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6 Murder M for Murder: Mexico and Its Democratic State Fernando Fabio Sánchez Primary Materials ● Del porfirismo a la Revolución (From the Dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz to the Revolution) by David Alfaro Siqueiros (mural, 1957–66) ● Ensayo de un crimen (Rehearsal of a Crime) by Rodolfo Usigli (novel, 1944) ● El hombre sin rostro (The Man Without a Face), directed by Juan Bustillo Oro (film, 1950) ● El complot mongol (The Mongolian Conspiracy) by Rafael Bernal (novel, 1969) ● El infierno (Hell), directed by Luis Estrada (film, 2010) ● La muerte en El muro de la verdad (Death on “The Wall of Truth”) by Fernando Fabio Sánchez (photograph, 2012) M urder” and “assassination” are expressed through the same word in Spanish: asesinato.1 Asesinato does not reveal, however, whether the victim is an important individual nor what the attacker’s reasons are (generally either faith or politics). The term magnicidio might be a more accurate translation of “assassination.” Asesinato vis-à-vis homicidio describes the material and temporal advantage of the killer over his or her victim and encapsulates the hideousness of murder. When the word asesinato is uttered, a crime against humanity is denounced. It demands restitution and “ 124 Fernando Fabio Sánchez punishment by human or divine laws. In Mexico, one of the primary elements of political power and the metanarrative called “Modern Mexico” has been the act of murdering (and assassinating), both in historical fact and in artistic representation. This chapter is a study of murder (asesinato) in crime fiction, film, and history in modern and contemporary Mexico. It analyzes, on one hand, how the democratic Mexican state has ensured its continuation in power and promoted the imposition of the capitalist model since the 1920s; on the other hand, it examines how the aesthetic representation of murder and assassination questions the meaning and causes of the state’s murderous behavior, deconstructing the narrative of a modern and democratic Mexico. Introduction: The Roots of Mexico David Alfaro Siqueiros reflects on the notion of death in the series of mural panels titled Del porfirismo a la Revolución (From the Dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz to the Revolution, 1957–66), as previously portrayed in the murals in the Secretaría de Educación Pública and the Colegio de San Ildefonso, among others, by Diego Rivera and José Clemente Orozco in the 1920s. In one of the panels of Siquieros’s series, the revolutionary family that guided the movement and gave birth to the nation is shown: Francisco I. Madero, Aquiles Serdán, Venustiano Carranza, Eufemio and Emiliano Zapata, Álvaro Obregón, Plutarco Elías Calles, Francisco “Pancho” Villa, and Felipe Ángeles. Most of the members of this revolutionary family were executed, assassinated, or murdered. Madero was killed along with José María Pino Suárez during the coup finally led by Victoriano Huerta in 1913. Ángeles was betrayed and captured in 1919; he was executed after undergoing an unjust court-martial trial process in the city of Chihuahua. Emiliano Zapata was murdered in Chinameca in 1919 by order of Venustiano Carranza, and in 1920 Carranza himself was shot in Tlaxcalantongo during an uprising nationally led by Obregón. It is widely believed that in 1923 Obregón ordered the execution of Pancho Villa in Parral, and in 1928, Obregón fell prey to gunshots fired by the supposed lone assassin and religious extremist José de León Toral. Also shown in the mural is Plutarco Elías Calles,the last major caudillo of the Revolution,who was exiled by Lázaro Cárdenas in 1936, an act that could be interpreted as a sort of “parricide light” (Krauze 378–85). murder 125 In Siqueiros’s mural,a homogenized narrative is proposed,in which the caudillo occupies the position of martyr and becomes a member of a national family along with his sibling executioner.The fact that they died in power struggles or over attempts to carry out their agendas is displaced. Benedict Anderson has called similar processes “reassuring fratricide” (199–203). The deaths of the “heroes” of the revolutionary era played a key role in the creation of “Modern Mexico.”This role would be not only at the level of symbolic interpretation and representation but also, and most importantly, at the level of political necessity. In other words, the death of the opposing caudillo embodying an ideology and economic and social program needed to occur in order for a unitary regime to emerge.This prolonged “war of winners”was...


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