September 09, 2005

The Pachuco

Follow-up to Monte Alban from The Midnight Heart

I have just started reading Labyrinth of Solitude by Octavio Paz. In the beginning of the book, he writes of the pachuco, a being charcterised by 'a lack of spirit' (13).The pachuco 'does not want to become a Mexican again; at teh same time he does not want5 to blend into the life of North America' (14). Paz continues:

Since the pachuco cannot adapt himself to a civilization which, for its part, rejects him, he finds no answer to the hostility surrounding him except this angry affirmation of his persnality…the pachuco actually falunts his differences. The purpose of his grotesque dandyism and anarchic behavior is not so much to point out the injustice of a society that has failed to assimilate him as it is to demonstrate his personal will to remain different. / It is not important to examine the causes of this conflict, and even less so to ask whether it has a solution. There are minorities in many parts of the world who do not enjoy the same opportunities as the rest of the population. The important thing is this stubborn desire to be different, this anguished tension with which the lone Mexican – an orphan lacking both protectors and positive values – displays his differences…His disguise is a protection, but it also differentiates and isolates him: it both hides him and points him out (14 -15).

I find the idea of the pachuco very interesting and I relate to the character. Far from suggesting that my experiences as a Welsh person living in England have been the same as those of the Pachuco, I do recognise some elements of Paz' description. When we live outside of what we have known and been comfortable with all our lives, there is a choice to be made. Do we hang around the skirts of the known and the familiar or do we immerse ourselves in what is not familiar? Once we are immersed do we pass as a member of that particular community with the secret knowledge of one's own difference or do we flaunt our difference and force the other to admit that we are not one of them? Paz thinks that the outcome of flaunting such difference predicts that the identity 'spotlights and isolates him but at the same time it pays homage to the society he is attempting to deny' (16).

- 2 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

  1. jude

    The idea is an interesting one but marginality is a thing of the mind. In Boorman's film, 'The Emerald Forest', the chief says that he stole the Western child because he felt sorry for the life he would have to live and in 'Little Big Man', the chief refers to his own tribe as 'human beings.' Here in the Caerphilly hills, I don't feel marginalised by London; I feel that London is on the margins of my life. However class is something else. As a working class kid who had an university education yes I do see the power of the metaphor even now in extreme middle age.

    For a writer who needs to disassociate and alienate in order to look again with care and scrutiny being a pachuco need not be a disadvantage. Life can be more illuminating through a window than lived without proper spectacles. As one pachuco to another – take care out there in the margins.

    09 Sep 2005, 11:54

  2. Yes I agree with what you say. I think this is what seems to be coming out of much Welsh writing. That silence can be useful, that distance can be useful, that estranging one's self from one's own culture can be useful.

    09 Sep 2005, 19:32

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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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