“God’s Middle Finger”
Twenty miles south of the Arizona-Mexico border, the rugged, beautiful Sierra Madre mountains begin their dramatic ascent, climbing to nearly 11,000 feet and extending 900 miles. The rules of law and society have never taken hold here which is home to bandits, drug smugglers, Mormons, Mennonites, cave-dwelling Tarahumara Indians, opium farmers, cowboys and other assorted outcasts. Outsiders are not welcome; drugs are the primary source of income; murder is all but a regional pastime. Drug lords have made it one of the biggest drug-producing areas in the world.
Richard Grant, a Brit, visited here and faced with greed, money, murder, drunkenness and machismo, his reckless adventure spiraled into his own personal heart of darkness described in this book.
What I learned from this book besides the drug business:
“I was tired and run down and my body ached all over from being rattled and jolted. The constant breaking down of the Suburban wasn’t helping but what I really lost tolerance for, as I chauffeured Isidro on his rounds, met his friends, and dodged his enemies, was Mexican machismo. I came to hate it with as much venom as the most strident lesbian feminist. It was the root of the worst evil in Mexico, I decided, the real reason why men killed each other and raped women in such horrifying numbers. Not that those numbers were available. According to Mary Jordan of the Washington Post, fewer than 1 percent of rapes are reported in Mexico, because it is not treated seriously as a crime and because rape victims who do go to the police are usually mocked and blamed for inviting the crime, and are sometimes raped by the police, who get aroused hearing the victim’s story.
In the Sierra Madre the practice known as “rapto”, where a man kidnaps and girl and forces her to marry him, is still commonplace. Raping an underage girl is not against the law in many Mexican states if the rapist marries her. This is what happened to Chana, a friend of Isidro from Coloradas de la Virgen who was now living in Baborigame. Raped at 15 and made pregnant, she had to marry the rapist so he could help her to raise the child. This was the code of the mountains but it didn’t make for happy marriages. She had another child with her rapist-husband and then he was murdered, leaving her with two children to raise.
Later, in the recounting of the life of Pancho Villa, Grant says:
Machismo came to Mexico from Spain, a Spain that had been under heavy Moorish or Arab influence for seven centuries when Columbus set sail. This is not to say that Native American societies weren’t patriarchal or oppressive toward women, but the men weren’t macho in the Spanish way. Spaniards like Arabs, believed that women were inferior wanton creatures whose sexuality needed to be strictly controlled and firmly dominated, and that women from other cultures were fair game for rape.
Octovio Paz in his analysis of Mexican machismo points to the old Spanish saying, “A woman’s place is in the home, with a broken leg.” and identifies the conquistador as the model for the Mexican macho, the original chingon, the hard isolate killer who raped and seized Indian women and so brought the mestizo Mexican race into being.
The act of chingar could not be rooted more deeply in the national psyche, as Mexicans recognize on Independence Day when they get drunk and hail each other as “Hijos de la chingada!” which can be loosely translated as sons of bitches, sons of violated mothers, sons of fornication, sons of obscene perpetrations and so on, but carries a specific reference to Cortes and his Indian mistress, La Malinche, who betrayed the Aztec empire and was the first mother of mestizo Mexico.
Nearly every curse word you hear in Mexico has the word “mother” and “chingar” (fuck) in it. I read Octavio Paz’ book “Labyrinth of Solitude” years ago, but I remember his saying something like this… that it is the self-hate arising from the knowledge of the wound…that Mexicans harbor the blood of the conqueror through the mother, that gives rise to the pride that requires that every slight has to be avenged…in the Spanish way.
No wonder Mexican women hold back.