In Mexico, Resistance is Utile: John Gibler chronicles a country embattled, but not conquered.
|Book: Mexico Unconquered: Chronicles of Power and Revolt|
ZNet Book Page
Publisher: City Lights Publishers
ISBN: 10 0872864936
For anyone who has felt confused, confounded, disappointed, disturbed and yet still enchanted by Mexico, John Gibler’s Mexico Unconquered: Chronicles of Power and Revolt (City Lights, January) offers some relief.
Gibler, an independent journalist who has lived in
Gibler has been present during defining moments in Mexican politics of the last few years, including the Zapatistas’ “La Otra” campaign, the
Gibler’s interpretation of a “
The book adeptly gives us a crash course in
“The Revolution forms the symbolic foundation of Mexican nationalism, the shape-shifting ideology claimed in various forms by every national political party and social movement in the country,” Gibler writes.
Gibler also questions the lionization of revolutionary Gen. Lázaro Cárdenas, even by many on the left. He notes that, despite Cárdenas’ championing of land reform and nationalization, he was the “true genius behind the PRI’s monopoly capitalism.” Gibler describes how Cárdenas co-opted the labor movement and other mass organizations and won over the military and the Catholic Church while sidelining peasants and more progressive forces.
“Cárdenas did not simply buy off movement leaders,” Gibler notes. “[H]e first convinced them with very real political actions, thus pulling them deeply into the arms of the State.”
In this case, Gibler finds himself somewhat at odds with major human rights groups. He writes that arguments for reforms are based on pushing
Such provocative ideas are more hinted at than fleshed out, which could be seen as either a weakness in Mexico Unconquered or a preview of his future writings.
Likewise, Gibler pokes at the arguments of immigrants rights activists who call for amnesty and immigration reform, noting that the hemorrhaging of
He also challenges how the Mexican government and foreign institutions like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund define “poverty,” seeing it partly as a means to impose neoliberal programs.
With the premise of an unconquered country still fighting the battle against colonization and exploitation, Gibler draws parallels (both spelled out and subtly implied) from centuries of Mexican history to ongoing and recent struggles, such as the 2006 Other Campaign (“La Otra Campaña”) of the Zapatistas and Oaxaca’s state of virtual war the past few years. Running throughout this analysis is the theme of how class warfare and racism are braided together in exploitation and oppression.
Gibler describes how former Mexican President Porfirio D’az’s “racism was both official policy and buried in his development model: using railway expansion as a means to dispossess indigenous communities and force the conversion of subsistence farmers to wage laborers.” Although D’az reigned a century ago, the connections between his scheme and current multinational development and transit projects—like the controversial Plan Puebla Panamá industrial “dry canal,” which is displacing rural communities across a wide swath of the country—cannot be missed.
Gibler also examines the
The resulting job loss created more available workers for the U.S.-owned maquiladoras (factories) in Mexican border cities and fueled the flow of undocumented Mexican workers willing to work for low wages and no benefits in the
The situation is perhaps best summed up by a doctor Gibler meets, who moved to the
“I think that the