Security in Mexico

Imagine this. You are on a bus, with someone you don’t know very well, and some unidentified man begins filming all the passengers on the bus. Did I mention he was escorted by a police officer? Imagine that your new friend starts to freak out. What do you do?

On the way home from Teotihuacán, I was with this new friend. I said, oh, this happens all the time in Mexico (because it’s true), and told her that I thought it was to make sure people don’t get on the bus who are not in the country legally (I think this is the justification). Of course, this would help if the bus hadn’t picked us up at the side of the road, taken our money in cash, and given us no receipt – often in Mexico you need to show ID to buy a bus ticket, and your name appears on it, with a specific seat number. So, she imagined that this would get into the wrong hands. At that moment, my inner dialogue was very fatalistic, and, I copped to two common expressions here:  “Qué va ser” “No se puede hacer nada.”

I firmly believe it is best to avoid confronting the police and the military when one is in a confined space, they have weapons, and are not known for their transparency. Is this the right answer? How can I engage with this situation in a way that aligns more closely to my beliefs and my desire not to be subject to powers I disagree with? I don’t want to become another face on a video where no one knows anything about me, and in fact, where those taking the video depend on me “blending in” with others, and losing my individual features.

Now we are venturing onto the territory of my thesis. In relation to representations of situations much worse than being filmed on a bus without my consent, I argue that characters, like people, are so repressed that they are reduced to their physical features, that they become interchangeable with one another. I also argue, however, that their is hope in this collective interchangeability. Since I believe that literature allows us to think about reality (historically, today), and my reality on Saturday was this dehumanizing situation on the bus, how can we see hope there? Is there a way to change that situation?



5 responses to “Security in Mexico

  1. I think I get filmed on a bus every day in Scotland. They just use CCTV. A different situation, a different government; I understand the oddness and unpleasantness and, even, wrongness of your situation. Maybe Mexico should get CCTV instead? (This is Matthew, by the way.)

  2. Sounds really creepy, if not downright terrifying. It’s not like you exactly “blend in” in Mexico!! But you DO have a passport to get you help if you are arrested… if you are not shot … I cannot imagine how Mexican citizens feel at this violation of their privacy rights, not to mention major intimidation tactics. Thanks for making your dissertation “come alive”. Not sure it thrills me as your mom, however! (And people think it’s dangerous for me to travel and work in Egypt these days?)

  3. Isn’t there some “ivory tower” but still exotic school someplace where you could study Mexican literature, Rebecca? But come to think of it, in this very unexotic city which is my home, 2 people were shot at one of the Sals restaurants yesterday morning. “Targeted shootings” are the words used to comfort the citizenry since we assume the targeted group to be relatively small. I guess where you are the targets are not as carefully chosen.

  4. Thinking about this situation makes me be, in part, sad for the sitituation that is still going on in my country. But in any case, though I am very critical of the current government, I beleive this is just the tip of a certain iceberg (not that I know what all of it is made of) that has been going on for a long time and that it is certainly linked to a specifically capitalist system, in a borader context. You talk about collective interchangeability, and, thinking about this in literature, I want to ask you a further question: which is its specific mechanism? I am asking because right now and just mentioned like this (perhaps, out of context) it has the risk for me of turning into a kind of an “empty signifier” that can be filled with any kind of image or content. But perhaps this “blurring” of the facial features is another way of thinking this: not only interchangeability, but also a process in which the referent becomes unrecognizable and thus it has no “interiority” or “psychology” but it is a mere form void of content and that “void”, precisely, is all its content.

    • You are right. I think the iceberg is very large, and I don’t understand it at all. I think there are a lot of people with a lot of power involved. I like your comment about the void – how does it happen? why does it happen? who is in charge? who is affected? these (my) questions strike up against this idea of a void, which leads to more (frightening) questions.

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