I bring you good news. Essential, deep Mexico is alive and well—I will get to that in a moment—even though the country has once again certified a new president who did not win on a level or even honest playing field.
The opposition, the Movimiento Progresivo (the Progressive Movement), calls it an imposition. Enrique Peña Nieto is now new President of México. But this is the Mexico known by some as méxico imaginario. That is a reference to Bonfil’s book México Profundo, where he contrasts the two Mexicos: the first, méxico profundo (Deep Mexico); the second, méxico imaginario (Imaginary Mexico).
What is the difference between these two Mexicos?
In Imaginary Mexico, modern freeways connect major cities, with their Costcos and Radio Shacks. But beside the highways–beyond the shopping centers, the advanced health centers, the international banks, the tourist hotels and the beaches–across the mountains, covering the entire country there is a parallel world (méxico profundo) of human, horse and burro paths, still used, which connect villages, milpas (corn patches), memory, hunger, love, loss, and war.
This is the deep indigenous landscape of the Mexican psyche from which comes the vocabulary of poetry, song, food, folk medicine, and art. It is a landscape as essential to Mexicans as the forests of New England were to the Transcendentalists. It is a landscape that is in danger of becoming extinct because of modern institutions both legal and illegal.
Big media, government, business monopolies, the Church, and the government institutions that serve these (in this case, the Federal Election Institute and the Federal Electoral Court) point away from deep landscape, while using its customs and images for their own narratives.
The state does not invest in its human capital. The “elected” leaders pass laws that allow the wealthy to offshore their capital gains and practice tax avoidance. Trade agreements like NAFTA allow lucrative grain dumping on the Mexican market. Corn farmers give up and move to urban poverty. Rural and urban youth turn to glue sniffing or to the drug cartels, or cross the border at great risk, because here there are few jobs and severely limited openings in publicly financed education.
When election time comes, huge amounts of laundered money finance the ruling elite–to keep the chusma aturdida (the unruly mob) at bay. The poor and uninformed sell their votes for food or household items and follow the misinformation disseminated by the two big television monopolies.
These two Mexicos–deep culture and modernizing culture–and the tensions that build between them form the background tectonic rumble behind everything that happens in Mexico.
But Deep Mexico carries on, as if invulnerable to the machinations of dictatorship, autocracy, and monopoly. How do I know this? Because I walked to the Mercado Hidalgo today to buy chiles. I stood before piles of chiles –fragrant pequín, de árbol, guajillo, habanero, mulato, ancho, cascabel, pasilla, tepín, puya, chipotle, mulato, and manzana (fresh cascabel). All these weren’t there, but they looked like the ones I saw. A handsome stout woman with only one front tooth explained the names of the ones she had (I did not retain the names, some were not familiar) and what they were used for, how hot, how to prepare them, their flavors, and the ones she preferred for the blond easy-to-cook Peruviano bean and the black slow-cooking black bean, for this rich mole and that. I was looking for chile de árbol but ended up buying five different kinds. She made little packages of the different types, then put those in a large plastic bag. I paid her 38 pesos ($2.50). I put the chiles in my small LLBean backpack, beside my three packs of Radio Shack AAA batteries. And then I walked back to the center and climbed the 203 steps to my house.