July 2011

Mexico City

While I have been here many times, for many reasons, this is my first visit to El Centro de Constelaciones Familiares (www.constelaciones.com.mx ) now in beginning stages of their new master’s degree program in Systemic Social Solutions. My seminar on systemically oriented social trauma was attended by local therapists and other citizens deeply concerned about their deteriorating infrastructure and escalating violence of the so called drug wars. British journalist, Ed Vulliamy, author of Amexica: War Along the Borderline (2010) describes the violence of the narco-cartels as “warfare for the 21st century”. These ongoing conflicts have claimed nearly 40,000 lives, mostly civilians, generated arms trafficking scandals, endless debates over military and para-military solutions, and the efficacy of decriminalizing drugs. While one usually thinks about war as something fought between people with causes, Vulliamy maintains that this conflict is about tribal dynamics among rival narco-trafficante gangs, territory, profit and exultation of the cruelest forms of sadistic violence. While these modern day killers tout and even post their atrocities on You Tube, this cult of ritual savagery has very deep roots in the history of place, pre-Columbian cultures, and a quasi-Catholic cult of Santissima Muerte ( Holiest Death ).
In this regard, John Ross’s El Monstruo: Dread and Redemption in Mexico City offers much to ponder. This fascinating volume was written from his window in the creepy old Hotel Isabel in the historic Colonial Quarter where he has lived since the earthquake of 1985 which crushed nearly 30,000 lives. His history of this mile high city, surrounded by 34 volcanoes covers four million years of upheaval. Beginning with its geological origins, he continues on to the Pre-Colombian Aztec-Mexica cultures in their “City of Smoking Hearts and Flowers”, subsequent genocides, the complexities of colonialism, revolutions on up until the swine flu panic of 2005. Mexico City has never been a particularly peaceful place.
El Monstruo’s history of violence woven together with the spectacular and often mysterious beauty of pre-Columbian cultures is evident throughout it’s National Museum of Anthropology. I discovered this national treasure many years ago as an undergraduate student of art and architectural history and endeavor to re-visit their Aztec Sun Stone and other impressive displays whenever I return. In light of the recent history of ritual violence and torture as part of the drug gang culture, it is interesting to be able to trace these very similar cruelties to the figures depicted throughout this museum. While I seriously doubt that sadistic gang members are roaming these national halls in search of inspiration, I do sense a deep rooted connection to this aspect of their cultural roots which is overlooked by simplistic solutions of a political or economic nature. In the long run, this suggests that any proposal which ignores these systemic elements is not likely to succeed.

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