Marcos: Three tables for the end of the century dinner

March 1998


"Mariana, what is mankind without liberty?
Without that harmonious and steady light which glows inside?
How can I love you while I am not free, tell me?
How can I give you this firm heart if it is not mine?
Do not fear: I have escaped the foundling in the countryside,
and so I think I will continue until I conquer you,
who offer me your love, your home, and your fingers."
Federico Garcia Lorca
(Fifth Key.)

The moon is a badly-cut pill, tossed on the table which the dawn serves over the mountains of the Mexican Southeast (below the river is a silvery streamer, forgotten and torn after a party).

There are barely a few stars inserting their lances of blue salt into the nocturnal table-cloth which February, grimy with clouds and winds, lays out to cover the shadows of the hills and the gullies.

This is the table for those tossed from modernity. It is a long and dark shadow, wounded by the piercing light of straight pins with bristly heads. A shadow, a table of shadows, whose accessibility is selective inversely: all who can avoid it do. The only ones who sit there are those who had only their memory as food and dignity as fork and spoon.

Seated in front of the splendor of this moon, the shadows do not dissipate or pretend. This light defines more than the darkness, it heightens blacks, proposes grays and reveals the few white hairs the mountain has. All of this, in effect, is like a table.

A great and solitary table.
The embattled table of those below.
But I will not speak of this dark table at the beginning.
I will speak of it at the end, the end of this century, and it and its guests will speak for themselves.
For today we will begin by speaking of another table. Well, maybe just a photo of another table...

The place?

The time?
Somewhat after the beginning of 1998, and somewhat before the end of the 20th Century.


"The still picture of horror and decadence. "They will awaken, those who are without awakening still in this time of seven days of ephemeral kingdom, of passing kingdom, of the seven suns of the kingdom,

The faces of their men will be that of Holil Och, Zarigueyas-mice, uselessly they will govern disguised with jaguar skin."

The book of the books of Chilam Balam.

My-Other-Me says he was not present, he only got a still picture. A full-color photo. A photo which carries a double message: the hidden image of Power in Mexico, and the brittle future which the image announces. Under the light of a recently-lit candle, and while the Sea navigates through a restless dream, I look at the photo. I should confess that the sight shook me, so the reader cannot blame me if I cannot transmit this sensation. I will try to be objective and describe what I see in the printed image. If there is some raving which escapes me, blame it on the weak light which I must use (and make a little roof for it so it won't die out) and blame the permanent problem of putting a visual image into words.

The photo is take from an angle that those who know call "long shot" and it makes it clear that the photographer observes from outside the scene, as though it makes him sick to be a part of the object in front of the lens. The photographer trusts that he who is looking at the photo notices the fact that the people in the photograph do not know they are being watched (and fixed, I say) by the camera. There is in all of them that air of nonchalance which exists only when there are no witnesses. But then, how to believe that the photographer was not present as a part of the event which was photographed?

My-Other-Me intervenes to explain that a current theory of photographic art supposes that the image is a way of "going to the place in the visual representation". Therefore, the photographer-videographer-film producer-painter-cartoonist-etcetera sees himself as the one who provides the vehicle for the visual trip.

"He doesn't even offer to drive" says My-0ther-Me seriously "given that the 'trip' can 'go' wherever he wants. So the producer of the image sees himself as something distant from the pictured act, no matter how close he is. What is happening is that your encyclopedic ignorance includes the unfamiliarity with photographic art, that is why we photographers get pissed with that diatribe you wrote for I-don't-know-what photographic event on the Internet."

My-other-Me is quiet so that I can appreciate how he includes himself among the photographers. He leaves with my bag of tobacco. I had not heard that theory before (it's suspicious that My-other-Me just finished inventing it), but even so, the "liberty" to use the image has its limitations and there are always some "readings" which are possible and others which are not.

But this thing is not the one which impacts the still picture, so I will continue to describe what I see, in other words (following the lead of My-Other-Me), I will read the image.

