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2 Performing the Porfiriato Federico Gamboa and Allied Negotiation If the expression “Speak truth to power” still has a utopian ring to it, [. . .] this is surely because it is so rarely practiced.The dissembling of the weak in the face of power is hardly an occasion for surprise. It is ubiquitous. So ubiquitous, in fact, that it makes an appearance in many situations in which the sort of power being exercised stretches the ordinary meaning of power beyond recognition. —James C. Scott, Domination and the Arts of Resistance A president comes to power under questionable circumstances with the support of conservative forces in Mexico and abroad. Pro-business and other major newspapers publish editorials in the United States that hail the newly elected leader as a friend of progress, while in Mexico the political left questions his legitimacy. Foreign ideals (and dollars) rule the political stage in a new but familiar context where words,and sovereignty,are once again lost in translation (Castañeda 20). The distribution of land is more and more unequal every year, leaving campesinos—and their supporters in the metropolis and beyond—to consider raising arms as the only viable way to ameliorate centuries of oppression. An intellectual, a somewhat reluctant ally, laments in his diary the discomfort of working for the “system”; his measured fury is made public with great care lest his livelihood and loyalties be compromised:“It is the old tacit agreement. For our living we count entirely on the government, and every government—from the viceroyalty to the present day—counts on the fact that we count on them”(Federico Gamboa qtd. in Krauze 588). The title of this chapter helps to contextualize the preceding paragraph,placing it not in the here and now—where it might fit comfortably, despite the fact performing the porfiriato 55 that present-day intellectuals in Mexico have relatively more avenues of autonomy than their Porfirian predecessors—but on the cusp of a previous century, headed into the twentieth.In the turn-of-the-century diary entry quoted above, Federico Gamboa (1864–1939) bemoans the power of patronage over his destiny at a time when politics in Mexico were dictated by Porfirio Díaz (1830–1915), who ruled Mexico with scant interruption for over three decades and, in 1911, left for Europe from the port city of Veracruz—a destiny sealed by the arrival of the Mexican Revolution.Yet despite the criticism of the Porfiriato that Gamboa often penned in his diary, José Emilio Pacheco signals the issue that makes Gamboa such an interesting figure in Mexican intellectual history, at once a critic of the status quo, residing just at the border of allied, outside agitation in his literary endeavors, and at the same time a Porfirian insider: “Gamboa is not, nor can he be, a radical critic; he is a Porfirian to the degree that when the regime disappears he suspends his work as a novelist.[...] He needs the at once paternal and demonic shadow of don Porfirio”(28–29).1 While Gamboa is best known for his novel Santa, an extended study of his life as author, diplomat, professor, and public figure (in the public sphere of influence) who literally stood by Porfirio Díaz until the end offers an intriguing view of the negotiation of power that was performed,in playhouses as well as on the national stage,during the Porfiriato.As a loyal Porfirian ally,Gamboa managed , as many did, to carve out a space for his own artistic and social vision—a vision that highlights political conciliation as a worthwhile strategy for gaining access to an audience capable of recognizing social disparities and, at times, of acting to mitigate them.Through a study of Gamboa’s writing and life, as well as the performances of the time (as learned from newspapers,political cartoons, and other historical accounts), it becomes clear that negotiation and acting, in and beyond the theater, rather than the unadulterated domination by which political regimes are often characterized, were foundations of Porfirian hegemony . For Díaz, power could be blunt and brutal, of course, but also as malleable and acquiescent as the political situation demanded. In his oft-­ referenced Domination and the Arts of Resistance, James C. Scott offers one possible outcome in the face of domination: “those obliged by domination to act a mask will eventually find that their faces have grown to fit that mask” (10). Another possible outcome, more auspicious in terms of revolutionary change, is...


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