Too Far from Marx

Article excerpt

Mexico's historic problem, according to an old adage, is that it is too far from God and too close to the United States.

At no time in Mexico's history has this been truer than since NAFTA became the new scheme for concentrating wealth in the hands of the dominant elite. The prosperity that was promised but that failed to materialize so many times in the past is once again being offered to the people of Mexico.

Mexicans, like their northern neighbours, fear the consequences of the free flow of capital into and out of their country. They fear not only further impoverishment, but also their country's autonomy in a new world of global unification, economic restructuring and "no fly zones". Mexicans have never forgotten the "War of the North American Invasion" when the United States took half of their national territory in 1848. A recent trip south of the Rio Grande afforded an opportunity to reflect on the meaning of NAFTA in a country with a long history of resistance to foreign domination.

Destruction of great civilizations

Guide books suggest that tourists begin their sightseeing at the Museum of Anthropology so that they can decide which part of the country they would most like to visit. This institution is regarded as one of the world's great museums because of the magnificent collection of pre-Hispanic art. Despite its reputation as a masterpiece of design and a monument to Mexican history, the Museum of Anthropology lays bare the tragedy of European capitalist expansion during the last five centuries.

The first floor houses exhibits of the fragments of civilizations that pre-dated contact with the Europeans. What little remains of the greatpre-Columbian societies is evidence of the wealth of their artistic, architectural and scientific achievements.

The second floor, though designed as a celebration of the daily lives of contemporary native society in Mexico, is equally depressing in its attempt to down play the continued subjugation of traditional society. The ethnographic collection focuses on "handicrafts" and overlooks contemporary literary, religious and intellectual contributions of native people to Mexican society. The visitor is left with the impression that traditional society is a thing of the past, that it has been pushed aside by the forces of modernization and change.

Diego Rivera

No Mexican artist has better captured the destruction of the great civilizations and the contortions of subsequent Mexican history than Diego Rivera. His murals offer provocative interpretations of a history characterized by the conquest of cultures, armies, capital, and the introduction of ideologies.

In Rivera's work conquest is matched image for image by scenes of resistance to domination and exploitation.

One of his most famous murals is at the National Palace where the tale of the Mexican people's struggle to survive is told. …