Headless Bodies and Jobless Workers - The Roots of Mexico’s Sadism

Headless Bodies and Jobless Workers - The Roots of Mexico’s Sadism

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Editor’s Note: The five decapitated bodies and two scalped heads dumped in a tourist area of Acapulco last Saturday, raise questions about sadism in Mexico. For answers, one need only look to Mexico’s unemployment numbers.

Sadism is not an everyday word in the Spanish vocabulary. Yet, it is an every day event if you live in Mexico.

On any given day, if you asked around, you would be lucky to find someone in Mexico who could identify the root of the word, and fewer still would relate it to the Marquis de Sade. Instead, many Mexicans might associate sadism with the ancient stories of the Maya and the Aztecs, who were known to break skulls or remove the hearts of their enemies, believing such offerings would appease the gods and bring a better future to their people.

These actions, perceived today as savage, instilled in the Mexican culture a sense of fatalism that crystallized with the arrival of the Spaniards, whose conquest involved controlling Indian tribes and converting them to Christianity by way of blunt force and subjugation.

A Nation Born of “Double Violence”

As our Nobel Laureate poet and essayist Octavio Paz said in his perhaps best-known book The Labyrinth of Solitude, “If Mexico was born in the 16th century, we have to understand that [the country] is the son of a double violence; the one imposed by the Aztecs and the one from the Spaniards.”
Like any other country, Mexico is difficult to understand without first understanding its past.

Mexicans revere and fear death, but also laugh about it. Death could be the ultimate sacrifice as well as the ultimate punishment. The concept has even become part of its culture through songs of love and loneliness, which have survived for generations.

Foreigners might wonder how, amidst the present violence, a concept like sadism is largely ignore by the Mexican masses. Yet, even children as young as seven can easily identify old traditional songs, such as, “No vale nada la vida . . . la vida no vale nada.” That roughly translates as, “Life is worth nothing . . . nothing is worth living.”

After enduring nearly three centuries of submission under the Spanish crown and another century dealing with the broken promises of a revolution that has only benefited a small portion of the population -- those who were already in power for generations—Mexicans can only find hope in their immediate families. And for decades now, that immediate family, for millions of Mexicans -- has been the drug cartels.

With no political connections, no access to education, no jobs and no hope for the future, millions of young men and women had opted for the cartels as their best bet. They all know that pledging allegiance to the cartels means committing to a lifestyle that might sooner or later end with jail—or death. However, many have declared publicly that they’d rather live a short life “as a king,” than a long life “as a pariah.”

The End Isn’t Near

The end doesn’t seem to be near.

Official numbers show that in Mexico more than half of all young people aged 20 to 30 neither study nor work. Although President Calderon brags openly that Mexico has a lower unemployment rate than the United States, neither he nor his cronies revealed that their rosy math is based in a formula that considers people fully employed when they work at least two days per week, according to the Instituto Nacional de Estadistica, Geografia e Informatica (Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics, Geography and Information).

Furthermore, more than half of Mexico’s working-age population (those 16 or older) makes a living on the “black market,’’ either selling counterfeit products in the street or performing “chambas,” which are odd jobs with neither legal protection nor taxes to be paid either by workers or employers.

Even those lucky enough to find a job in the legal market now face the prospect of being hired under temporary contracts without any benefits.

So just do the math: Anyone willing to execute and scalp a dead body can make about $300 a week for a job that might take less than four hours. Meanwhile, those who choose to work in the legal market, if they can get a job, might make $7 per day for an eight-hour shift according to government figures.

To be sure, not everyone in Mexico turns to gruesome murders to make a living, but outsiders should not be surprised that so many do.