First of all, it seems to be the scene of a meal. There is a great table (with what I imagine is food, diners and a few servants), which fills the center of the picture. There is a bit of a fog in the air, but you can distinguish perfectly on the front wall (the wall in front of the photographer anyway), a clock which marks the 11 hours and 45 minutes.

Morning or night? There is nothing which allows us to resolve this enigma, but suppose ("read") that it is 11 hours 45 minutes to midnight. "Quarter of twelve" I say, surprising myself. Yes it is a quarter to midnight. So this is a dinner. You can see, sole wall as backdrop, of a gray color, a great window with the windows drawn, and a clock which says it is a quarter to midnight. Beyond that nothing. Now, let me describe the table. It is oval and big (there are seven diners seated there). The chairs are high-backed with complicated gargoyles as decoration.

There are seven diners (I said that already?) by unfortunate coincide ("opportunity" says the photographer) all are visible. The 2 who have their backs to the "reader" of the picture are looking to the sides. Therefore their faces, although just the profile are perfectly visible. In front of them and in front of the reader, there are another 3. At the sharpest points of the oval you see the other two. Total: seven.

One can imagine there is some music livening this dinner, and some troubadour singing some verses, like those of Quevedo and Villegas which say:

"Mother, I humble myself to gold;
it is my lover and my beloved,
well, out of pure love
he is continuously yellow;
double or single,
he does all I want,
powerful gentleman
that Mister Money."

What? You are right. There's nothing in the picture to suggest music, a troubadour, or the satiric verses of Quevedo and Villegas made prayer and psalm. But the reader has already accepted (given that he reads this document, and therefore, becomes accomplice) the "driving" of the narrator in this "reading" of the picture, so this is due to the whims of this "chauffeur" who now is determined to add to the image what is not evident, but which, nevertheless is there, in what the picture keeps quiet and does not show.

We will continue with the description of the central image. A great bloody tablecloth covers the table of the seven diners. In reality, you could say that the table with the bloody tablecloth summons these 7 symbols of the beast of Power in Mexico. There are seven beasts here, in this picture of the end of the century, and they represent the horror and decadence of the Mexican political system.

At the head of one is the Hydra. A monster with 7 heads. I mean, apart from the 7 beasts which are gathered there. The Hydra does not seem to need the others, not to eat them, not to chat with them, not to fight with them (which is what appears in the picture). Yes, the Hydra fights with itself, the 7 heads swinging on long necks, with powerful fangs and forked tongues, they argue and bite one another...

A Hydra, whose heads, bite one another, is a small image to describe the size of the actual situation of the State-Party System in Mexico. This system capable of holding together a Nation during decades, is now torn and confronting itself. Like a jumbled jigsaw puzzle, you cannot distinguish the positions and the forces, the directors or the direction. The political system, the director, the conductor, the point of convergence of the fundamental parts of the Mexican State during almost a century, is now diluted as such and can not hide the internal crisis which afflicts it.

The Mexican political system is found in a war with three elements of combat: the one presented by the process of neoliberal globalization, the one which develops in its interior where the "old" and the "new" politicians fight, and the one which fights society.

The homogenization of the global economy runs parallel to the fragmenting and pulverizing tendencies of the old Mexican political class, the formation of "new" politicians, and the surrender (under global norms - in other words, North American - of social and cultural standardization) of Mexican society.

Prisoner of the frenetic and effective labor which the logic (economic, political, cultural and social) of globalization imposes, the Mexican State threatens to disintegrate with the same haste with which the power of the "old" Mexican political system fragments; the State-Party System. To confront the "new politics" demanded by the "new" global economy, the Mexican political system should remake itself, reconstruct itself according to the dominant logic, in other words, the market. The neoliberal model does not need "politicians", but "administrators." Now more than ever the economy possesses every one of the aspects of national life, markedly the political one, but organized crime as well.

