10 May 2009

"Arriba los Técnicos"

Politics all over the world can be compared to Mexican "Lucha Libre" wrestling. You have the "técnicos", the good guys, versus the "rudos", the bad guys. "Técnico" (TEK-nee-koh) means technician. These are the wrestlers that use their technique and ability to win. "Rudo" (ROO-doh) literally means ruffian or villain. The "rudos" are the wrestlers who cheat in order to win. You have to choose your lot in life by being a técnico or a "rudo". Unfortunately, like Lucha Libre, the world of politics is so rough and tumble that many politicians who start out as "técnicos" end up becoming "rudos". It doesn't matter whether they are liberals or conservatives or what political party they belong to. Sooner or later in the minds of the people their actions and performance, whether real or perceived, will determine if they will be cheered or booed. There is a popular Mexican comic book superhero called "El Valiente" who is definitely a good guy in the same style as Superman, Batman, and Spiderman. His battle cry is "¡Arriba los técnicos y bajo los rudos!"..."Up with the good guys and down with the bad guys!".

Early in the last century, the Mexican revolutionary Francisco Madero popularized the slogan "Sufragio Efectivo, no Reelección" (effective suffrage, no reelection). This phrase was borrowed from Porfirio Diáz who abandoned it not long after initiating it. It means a fair vote count and no reelection to public office. This principle was written into the Mexican Constitution of 1917 and makes every presidential election in Mexico a non-incumbent election. That means that a president is elected for one six year term called a "sexenio" and cannot be elected president again. State governors are also elected for six year terms and cannot be reelected. Federal legislative power is vested upon the Congress of the Union, a two chamber legislature comprising the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. Senators serve for six years and cannot be reelected for the next immediate term. Deputies serve for three years and cannot be reelected for the next immediate term. State legislators also cannot be reelected for the next immediate term nor can the presidents of the local municipal councils who are commonly called "alcaldes" or mayors. In short, nobody in government can serve consecutive terms. Therefore, holding a government office is generally a one shot deal.

Over the years there began to develop a pattern of corruption whereby people who were leaving public office would take as much advantage of the situation as they could before their term was up and they would leave the next guy with an empty treasury and a lot of bills to pay. This became so rampant that by the 1950's the practice received a nickname . It was called "El Año de Hidalgo". With three year term elections coming up soon you may hear someone refer to El Año de Hidalgo or you may see it referred to in the editorial section of your newspaper and so I thought I would write about it to give those who are unfamiliar with the term a little explanation of what it means. Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, the father of independent Mexico was born in Pénjamo, Guanajuato on May 8th 1753. However, his actual birth certificate was not found until 1951 in the old Pénjamo archives. This was during the administration of Mexican President Miguel Alemán. His administration would be marked by rampant political corruption and crony capitalism and this would shape the relationship of politics and big business in Mexico until recent times. Since the year 1953 marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Miguel Hidalgo the government decided to strike a five peso silver coin to mark the occasion. They made one million copies of this coin which carried the likeness of Miguel Hidalgo and the dates 1753 and 1953 and the words "Año de Hidalgo" (see the picture below).

At the end of the administration of Miguel Alemán some wag or journalist coined the phrase:

Este es el año de Hidalgo, chin-chin el que deje algo.
This is the year of Hidalgo, shame on the guy who leaves something behind.

Actually there are several versions of the phrase, some of which go like this:

Ese último es el Año de Hidalgo: chingue a su madre el que deje algo.

El año de Hidalgo, chinga su madre el que deje algo.

Este es el año de Hidalgo…pendejo el que deje algo.

Año de Hidalgo, tizne a su madre el que deje algo.

These are all very vulgar phrases and for that reason I will not translate them literally but I think you get the message.

In short, the last year of a political term of office was generally characterized by a rise in corruption. In a "Year of Hidalgo" it always seemed like money would unaccountably disappear from the public treasury. The common people say that the politicians take two years to get comfortable in office, another two years to put a grand scheme in place, and the last two years to "hacer su agosto" (make their August) or in other words "harvest their ill gotten gains". There is a pervading notion in Mexico that altruism is equal to stupidity and so sadly, the people expect this kind of behavior. In the United States people might say "Shame on the man who cheated you" but in Mexico the people are more likely to say, "Shame on you for letting the man cheat you". Where does this cynicism come from? From over three hundred years of poverty and near slavery where survival was a matter of keeping your wits about you and taking advantage of every opportunity to survive. In Mexico for many, many years, one man's loss was an answer to another man's prayers. Finders keepers losers weepers and the "Ley de Herodus" were the laws of the land. In Mexico the area of politics has been a prisoner of the shadows of past practices. Now, however, thanks to the Fox administration and the Law of Transparency and the new Judicial reforms of the Calderón administration, Mexico is slowly leaving those shadows behind and basking in a new light. Nevertheless, old habits die hard and no doubt in the nooks and crannies of the halls of congress and in the state and local governments the seeds of corruption have not been entirely eliminated and are awaiting the new harvest of the "Año de Hidalgo".

Please join with me and "El Valiente" and the Técnicos everywhere, even unto Washington, Mexico City, Quebec City, Beijing, Moscow, London, Paris, Berlin, Warsaw, Rome, Madrid, Jerusalem, Tehran, Baghdad, Damascus, Islamabad, Kabul, New Delhi, Tokyo, Canberra, Johannesburg, Havana, Caracas, Bogotá, Santiago, Brasília, Nairobi, Cairo, Reykjavík, Amsterdam and all the communities of the world and make this our universal motto and our battle cry:

"Arriba los Técnicos"


Leslie Harris (de Limon) said...

Well said!!! You mentioned "La ley de Herodes", have you seen the movie? It deals with what you wrote in today's blog! (It happens to be one of my favorite movies!)

Bob Mrotek said...

Yes Leslie, it is one of my favorites too. Another Luis Estrada movie that is just as good is "Un Mundo Maravilloso".

norm said...

I like maps, they tell the whole truth about what one is going to encounter on a days drive.

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I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.