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Week 1-2 Carmack

Week 3 Whisnat

Week 4 Whisnat

Week 5 Whisnat

Week 6 Nash

Week 6 Essay 1 Question

Week 6 Essay

Week 7 Nash

Week 8 Manz

Week 9 Manz

Week 10 Binford

Week 11 Binford

Week 12 Oppenheimer

Week 12 Quinones

Week 12 Essay 2 Question

Week 12 Essay 2

Week 13 Oppenheimer

Week 13 Quinones

Week 14 Dow

Week 15 Dow

Final Paper


Victoria Kline
Anthropology 582: Mesoamerican Cultures
November 17, 2004
Dr. Ramona Perez

True Tales from Another Mexico Part I

The introduction to this book provides the background through which journalist Sam Quinones speaks about the culture of Mexico. During the crisis of the devaluation of the peso, Quinones looked for a story on the devaluation of the Mexican dollar that involved private schools, which had lost a major portion of their paying students in the economic downturn. In his search for that story Quinones came face to face with the corruption inherent in Mexican one-party politics and the bribes necessary to get any kind of information from the system. The closed access to outsiders and payment for loyalty system from within stemmed from the ability of the PRI party to lure in dissenting groups and put them on the payroll in exchange for their loyalty. Quinones says that the “key to the PRI’s longevity is its understanding of human nature” (3).

There are two sides to Mexico according to Quinones: one is the Priistal/licenciado culture, college educated, “official, elite, corrupt Mexico” (3); and the other is the marginal, invisible side. That is the side that Quinones focuses on in this book. Those living in the margins at the fringes of Mexican society; groups that have accepted the lives they were dealt and created their own set of values from their particular set of circumstances.

Chapter 1 The Ballad of Chalino Sanchez: Chalino Sanchez was an illegal immigrant living in Los Angeles who was murdered at the age of thirty-one after a short four year singing career. Because of the music he chose and the circumstances of his death, he became a legend for all Mexicans living in the US and Mexico. His music choice was the corrido or Mexican ballad, an old style song of banditos and revolutionaries. Sanchez brought the old Mexican ballad up to date creating the narcocorrido combining exploits of narcotics trafficking, danger, and violence. Chalino had no easy beginnings in Sinaloa, Mexico where he had to leave town in a hurry for a vengeance killing he committed there when he was fifteen. He made his way to the US and Los Angeles then on the seasonal migration of agricultural works from Southern California to Oregon and back again. He tried some other jobs including drug dealing and illegal alien smuggling. In jail he started writing corridos for other inmates and there his talent was born. The things that made Chalino Sanchez appealing to other immigrants from Mexico was the rough voice, his campesinos pronunciation of some words, his look of unpolish, and the corrido’s stories about real men, poor men, but stories the immigrant population could relate to and find in them some remembrance of home. Through Chalino’s songs the people could be the valiant ones, he sang to them their ideal story of toughness, coolness, and winning against the odds. Well, he got killed and became very famous and his recordings came into high demand after his death.

In Chapter 2, Lynching in Huejutla, two salesmen in the Huejutla, Hidalgo, Mexico area become accused of kidnapping and are lynched by a mob of angry parents and other citizens. The salesmen had catered to children who would collect tickets and eventually be able to trade the tickets for little toy trinkets. The younger assistant salesman had to shoo some children away from their truck loaded with brightly colored plastic baubles. He physically chased and did touch two of the young girls, and made some inappropriate comments to one of them, mentioning a future kidnapping. The girl told her parents. Others reported the incident also, and the men were arrested. Distrust in the system of justice, the belief the system would be unfair to the victims and allow the perpetrators to go free, led to a crowd mentality where the courthouse was stormed, the men removed from the jail and hung. 

Chapter 3 Telenovela is a story about Mexican soap operas produced through Televisa, the studio owned by one of Mexico’s billionaires and a PRI supporter. The people of Mexico became so engrossed in telanovels in the 1990s that they would come to work late to be sure they saw the show! Many telanovelas circulated through all of Latin America and many other countries as well, some becoming extremely popular. The telenovela is like our soap operas in the US but follow their own particular formula of “a romance that in 160 to 240 half-hour episodes begins, falters, blooms, falters again, and finally succeeds – as simple formula” (54) that attracts audiences more that any other form of advertising. The viewer escapes in the story if only for an hour at a time. 

Chapter 4 The Jotos of La Fogata: the jotos are the screaming drag queens of Mexico. Well, we have them here also; they dress more femininely than I do. They are better women than me I always say. Anyway, these guys are cross dressers and some are quite beautiful. What is important to them? At the annual beauty pageant they answer questions such as: What is more important, superficial beauty or genuine beauty from within? What a loaded question for them. Of course superficial beauty is going to be most important for them or why go to all the trouble or primping. Naturally, in a beauty contest the expected answer would be, inner beauty of course. According to author Quinones, “in manly Mexico, drag-queen prostitutes are so in demand” (81) that they do better than female prostitutes!  The drag-queen profession sounds like a chaotic lifestyle choice, but which they opt to for a while and then, if they live through it, regress to a more calm position in life.