At its side, looking at it steadily, is the Medusa of Organized Crime. Yes the image shows a head with serpents instead of hairs, a face of undefined gender and not eyes, but the glitter of eyes which are dollar-green. What? Is that why I call it organized crime? Well, if you observe with attention, in each hair-serpent you will read the name of a crime: drug trafficking; white slavery, black market of stocks, merchandise, organs, and human beings; militarism; genocide; contamination and destruction of the environment; and other names which are not legible. Ah! Pay attention to something under the table, between the Hydra and the Medusa! Yes, they are holding hands.

So there are the Hydra and the Medusa. Together they reside over a chaotic and disorderly table.


The ones who accompany them are personages of a different dimension. Each one of the tiny beasts carry on their chest a small tag which names it.

There is a "Politician," a "Thinker," a "Banker," a "Clergyman," and a "Military man." These two are found in the first row, their faces towards the photographer.

In this way, the "old" political class is not only displaced by the "new" politicians (those technocrats who give a macroeconomic indicator as a response to each social and political problem), but it is necessary to liquidate them completely. This process of "elimination of the adversary" is like "elimination of the competition" in savage capitalism, but in the Mexican political class - which grew very tied to organized crime - this reaches bloody levels.

The Mexican political system is willing to do anything to become echo and loyal interpreter of the neoliberal project. It is hell-bent on disposing of the Institutional Revolutionary Party as the State party, and its replacement stretches its cadaverous hand to the other parties looking for another face. The initials do not matter, it can lead (or "administer") the neoliberal affair regardless of its logos, initials and colors.

But doing away with the PRI is not easy. In addition to erasing its ideological profile and turning its program to the right, the Mexican political system operates against the PRI through "other" means: the embarrassing resignations, the "exportation" of candidates, the physical elimination (Colosio, Ruiz Massieu, who is the next, Mister Ernest?)

The modern Mexico of the neoliberals not only does not need the PRI in order to carry out its project of the no-Nation, but it sees it as an annoying nuisance, in bad taste and foul-smelling, old and rotting.

The beast marked with the name tag "politician" is something like a misshapen mass, with impeccable suit and tie, capable of changing form, size and color. Its face, surprisingly like that of a zarigueya, only attempts to smile and barely eats. It is very busy, noting all the acts and gestures of the two principal figures. Its undefined figure suggests a propensity to permutation rather than a firm vagueness. I mean to say that this small beast is willing to change itself according to convenience.

Thus, the "neo kids" of modernity conduct a war. Not only against an emerging society and what is left of the Nation, but against the political class which gave them birth and gave them Power. The best analyst of the modern Mexican political system - unjustly called a poet, playwright and novelist-, the British writer William Shakespeare, warned thus: "it is a rule that modesty is the ladder used by young ambition, the eyes turn towards it of those who wish to ascend it; but once the last step is climbed the back is turned towards the ladder, and the look turns towards the clouds dismissing the steps by which it climbed." (Brutus I "Julius Caesar" Translation: Ma. Enriqueta Gonzalez Padilla.)

The struggle in the interior of Power in Mexico is to the death (and not just in a figurative sense). One part (the old) struggles to survive, the other (the technocratic) struggles to replace it. The result is a fragmentation of the Mexican political class which changes day to day. As in the old Kaleidoscopes, the bloody pieces of the political system permutes its combinations under a constant method: division and confrontation.

For those who resist "modernization" of the Mexican political system there are various options: the tomb (Colosio and Ruiz Massieu), jail (Dante Delgado), kidnapping (Gutierrez Barrios), exile "voluntary" (Silva Herzog), public stoning (Camacho Solis), political sacrifice in coordinated resignations (Ramon Aguirre, Ortiz Arana, etcetera), the withdrawal to the provincial estate (Bartlett).

The major political scandals of the last 12 years are exclusive monopoly of the Institutional Revolutionary Party. Divisions, assassinations, ties which are like chains with drug trafficking, frauds, jail, buried skulls, unburied skulls, reburied and new unburied skulls, historic amnesia, new divisions, more assassinations? In sum, all that is called a "political crisis" by some.

