Nearly a century ago to the week, the New York Times wrote a glowing profile of then-President Porfirio Diaz of Mexico. Mexico City was in the midst of a massive celebration commemorating the country's centennial, and Diaz and his científicos (literally, “scientists,” but here referring to the president's advisers) were only more than happy to show the world their idea of a new, modern Mexico, one willing to cast off the weight of the old, the peasant, the Mexican of his land, and embrace a new way.
“Mexico, in these days of festivity, has been glorifying in its past, and there is much in that past to glorify,” wrote the Gray Lady. “But the political and material significance of the centennial relates to a new Mexico, a Mexico of awakened industry, a country which is striving to take its rightful place among the nations of the world.”
This weekend, SanTana celebrates Mexico's bicentennial with a massive parade and festival. The person presiding over this? Longtime mayor Don Papi Pulido, who will be the grand marshal and wave to the raza. And the similarities between SanTana of today and Mexico of a century ago don't end there.
Like Diaz, Pulido is the longtime ruler of an area with an identity complex. Like Diaz, Pulido prefers to associate himself with the elite, as opposed to the unwashed masses. Like Diaz, Pulido surrounds himself with advisers seeking to “remake” the land, advisers who believe in a theology of progress (Positivism for the científicos, New Urbanism for the Brave New Urbanists). Like Diaz, Pulido has critics lambasted at every opportunity, and a rival (Francisco Madero then, Alfredo Amezcua hoy) who once ran in the same circles as the jefe but now casts himself as a new revolutionary ready to lead the masses. Like Diaz, Pulido has co-opted nearly all opponents. And like Diaz's lackeys, Pulido's acolytes paint him as the savior of the mestizo badlands, the one man who keeps their respective kingdoms from anarchy.
Quiz time! Is the Times referring to Diaz or the Don Papi when they write:
Short of stature physically, his personality is large. He stands erect, he walks briskly. His face in repose is grave and stern, but it lights up wonderfully when he is greeting a visitor he is glad to see, or discussing a subject that interest him.
Quiz time! Is it the Times referring to Mexico or the boosters of the non-wab part of downtown SanTana that wrote:
[Tourists] have been able to judge for themselves, according to their capacity for seeing and measuring, the vast developments of a quarter century, and they have surely obtained a fair idea of the possibilities of a [region] which still contains [much virgin] land which can be made to bloom like the gardens of paradise…”
Quiz time! Who is the Times speaking of (and this was in the days when the Times was the house organ for the world's despots) when they write:
But there has never been such a[n area] as his influence has developed, his tireless energy sustained. His practical wisdom, his unfailing comprehension of the requirements of his people, his great personal force have done more for [his region] than the foreign capital he has attracted here, and welcomed.
Forget the corruption bit that other, lesser blogs throw out when they make the Papi Pulido-Diaz connection: corruption in politics is as natural as a sunset. No, pay attention to the whole burrito–the similarities between Mexico 1910 and SanTana 2010 are so similar, I think we can toss out the Kennedy-Lincoln assassination compare-and-contrast game out la ventana.
2010, of course, saw the end of the Porfiriato and the beginning of the Mexican Revolution. The Don Papi is expected to beat Amezcua handily–but Diaz also beat Madero. What next for the Banana Republic?