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99 Chapter 3 Radio/Puppets, or The Institutionalization of a (Media) Revolution Listeners who tuned into station XFX in Mexico City at around 10 a.m. on February 19, 1933, were greeted with a cacophonous clangor and clat‑ ter of brass instruments, strings, cymbals, and xylophones—­ an avant-​ garde mélange of dissonant sounds interspersed with the fragmented melody of a familiar children’s song. Then at a certain point a voice intervened and said something close to if not exactly like this: Hear my sonorous song ascend through my crystal throat and amplify in the magnavox of my mouth. I am troka the Powerful. The man of metal moved by electricity. So big, so strong, so resistant am I! My body is formed out of hard, shiny, polished planes. My arms and legs are made of aluminum to give them agility; my joints rotate on steel balls. My chest is of iron and in its interior hums my heart, an electric motor. Hear it! (A buzz is heard.) My head is made of bronze; in it I enclose my brain, made of electromagnetic apparatuses; from this brain my nerves emerge and fan out like metallic threads that run all over my body and transmit the orders that make me act. Oíd mi sonoro canto que asciende por mi garganta de cristal y se amplía en el magnavoz de mi boca. Soy troka el poderoso. El hom‑ bre de metal que se mueve por electricidad. ¡Qué grande, qué fuerte, qué resistente soy! Mi cuerpo está formado de duros planos pulidos y brillantes. De aluminio son mis brazos y piernas para que sean ágiles y flexibles; sobre balas de acero giran mis coyunturas. Mi pecho es de hierro y en su interior zumba mi corazón, motor eléctrico. ¡Oídlo! (Se oye el zumbido.) Mi cabeza es de bronce; en ella encierro mi cerebro hecho todo de aparatos electromagnéticos; de este cerebro salen y se distribuyen mis nervios, hilos metálicos que corren a través de mi cuerpo y transmiten las órdenes para que yo actúe.1 100 Chapter 3 Who or what is the subject of this Voice—­ this strange “spirit” cobbled together out of sheet metal, electrical impulses, and mechanical parts? Troka speaks in the stilted syntax favored by deities and commands his audience to hear his song, a song of the body electric that is simultaneously the “indus‑ trial song of the world.” Over the next few years, as the host of a popular “children’s hour” on the official station of the Mexican Secretariat of Public Education, he would spin stories in which modern machines conquer space and time while flaunting their strength and speed in the face of the older technologies they claim to supersede. In this initial apparition, however, he simply beckons his young listeners to listen to the myriad manifestations of his power. Troka (says Troka) is present in the “solemn murmur” of motors and the “impatient panting” of machines, in the whistle of locomotives and the “cry” of sirens summoning men to work in factories. He is the synthesis of all elements and the efforts of all men: of the ironworkers whose hammers send sparks flying, the engineers who build bridges out of cables and steel plates, the scientists who unlock the secrets of nature, the white men who fell the Canadian forests, the yellow men who sow the Chinese plains with rice, and the black men who tap rubber trees in the Amazon. His eyes are streetlights; his nerves are telegraph wires; his arms are radio towers. And his voice? It is the medium of radio itself. Troka is the ghost in the machine, the self-​ authorizing subject of technology that conjures its own power into existence and boxes in its own brain. Or is he? In fact, it is likely some of the listeners who tuned into Troka heard echoes of other voices in his bombastic (or reassuringly avuncular?) timbre. At least a handful of the adults knew there was a reason he sounded so similar to Germán List Arzubide, a man (made of flesh and blood) whose notoriety extended back a decade to his days as one of the most visible and vocal estridentistas. During the early 1920s the estridentistas were notori‑ ous for their raucous odes to revolution and embrace of radio and other new technologies—though as was revealed in the previous chapter, several members had also turned their attention to...

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