September 17, 2005

The Mexican Fiesta

Follow-up to Mexican Independence Day from The Midnight Heart

Mexican Independence Night passed without anyone being pelted with eggs. Octavio Paz provides a clear description of the event in Labyrinth of Solitude .

Each year on the fifteenth of September, at eleven o’ clock at night, we celebrate the fiesta of the Grito in all the plazas in the Republic, and the excited crowds actually shout for a whole hour (47).

The Grito referred to is of course the Grito Dolores, an impassioned appeal made by the renegade priest Hidalgo on the eve of a revoltionary movement in Mexico.

Paz goes on to add that in spite of the noise and colour of the fiesta, the Mexicans will ‘remain silent for the rest of the year’ (47). Paz argues that the Mexican is trapped in his own labyrinth of solitude and such fiestas are explosive efforts to emerge from silence.

I have a few bones to pick with Paz’ account. I think that The Labyrinth of Solitude is fundamentally an account of men’s silence and difficulty in becoming reconciled with their own identities. Women are passive matter, as Paz points out. There may be some interesting parallels to be drawn here between the solitude and silence in The Labyrinth of Solitude and that of Welsh male poets. I have currently been formalising a theory concerning Welsh male poetry and its introspective nature and this may be useful here.

In any case, Paz’s theory concerning the Mexican fiesta is fascinating:

All of our anxious tensions express themselves in a phrase we use when anger, joy or enthusiasm cause us to exalt our constitution as Mexicans: ” _ ¡Viva Mexico, hijos de la chingada!_ ” This phrase is a battle cry, charged with a peculiar electricity; it is a challenge and an affirmation, a shot fired against an imaginary enemy, and an explosion in the air. Once again with a certain pathetic and plastic fatality, we are presented with the image of a sky rocket that climbs into the sky, bursts in a shower of sparks and then falls into darkness. Or with the image of that howl that ends all our songs and possesses the same ambiguous resonance: an angry joy, a destructive affirmation ripping open the breast and consuming itself. // When we shout this cry on the fifteenth of September, the anniversary of our independence, we affirm ourselves in front of, against and in spite of “others”.

- 2 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. How strange. My experience of mexican independence day has been somewhat different. Jolliest fiesta Iīve ever been to. Good vibes. Not an egg in site. There was no shouting for an hour either. I donīt think Mexicans keep silent for the rest of the year either. I certainly hope this is not the case now, even if it is true historically. When did Octavio Paz make these comments? Do you agree with him?

    17 Sep 2005, 00:14

  2. The Labyrinth of Solitude was published in 1961, I think. What Paz means by silence is being withdrawn, not allowing others to pierce your shell, maintaining autonomy and independence from others. I'm unsure what I think about the theory to be honest. It may have been true in teh 20th century, but it appears to be changing now. I don't think that you can categorisea nation in this way either, although I think that Paz does maintain that he is considering a certain kind of Mexican – possibly himself?

    17 Sep 2005, 00:23

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The Midnight Heart

“Zona de plagas donde la dormida come / lentamente / su corazón de medianoche” – Alejandra Pizarnik

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