Staging Politics in Mexico: The Road to Neoliberalism

Staging Politics in Mexico: The Road to Neoliberalism

Staging Politics in Mexico: The Road to Neoliberalism

Staging Politics in Mexico: The Road to Neoliberalism


Neoliberalism in Mexico - characterized by free markets, by the privitization of thousands of State enterprises, and by influence from Washington and Wall Street - has forever changed the political climate, making it necessary to theorize new paths for the future. Indeed, liberal ideology champions not only economic freedom but individual liberty as well: In the canon of liberal texts, Adam Smith's The Wealth of Nations coexists with John Stuart Mill's The Subjugation of Women, a biting commentary on gender inequality. The debate over neoliberalism in Mexico is not exclusively a left-right conflict. Many leftists see ties with the U.S. as a means to promote social change even though they oppose neoliberal economics; many on the right, while supporting neoliberalism, fear social influences from the North. This volume focuses on the neoliberal debate in plays by four Mexican authors: Sabina Berman, Vicente Lenero, Victor Hugo Rascon Banda, and Alejandra Trigueros. These playwrights stage the complexity of neoliberalism, providing insight into a global trend and its manifestation in Mexico. Stuart A. Chapel Hill.


The argument about the relations between theater and politics is
as old as theater and … as politics.

—Augusto Boal

RED LIGHT. TWO BOYS ARE REFLECTED IN THE MIRRORED WINDOWS of the Mexican stock exchange building. They run into the street as the light turns red. For the hundredth time today they will perform, for an occasional coin, a grotesque reality: hoisted on his brother’s shoulders, a six-year-old wearing a mask representing former President Carlos Salinas de Gortari waves two large bags of money in the air. As the drivers begin to rev their engines, “Salinas” runs off with the bulky bags from the Mexican treasury. At the curb, however, he is no longer the Harvard-educated economist who championed neoliberal reforms but rather a small boy who—mask removed—must now run between the cars in search of a friendly face that will drop a coin out of the crack in a car window. Green Light.

This study is about Mexican plays and, specifically, Mexico’s striking move toward neoliberalism—characterized by privatization of state-run businesses, austerity programs, and the “free” market—as reflected in theatrical performances, as well as dramatic scripts, that address the period from 1982 to 2002, during which Mexican leaders adopted neoliberal economic policies. Yet I begin this study with the story of the two boys, which I witnessed in Mexico City on my way to see a play, to underscore that one does not have to attend a formal theatrical event to see politics performed. The juxtaposition of wealth and poverty in the street scene described above—even if these puerile performers do eke out a mod-

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