Thursday, December 27, 2007

Survey Says...

Reforma [no link because it's subscription-only, which is just not how this internet shit works, amigos] just published a year-end poll asking Mexicans to name their Favorite Stuff Ever. The result is a fairly broad survey of Mexican tastes, ranging from Favorite Actor Pedro Infante, to Favorite Singer Pedro Infante, and from Second-Favorite Actor Mario "Cantinflas" Moreno to Favorite Comedian Mario "Cantinflas" Moreno. There was no "Favorite Gringo Blog" category, so we'll just assume we would have won that, but on the literary front, we're once again calling bullshit.

Mexicans' Favorite Male Writer is allegedly Octavio Paz, who as the lone winner of the Nobel Prize is more likely the Writer With The Highest Q-Rating. Paz's The Labyrinth of Solitude is listed in every guide to Mexico as essential reading for anyone who wants to understand the Mexican psyche. We'd settle for understanding the Mexican bus system, but because we were able to find it used for $2, we read it while we were driving down here.
Each one of us is Man, and represents the hopes and possibilities of the species. Redemption is a personal task. Both attitudes, opposed as they may seem, have a common note: life, collective or individual, looks forward to a death that is its way is a new life. Life only justifies and transcends itself when it is realized in death, and death is also a transcendence, in that it is a new life...

It continues in this vein for 212 pages, the whole of which could be summarized as, "Mexicans love the fiesta because it makes them happy, except when it makes them sad." It's possible that it really sings in the original Spanish, and Paz's work is truly beloved by his countrymen. It's also possible that people simply confuse him as the author of One Hundred Years of Solitude, which is currently the bestselling book in Mexico despite having been published more than 40 years ago.

But the bullshit really starts to fly in the Favorite Female Writer category, where 57 percent named Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, a Catholic nun who wrote plays and poems and philosophical tracts before dying of bubonic plague in 1695. This would be like 57 percent of Americans listing Cotton Mather as their literary hero. Or maybe Benjamin Franklin would be the better analogy - because we have a theory as to why Sor Juana is the first female writer everyone thought of: her face is on the 200 peso bill.

2 comments:

Margaret said...

I think you will appreciate this article's passing reference to O. Paz. The nub: search on page for "Paz made most of that stuff up."

Burro Hall said...

It would certainly explain a lot...