México en el tiempo de la rabia. Arte y literatura de la guerra, el dolor y la violencia (2006-2018)
Editors: Alejandro Zamora, Gustavo Ogarrio
Publisher: Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Morelos
The six articles and introduction contained in this book explore two important aspects of contemporary Mexico: on one hand, they consider the art, literature, documentary films and narrative journalism produced during and in response to the so-called “war on organized crime” (2006-2018); and on the other, they analyze some of the historical and cultural conditions in which that “war” has occurred, and which, at the same time, have been generated by it.
“They [Mexicans] are bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” – Donald Trump, candidacy speech, June 16,2015
It would be fair to say that in recent years, US-Mexican relations have hit one of their lowest points in living memory. With his promise to build a wall spanning the US-Mexican border, the current US president made hostility towards Mexico a pillar of his campaign for the White House in 2016, a hostility that proved fundamental to his baffling success. The bizarre tribal chant “Build that Wall!” shouted by thousands of supporters of Donald Trump at his incendiary campaign rallies, has gone hand-in-hand with his campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” in the collective imagination of the trumpistas, for whom the exclusion and denigration of their neighbours to the south is inextricably tied to what they view as their own nation’s mission to recapture its “manifest destiny” as the world’s greatest superpower. The border wall has become the Trump nation’s most tangible symbol, a concrete manifestation of an almost pathological need to abuse and reject Mexico in order to assert American greatness.
Throughout the Spanish-speaking world and in Mexico in particular, Cantinflas is, beyond all doubt, a cultural icon. With Cantinflas, the Mexican comedian Mario Moreno created a character who featured in more than 50 feature films and became an emblematic image of Mexico’s national identity: the archetypal “pelado”, obtuse, at times insane but always hilarious, with a strong dose of social satire.
Signs Preceding the End of the World
Author: Yuri Herrera
Translator: Lisa Dillman
Publisher: And Other Stories Press
It would be hard to find a contemporary Mexican novel that offers a more subversive allegory of US-Mexican relations than Yuri Herrera’s novel Signs Preceding the End of the World (2015). This short novel, whose surreal tone has given rise to comparisons to Pedro Páramo, constitutes a kind of inversion of the traditional US borderlands chronicle that demonizes the Mexican other: here, we have a borderland tale told from the Mexican perspective, where it is the United States that represents the infernal mirror.
One of Mexico’s greatest 19th century poets, Agustín F. Cuenca (1850-1884) was born in Mexico City. In 1868 he founded the Netzahualcoyotl Literary Society (named after the legendary Aztec philosopher king), together with other intellectuals like Manuel Acuña. As a journalist he contributed to the major Mexican publications of his day. He was a writer who was politically associated with the progressive liberal movement of his time, as is reflected not only in his writings as a journalist but also in his literary works. In 1881 he wrote the play “La Cadena de Hierro”, which was staged several times at the Teatro Nacional de México, and is now considered one of the greatest works of Mexican drama. Today Cuenca is considered a poet of the transition from the Romantic to the Modernist period, with a style that was both multi-faceted and experimental.
So here you are, sloughing off the cold in the warmth of this sidewalk cafe where great bar radiators blaze like fires from on high, in each upper corner, the heat raging, insane, flushing the stiff flesh of your face red, and your fingers, too stiff to clasp onto anything, as if millions of years of evolution have been undone, and here you are, Neanderthal Man, or something earlier, some creature without opposable thumbs, without the ability to grasp, prodding awkwardly at the coins in the palm of your hand…
On September 15, Mexicans all over the world will be celebrating the independence of their native land once again. Both in towns all over Mexico and in Toronto and other cities of the world where there is a significant Mexican population, Mexicans come out to the public squares every year to commemorate the night in 1810 when the priest Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla called upon the parishioners of the town of Dolores, in the state of Guanajuato, to take up arms against the Spanish. This celebration is so firmly ingrained in the national collective imagination that sometimes its most basic features are obscured or forgotten.
In recent decades, many theorists of literary translation have stressed the importance of foregrounding the source culture of the translated text, to avoid what Lawrence Venuti describes as the inherent tendency of translation towards domestication, whereby the translation becomes “imprinted by the target culture, assimilated to its positions of intelligibility, its canons and taboos, its codes and ideologies” (2008: 18). As mediators for the source culture, translators have an ethical duty to convey that culture effectively to target culture readers, resisting the assimilative undertow of the translation process while at the same avoiding the temptation of easy exoticism, falling back on cultural tropes and stereotypes which, instead of enlightening and challenging target culture readers to better understand the rich complexities of the source culture, only serve to reinforce their preconceived ideas about that culture.
Conference, seminar and concert
Glendon College, York University
Friday, October 27, 11.00 a.m.
Mexico is experiencing one of the most difficult periods of its modern history. Human rights, governability, corruption, security, inequality, education, health, the environment, justice, and bilateral relations with the United States: all these are aspects of national life about which different national and international organizations, media outlets, academics and civil society are raising their voices in warning.
Image: Fernando Vicente
If you want to get under the skin of a country before you visit, its literature is a great place to start. Literary texts can reveal a vast array of insights into a country, from its politics and history to its religion and morals. They can also provide unusual takes on its popular culture and system of values. The literature of Mexico is a good example of this. Literary translation is enabling non-Spanish speaking readers to lift the lid on Mexican culture and understand the country and its past. If you want to discover this fascinating country from all angles, then read on!