The beast named "Thinker" looks like a combination of a mousy face (with glasses, of course) and the body of an elephant. In the picture he appears to be reading very seriously a huge stack of paper, in front of a microphone decorated by the logo of some television network.

The crisis of the Mexican political system is not a crisis of the Nation. The politicians and intellectuals of the system want to present this crisis as a "crisis of the country." From here come their hysterical calls for prudence, for "slow" changes, for "stabilization", for "staying still." The political system cries "help me!" And some respond. But these politicians-intellectuals-clergy-bankers-military are willing to help the system fall, so warns the political analyst Shakespeare in the mouth of Anthony.

"It is that I have lived more years than you, Octavio, and even though we deposit some honors on that man to free ourselves of several slanderous charges, I will carry them as the ass carries gold, panting and sweating because of the labor, pulling or dragging, according to the road : and once I have transported our treasure where it is convenient, I will take off the load and throw him out, like a loose burro is allowed to shake its ears and graze on public land."

"Banker" is the name tag for a beast with the body of a serpent and the face of a ravenous pig. In the picture it holds another serpent in its arms, as it offers it a spoonful of coins.

What is caving in, what is shredding everywhere, is a project of the country. Neoliberalism has tried to impose itself from the new phase of the rule of money, and works to homogenize ("globalize" it is said in modern terms) patterns of economic, social, political and cultural relations. In Mexico, since the administration of Miguel de la Madrid Hurtado, this crisis runs in the interior of the ruling political class.

But the new Mexican politicians have shown that they don't know how to do it. As if they were in a three-ring circus which scatters blood on the spectators the new "global" model presents different facets of the same tragedy: the destruction of the National State.

But far from the pantomime routine of old clowns, the circus acts offered to the respectable public spew mud and blood. The political note, as the reporters call the news which come from political actors, spew scandal and terror and gossip. The "experts" in political analysis now should know criminal science...and demonology.

"Cleric" the figure with the body of a gargoyle and the head of a dragon is called. It is dressed in deep purple and raises its hand, blessing the pair which presides at the table.

Incapable of homogenizing and leading, political power in Mexico seeks to support itself through other institutions even if, in the case of the Church, that support brings it near the gates of hell and is not free. If the high clergy of the Catholic Church offers its "disinterested" arm to accompany the crooked walk of the Mexican political system it does so, not betting on continuity, but seeking a good place for observation (and accommodation) when it all falls.

The beast called the "Military" has the body of an armadillo with cleft feet and the face of a hyena, it remains with its head lowered, its gaze fixed on its bloody claws. Upon seeing it the Hydra exclaims:

"Octavio.- Good, you can do what you wish; but he is a brave soldier with experience.

Antonio.- So is my horse, Octavio, which is why I give it a generous ration of feed. It is a creature which I have taught to fight, to turn away, to stand or run in a straight line, guiding always with my intelligence the movements of its body. And to a certain point Lepido is nothing else. He must be taught, trained and directed; he is a subject devoid of his own ideas, fed by artifices, curiosities and imitations, which, used and vulgarized by others, begin to be the style for him. Don't refer to him as anything else but an instrument."

"Julius Caesar." William Shakespeare.
Translation: Ma. Enriqueta Gonzalez Padilla.

On the other hand, the State-Party System tries to "administer" its internal purges and distribute quotas and profits (it forgets that it also distributes costs and rebellions). While the "new" political class tries to keep itself in the national pinnacle grabbing the key posts, that is, the ones which make economic decisions: the "old" politicians withdraw to the regions.

"For national purges, regional resistance" is the new response with which the old political class tries to annul the curse of "modernity", and the displacement they suffer because of globalization, the leadership of the technocrats, and the rise of popular struggles. Examples? The Tabasco of Madrazo and the Puebla of Bartlett.

