Academic journal article Contemporary Psychoanalytic Studies

Three: Deeper Desires: The Colonial Present, a Don Quijote Fetish, and Maternal Issues

Academic journal article Contemporary Psychoanalytic Studies

Three: Deeper Desires: The Colonial Present, a Don Quijote Fetish, and Maternal Issues

Article excerpt

As our sessions progress and the city speaks more about herself, I start to piece together some of the driving desires behind her composed façade. We begin to unearth unresolved issues rooted in her past, her equivalent to the early childhood stage so essential in psychoanalysis . I am deeply surprised to discover that Spain still matters in all this. While there are fairly rote descriptions about the separation from Spain that seem tired and out-of-date in the 21st century, this colonial history affects the city's current relationships more than I suspected. We also touch upon the deep repressions that the city imposes upon herself, which I believe are significant to her maintenance of self and which underwrite all of her relations with others. I begin to perceive a tension between her desired self-image of colonial tranquility and her truer conflicted state. The "real" problem appears to be emerging.

Many (if not all) cities have some ideal that they attempt to embody. That Guanajuato aspires to a specific, well-bred, and well-heeled ideal can be witnessed not only in the "City of Romance" campaign but also in the many public texts posted downtown that invite city dwellers to performances, workshops, community- or state-sponsored contests, university seminars, and so on. Posters and flyers within this genre support certain sanctioned performances of local identity. They call "everyone to the theater," ask children to "draw your community," and exhort residents to participate in workshops on popular music, traditional toys, or traditional sweets, themes that connote the idyllic past and revive a certain type of collective memory, some of which is based more on fantasy than reality. These texts thus ask local residents to participate in the city's desired self-presentation, and one does not find in here invitations to consider alternative interpretations, to protest, or anything of the sort. However, to pull off the ideal identity, Gee reminds us,

It is not enough to get just the words "right," though that is crucial. It is necessary, as well, to get one's body, clothes, gestures, actions, interactions, ways with things, symbols, ... beliefs, and emotions "right," as well, and at all the "right" places and times. (1999, p. 7)

Getting the body right, as our previous session made clear, involves working with both local perceptions and tourist/outsider constructions at once. To meet these desires, the city strives to be clean and orderly, controlled and groomed. Ironically, in the case of Mexico's heritage sites, this order must be enacted within or imposed upon a historical "look." For Guanajuato, the correct look is colonial (17th and 18th century), which is a gloss for Spanish, whether this is articulated or not, because the word colonial in Mexico is never a signifier for indigenous.

Literary scholar René Prieto writes, "Traveling forward, authors seek to fulfill fantasies in imaginary scenarios where their innermost wishes are acted out by traveling backward to infantile sources for those very wishes" (2000, p. 4). What he means is that authors create something new by turning back to childhood desires, even if unconsciously. As Freud noted in his 1907 essay "Creative Writers and Day-Dreaming," our creations have a "readymade" aspect about them; we either build upon or reject our origins when we create (Gay, 1989, p. 442). The city, trying to move forward to create a new/better "look" is also pulling from "childhood" traumas and desires, her original separation from Spain: in short, in the moves noted here, she attempts to materialize a fantasy of colonial-era Spain.

This aligns with what Chang observes in Singapore and elsewhere: "Places become signifiers of themes rather than living embodiments on their own" (2000, p. 36). Chang talks about the "superficial but alluring aesthetics" that break actual links with real history and that match up appearances with the ideology of elites and authorities (p. …

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