Chapter 5 San Quentin is an agricultural area of Baja California that became super productive with the introduction of drip irrigation, and is now a prime region for growing tomatoes and strawberries among other crops that ship to San Diego and the United States. This area attracted workers from Qaxaca and other impoverished regions in Mexico, and a small town has developed around this steady agricultural work. Not without problems. Original immigrants to the area were lured by false promises (meals on the bus trip to the labor camp, electricity and running water in a room), and no mention of problems (lack of drinking water and aerial pesticide spraying while the workers are in the field, that the rooms were shanties). Many economically depressed peoples from Oaxaca and Guerrero answered the announcement of paying jobs in San Quentin. Labor is what the area was lacking and thus the call for workers from all over to fill positions in San Quentin. Things in San Quentin would be worse except for one man, Benito Garcia, who has led the farm workers in demands for rights such as humane treatment, better working conditions, permanent neighborhoods, and better pay.

In Chapter 6, Zeus and the Oaxaca Hoops, Oaxacans now living in the Los Angeles area maintain ties to and some of the customs of their country through basketball tournaments. Oaxacans are not tall people. The basketball they play has its own set of rules. Persons who did not originate from the Oaxaca area of Mexico are not allowed to play in the tournaments. There are a great number of teams including men’s, women’s and youth’s. Basketball began to be played in Oaxaca in the 1930s when villagers built the dirt courts used real baskets attached to a pole, and basketballs of “deer skin that the women sewed with strands of fiber from the maguey cactus…filled with rags” (118). Basketball has become the favorite sport in some communities of Mexico. In Los Angeles, lowland and highland Oaxacan immigrants come together in tournament battle basketball. Zeus was a player when he was young. He and some relatives formed a team and played in tournaments all the time. It was their life. There is no pay in Oxacan basketball. They play for the love of the game, the feel of victory when they win, and the sense of community they feel with the other teams and spectators. Zeus’s team always had a very disciplined practice routine. As he got older his knees gave out but he could not give up basketball, he turned to coaching. The team he coaches has a rigorous physical fitness program and practice routine. The team wins a good deal of the time, and plays for the love of the game, the glory of the win, and community pride.

Chapter 7 The Dead Women of Juarez the industrialization of this small border town has provided jobs for a great many poor Mexicans. At the beginning the jobs were available mainly for men. Now, the greatest portion is preferred to women creating an unequal division of money dispersion. Women in Juarez are able to fend for themselves; they no longer need a man to survive economically. Because of the lure of jobs, the town has outgrown its capacity to provide necessities such as law enforcement. Most of these people live in shacks constructed of corrugated tin and cardboard or such materials, as are leftovers in an industrial setting. It seems that the men cannot stand the fact that the women are becoming independent. Women are being lured, apparently by men unhappy with Juarez women’s newfound independence, raped and killed. It is definitely a power thing. It would be good to provide these women in Juarez with some self-defense methods to protect them from the perverts that are stalking them. A few men with crushed balls might bring some order into semi-lawless Juarez.  

Chapter 8 West Side Kansas Street it almost drives me nuts to read this one. The young men and teen boys in the area of Zamora, Michoacan, Mexico mimic gang activity of Los Angeles. The data they use to copy this activity comes from two young men who crossed the border (not legally) and made it up to Los Angeles where they hung out with other youth from the same area of Mexico. They learned the fine art of theft and the drug way of life. One of the young men was arrested for burglary while the other escaped back to Mexico. This one, Simio, became the gang leader in Zamora for having successfully made it in the United States. Except here the low-riders are bikes instead of cars. And they need to be slapped on the backs of their heads. These are the immigrants the United States does not need. For them, the US had a bunch of great stuff sitting there ready to be stolen. Not people I would want to associate with or live in proximity to. Now why would the author pick a subject like this? Are we to learn how these lost young men are created? Is it the influence of the culture of the United States that is the problem? The problem not limited to young male immigrants to Los Angeles. This is an identity problem for many young men, poverty, desire, self-worth become wrapped up in social anti-social behavior such as smoking, fighting, drug use and the idiotic behavior that induces, ganging up for strength in numbers, rebelling through criminal activity. Being bad, tough.

Negative or positive these stories all strike a cord, get the reader involved, show a different side of life that would normally go unnoticed. Great, colorful writing! My own prejudices are certainly showing up while reading them. A reaction they do get.


Quinones, Sam
2001    True Tales from Another Mexico. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press.

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