There are three national struggles which are evident: the one carried out to reject an economic model which is nothing but a slow death: the one played out in the capital for the possibility of another Mexico with major social participation and which demands a solution for indigenous demands and peace in Chiapas. The most regional of the struggles is the most national: Chiapas. The 4 municipalities in conflict or the demands of about 150 people (according to Labastida Ochoa) continue to shake once and again all the national territory and all the social sectors.

The heretofore improbable national struggle against national Power turns now, possibly. In order to free itself of it, the Power does not respond frontally, it changes arena and erases the national panorama and goes to the regional spaces. The national struggles do not have in front of them a political class. They clash (without any shock absorber) with the Army and the electronic mass media. There is no governmental interlocutor for national demands or dialogues.

The Sea ("With a waist fit for amorous gestures/ sweet, reddish, pleasant, lovely,/kind and measured, graceful and loving in all things" - "The book of Good Love", Arcipreste de Hita. Seventh Key), peeks at the picture over my shoulder and says: "It is a collage. The figures can be cut out of any national newspaper of recent days. It doesn't matter if it is out of the political section, the gossip columns or the financial section."

To the governmental technocrats the only thing which worries them are the macroeconomic indicators and their international image. They can (and in effect, they do) dismiss the society they are supposedly governing, and dedicate themselves completely to serve the "new voter": financial capital.

While nearly half of Mexicans lost their quality of life in 1997 as compared to 1996, 40% stayed the same and only 13% were better off, while the number of people living under the poverty level slowly increased (1994 - 11.3%, 1996 - 17.2%, 1997 - 16.3%). While jobs grow with salaries at less than minimum and only in the maquila industry; in sum, while the country crumbles at his feet, Ernesto Zedillo declares in Davos, Switzerland, without any embarrassment: "The challenge we confronted is not recuperation, that has already happened, it is in fact a thing of the past."
(Economic data from Jose Luis Calva, in "El Universal", 6-11-98).

At any rate, there is no attempt to brake the national crisis and seek political solutions, the objective is to do away with the old political class and make the markets impermeable in order to immunize them against the crisis and make them operational, productive, independent of political vicissitudes.

A collage? Vale. So here you have the seven beasts of the horror of Power in Mexico. A great table is presided by the Hydra of a State-Party system and the medusa of Organized Crime, and with them is the politician-zarigueya, the intellectual-mouse, the banker-serpent, the clergyman-demon, and the military man-hyena.

If the "old" politicians try to "govern" the country, the "new" politicians will only dedicate themselves to "administering" the destruction of the Nation. For years, De la Madrid-Salinas-Zedillo have not governed Mexico. They have dedicated themselves to constructing an impenetrable "dome" over the financial market. A "dome" which resists the earthquake of 1985, the Cardenista insurrection of 1988, the Zapatista rebellion of 1994, the Zedillista betrayal of 1995, the appearance of the EPR in 1996, the scandalous defeat of the PRI in July and the massacre of Acteal in December of 1997. It doesn't matter that the Nation is crumbling, the true obsession of Zedillo and his little men is the stability of the stock market.

Together they participate in this table at a quarter to twelve, at this dinner at the end of the century.

The food? I doubt you can call it that. But on the table you can see seven cups running over with a red liquid from a large bottle with a label which says "Acteal. Harvest 1997." Yes, the blood of Acteal is for this modern beast the appetizer for the main course yet to come: the destruction of the Mexican nation...

But if the technocrats can lie, forget and make themselves impermeable to the blood and the mud which they promoted in Acteal, they cannot control, for example, the ups and downs of Asia. So for Zedillo and his gang, the Tokyo stock market is closer to the National Palace than the Zocalo in Mexico City. With his mind concentrated on the international financial fluctuations, there is little for the government to do in regards to the Nation: only armed force and simulation.

