapa, Jacinto, Patolzin, Ascencio, Tlatempa, and Lauro, among others – are not among Mexico’s famous, and they are more likely to be found in the country’s seemingly infinite number of mass graves, as opposed to a social club or the halls of the stock market. The divide between Mexicans has become so great that some are not even moved by the heartrending pain experienced by the parents whose sons are missing.”
The case of Ayotzinapa is symbolic of all that is wrong with Mexico
The normalista students are the poorest of the poor. They cultivate fields and raise domestic animals to pay for their schooling and subsistence. The government withdrew its financial support when the students began protesting the disappearance of their 43 classmates with the intention of starving them out.
“They are peasants, like their parents and their grandparents. The 540 students are the sons of poor farmers in the Mountain, Sierra and Costa Chica [Little Coast] regions of Guerrero. They are proud of their origin.”
Meanwhile, the buildings are adorned in painted red, with images of Stalin, Lucio Cabañas and Che Guevara. “We do not bury our fallen comrades. We sow them so freedom might flourish.”
There is no silver bullet. Damage to the moral authority of the state is irreparable. La lucha sigue and
The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Robert Frost, Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
– by Dr. Rodolfo Acuña