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13 El Norte The North in Contemporary Mexican Narrative, Poetry, and Film: Relocating National Imaginaries Beyond the Mythology of Violence Oswaldo Zavala Primary Materials ● Tomóchic by Heriberto Frías (novel, 1983) ● Guerra en el paraíso (War in Paradise) by Carlos Montemayor (novel, 1991) ● La guerra de Galio (Gallium War) by Héctor Aguilar Camín (novel, 1991) ● Los detectives salvajes (The Savage Detectives) by Roberto Bolaño (novel, 1998) ● Un asesino solitario (A Lone Assassin) by Élmer Mendoza (novel, 1999) ● Amores perros (Love’s a Bitch), directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu (film, 2000) ● Todo el poder (All the Power), directed by Fernando Sariñana (film, 2000) ● 2666 by Roberto Bolaño (novel, 2004) ● El infierno (Hell), directed by Luis Estrada (film, 2010) ● “Los muertos”(The Dead) by María Rivera (poetry, 2010) ● Miss Bala (Miss Bullet), directed by Gerardo Naranjo (film, 2011) ● Poemas de terror y de misterio (Poems of Terror and Mystery) by Luis Felipe Fabre (poetry, 2013) ● Te diría que fuéramos al río Bravo a llorar pero debes saber que ya no hay río ni llanto (I’d Tell You to Come with Me and Cry at the Rio Grande but You Must Know That There Is No Longer a River nor Tears) by Jorge Humberto Chávez (poetry, 2013) 260 Oswaldo Zavala T he 1999 publication of Élmer Mendoza’s Un asesino solitario (A Lone Assassin) synthesized the raw political and economic crisis that Mexican society had experienced nationwide in the last years of the twentieth century. The confusion of one of the characters in the novel illus­ trates the generalized chaos of the time: Fito se sentía desalentado de la vida, que no entendía nada, no se explicaba qué había ocurrido: cayó el socialismo, el muro de Berlín, había guerras, racismo, hambre, enfermedades incurables, Fidel estaba valiendo madre, esos pedos, no comprendía cómo se estaba acomodando el mundo. (23) Fito felt discouraged about life, he felt that he did not understand anything, he could not explain to himself what had happened: socialism fell, the Berlin wall, there were wars,racism,famine,incurable diseases,Fidel was going down,all that shit, he did not understand how the world was being rearranged.1 The main character in the novel is Jorge Macías, known as Yorch (George), an assassin from the state of Sinaloa working for an obscure intelligence unit of the Mexican government. Macías is hired to kill the presidential candidate in the 1994 election, a direct reference to the assassination of Luis Donaldo Co­ losio, the candidate of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI),2 who was gunned down in the border city of Tijuana that year.The innovative use of pop­ ular language allows Mendoza to represent a “new” Mexico that first appeared in novels such as El complot mongol (The Mongolian Conspiracy, 1969), the great police noir by Rafael Bernal in which a Mexican detective investigates an inter­ national plot against the president of the United States during the latter’s visit to Mexico. In both novels, a multiplicity of mafias, police corporations, under­ cover agents, and common criminals within and outside government struggle for power, although even the protagonists ignore who is behind the various lev­ els of conspiracy. In Mendoza’s story, the overwhelmed Yorch repeats the one truth of this new world order: “unas veces se pierde y otras se deja de ganar” (sometimes you lose and sometimes you stop winning) (228). Un asesino solitario nevertheless goes beyond any previous Mexican police novel written in the 1990s. Its difference consists in rendering visible the trans­ formations and catastrophes brought about at the end of the twentieth century. But detective fiction is only one of the changing genres in the narrative of those years. Toward the end of the 1990s, the Mexican literary field experienced a El Norte 261 profound decentering with the emergence of many writers who gradually made dominant various themes related to the crisis. In the national imaginary, the geography of the crisis was located mainly in the northern states. However, its origin (the governing elite) and temporality (1994 was the watershed year) were of national and international scope. The convulsion began on January 1, 1994, with the uprising of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) in the southern state of Chiapas, simultaneous with the implementation of the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).Then on March 23,the PRI presiden­ tial candidate,Colosio...


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