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1 Allies in 1822 Humoring the Limits of Colonial Mexico By act and word he strives to do it; with sincerity, if possible; failing that, with theatricality. —Thomas Carlyle T he beginnings of Mexican Independence were marked by the presence of Spanish forces in Veracruz, a Mexican emperor (Agustín de Iturbide) who had battled brutally on the side of Spain for most of his military career, and the unpleasant sensation among many that the more things change the more they stay the same. Flavio González Mello’s play 1822: El año que fuimos imperio,the smash hit first staged in 2002 and the focus of this chapter, interrogates the space between colony and coloniality—the powerful vestiges of colonialism after ties with Spain were officially but incompletely severed—by bringing to life a host of characters including Iturbide and Fray Servando Teresa de Mier, a priest and complex ally of Mexican Independence who questioned the timing and circumstances, if not the veracity, of an event that served to justify conquest: the apparition of the Virgin of Guadalupe, who is sometimes referred to in political terms as the Queen of Mexico and Empress of the Americas. The apparition both promoted and hindered Independence and would continue to validate political theatrics through Vicente Fox’s 2000 presidential campaign. Mier, both the play’s main character and the historical figure on which he is based, performs the role of an outsider agitator social ally within the church, demonstrating the effectiveness of humor, not to mention Allies in 1822 33 stepping back into the past to create a space for reflection, both of which are weapons wielded in the public sphere that can be as worrisome and irritating to the powers that be as any other form of attack. It may seem that wit is an impotent tool in the face of authority,but in Mexico (especially in Mexico, I would say) opponents can be slain with wordplay and clowns can take center stage in politics, as is the case with the comedian and political commentator Víctor Trujillo and his alter ego, Brozo the Creepy Clown (Brozo el Payaso Tenebroso), the anti-Bozo who has appeared on dozens of television programs in Mexico. Indeed, one key, transformational element in Mexican society is the voice of the jester, the voice that is almost but not quite authorized.“‘Comedy has always seemed the best way to deliver hard news,’ Mr. Trujillo said. ‘And within the realm of comedy, the best personality is one who is not vulnerable to attack. Brozo is misogynous. He is an alcoholic, a drug addict, irresponsible and dirty.There’s nothing anyone can call him that he has not called himself’”(Thompson).Ginger Thompson highlights Trujillo’s past and hints at the transformative power of art for artists themselves, not solely for audiences: His father was a government economist and his mother a homemaker who quietly indulged her boy’s affinity for make-believe. Acting became his voice.“It was how I expressed myself,”Mr.Trujillo said. At 21 he got his first break,with a cabaret company that was part of the activist underground struggling against censorship.“Our productions were mostly improvisations ,” he said. “And it was all opinionated. That is where my great addiction for information began.” Behind the complex clown, who has played dubious roles in recent political scandals and who is easy to criticize for the language and images he produces,is a man who has used humor to influence Mexican politics on his national tele­ vision show.To watch this clown eviscerate then presidential candidate Enrique Peña Nieto and his inability to name three books that had influenced him is to witness the seeming immunity of a court jester, a modern-day clown who harkens back to kingdoms of the past. The segment on Peña Nieto included a reference to then president Felipe Calderón, who, like Vicente Fox before him, would have jumped at the chance to highlight his knowledge of the Bible and perhaps even to refer to the Virgin of Guadalupe; whereas Peña Nieto, either because he had a flash of honesty or because he did not want to appear similar 34 chapter 1 to his predecessors, clarified that of course he had only read segments of the Good Book, an acceptable if pitiful deviation by a member of the PRI (Partido Revolucionario Institucional) from the centuries-long need to establish religious credibility and to link political...


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