In order to fulfill is government program (which is nothing more than waiting for the problems to become biodegradable in popular memory), Zedillo rehearses numerous training exercises with "government teams", and designs his "new" political class according to his own mediocrity (Liebano Saenz, Jose Angel Gurria and Juan Ramon de la Fuente); he remakes his ties and commitments with National Action; he mixes it up with the Minister of governance who is nothing more than the cherry on top of the political cocktail.

But the problems do not resolve themselves, they grow worse. Upon "revealing" his new potentate (the minister of health and the head doctor for the first lady, Juan Ramon de la Fuente) in the pastoral scene which the political system has made of Chiapas, Zedillo has added another factor to the unleashed forces which eye the year 2000.

The recomposition of his relationships with the PAN has the problem that there is now as many parties of National Action as pre-candidates to the presidency of the republic. With the molotov cocktail which Labastida has in Governance, the supreme one seems to make a decisive turn in his media politics: he will no longer pretend he doesn't have the foggiest idea about how and where to lead the country, he will now show it openly.

The old alliances are torn, there are no "government teams". The blender of the crisis mixes and concocts incredible cocktails: Shameful, confessing Salinistas, reluctant leftists, wild rightists, living cadavers of the old system, recycled mediocres, co-opted dissidents, fraudulent technocrats, diarrhea-tics of lies, deaf and deafening demagogues.

But the national chaos is not like that in the regional fiefdoms. The Mexico of yesterday actualizes itself in the province. Ineffective and inefficient, the "Mister President" isn't even taken seriously by his co-believers. For them, he is nothing but a bothersome parenthesis, a so-and-so part-time spectacle, a merchant with bad taste who sells a non-existent product: the Mexico of the macroeconomic bonanza. The internal purges of the PRI do not provoke a maladjustment of the political system, they are more the result of the disorder.

Here is the picture of the last dinner of Power. Treachery and dishonor in word and deed is the common denominator of the diners. Decrepit and broken-down, this image is sold to us on a daily basis as the most modern, the most new.

The new political class is not new, it is not a class, it is not political. It is a taste of what the Mexican political system never imagined would end. So it did not prepare its replacement, and now it improvises, prematurely and stupidly, "teams" which have nothing in common beyond the desire for Power and wealth.

The Mexican political system intends to celebrate not its end and the end of the century, but the birth of a new millennium and its rebirth.

This is not a final picture in this picture, it is a repetition. It is not the end of the nightmare, it is its eternal repetition. To do so it must feed on blood, on the lives of those who wait to sit at...


The picture to be made.

"Happy will be the men of the world and the people of all the earth will proper: the Bears, Honey Gatherers, Cabcoh, the Foxes, Ch'amacob, the Weasels who suck blood of the vassals are finished. There will not be miserable governors, miserable governments; there will not be lackeys of princes nor those who ask for their substitutes. This is the charge, the one manifest on this 12 Ahahu Katun...Just and obedient will be the orders of the legitimate Gentlemen for the happiness of the world."

The book of the books of Chilam Balam.

The table below is still disordered and unattended. There are only a few who come to it to eat and find one another. The new diners are scattered everywhere, in Civil Society, in the Non-governmental Organizations, in the Political Organizations and the Political-Military organizations, in the political parties, in the Churches, in the Means of Communication, even in the Army. For now each one seeks to satisfy his own hunger. Its collectivity is still, in despair. They are, we are, a fragmented hope, a rainbow of light to be made yet. Perhaps we are not "new" political actors in the modern national scene, perhaps we are the actors of always, the ones who must always be quiet while the "important" ones declare their parliaments and receive flowers, applause and whistles. In the new scene which we want to make reality, national sovereignty is sustained and wins.

Perhaps we are the same ones of always, but always other, new, better.

The table below is still not filled. They say that in order to sit at it only dignity is required and a...periscope?

Health and...what? A table is missing so there are three? Oh yes! The third was and is the first, a table for making love to the sea.
(Second Key).

>From (the third table) of the mountains of the Mexican Southeast.

Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos
Mexico. February of 1998.

Translated by: Cecilia Rodriguez, NCDLJ

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