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JRLankford


Oct 24, 2004, 6:51 PM

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Author Seeks Soul of Mexico

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Hello, everyone. I've just joined Mexico Connect and it has already proven invaluable in my research. I'm an author and in the novel I'm currently writing there is a Mexican American character who lives in New York and has just come into a great deal of money. He has a passionate interest in helping his people.

To shape this character I am reading several excellent books for reference, but I wondered if some of you might be willing to share your concept of the Mexican world view? For instance, I think America's highest intention or soul is expressed in words on the statue of liberty: send these the homeless tempest tossed to me; I lift my lamp beside the golden door. Not that we handle immigration perfectly, mind you, far from it. But I do think the U.S. views itself as the land of opportunity for all.

I loved what Judy King said in her article here entitled LOS DIAS DE LOS MUERTOS:

Writer Octavio Paz commented about his people's relationship with death saying, The Mexican is familiar with death, jokes about it, caresses it, sleeps with it, and celebrates it. It is one of his favorite playthings and his most steadfast love."

How does that express itself in the average Mexican's world view?

In short, how would you describe the soul of Mexico?

Thanks for reading my post. I'll appreciate any replies.

Jamie L

http://www.facebook.com/authorjrlankford
http://www.jrlankford.com


(This post was edited by jilla on Oct 24, 2004, 9:56 PM)



Carol Schmidt


Oct 24, 2004, 9:10 PM

Post #2 of 24 (3056 views)

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Re: [jilla] Author Seeks Soul of Mexico

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"In short"??

If any of us could capture the "soul of Mexico" for you we'd have written a lengthy book ourselves that would still contain inaccuracies.

I suggest you look over the list of books reviewed elsewhere on this site--"Reign of Gold," "Caramelo," "Aztec," and "Pedro Paramo" come to my mind immediately as must-reads. Sam Quinones' "True Tales of Another Mexico" is excellent. There's a book by DeMenthe, "Mexican Ethics and Etiquette," which has some views for gringos interested in doing business in Mexico considering entirely different mindsets than what many of us assume are universal. Highest values are dignity of self, family and friends, DeMenthe says, and what gringos think are jokes or casual teasing can be life-and-death insults to some Mexicans.

You have lots of research to do--I doubt anyone can give you the "soul of Mexico--in short," and if they do, don't trust their answer. It isn't simple or easy to explain. Mexican and Mexican-American authors and artists themselves are your best source.

Carol Schmidt


JRLankford


Oct 24, 2004, 9:54 PM

Post #3 of 24 (3053 views)

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Re: [Carol Schmidt] Author Seeks Soul of Mexico

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Coral, many thanks for the references. I do have some of them and have just ordered the last two you recommended. In studying other cultures, I've found it helpful to talk with resident natives, emigres and ex-pats alike. Your observation that Mexico is so inscrutable is, itself, of interest to me. Thanks again.

Jamie L

http://www.facebook.com/authorjrlankford
http://www.jrlankford.com


(This post was edited by jilla on Oct 24, 2004, 9:56 PM)


jerezano

Oct 25, 2004, 7:48 AM

Post #4 of 24 (3016 views)

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Re: [jilla] Author Seeks Soul of Mexico

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Hello,

I can't talk to you about the "soul" of Mexico but I sure can tell you what is going to happen to your Mexican hero.

Mexicans have extended families. I have a friend who has 97 cousins (Primos) and he knows each and every one of them by name and face. Also the Mexican family tradition is when somebody in the family has money he helps everybody who needs something. Weddings, quinceañeras, medical, funeral, new car, vacation, off to the USA as an ilegal migrant. What have you.

Your hero even before thinking of the Mexican people in general will have the money all spent on just the family.

Good luck.

Adios. Jerezano.


(This post was edited by jerezano on Oct 25, 2004, 8:04 AM)


gpk

Oct 25, 2004, 9:07 AM

Post #5 of 24 (2986 views)

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Re: [jerezano] Author Seeks Soul of Mexico

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You may be right--a Mexican friend lost his job a couple years ago. He looked for awhile, but then a rich uncle set him up in his own business and he now has a new house and new car. The business was one my frined was particularly UNqualified to run, but the uncle paid for everything while my friend picked up the needed experience on the job.


alex .

Oct 25, 2004, 9:08 AM

Post #6 of 24 (2986 views)

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Re: [jerezano] protagonista de la novela

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Yep, mix in some medical expenses and prestamos, and you got it . I'm glad you said it instead of me, I get beat up pretty badly when I challenge the "family respect" notion. But then, the book will be fiction , right?
Alex


JRLankford


Oct 25, 2004, 12:43 PM

Post #7 of 24 (2936 views)

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Re: [gpk] Author Seeks Soul of Mexico

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Thanks and I agree. My protagonist has inherited the biggest privately-held corporation in the world. When we meet him he's already hired a cousin as his personal butler, an uncle as his doorman, and is busy replacing company employees with relatives, keeping only key personnel from before.

Maybe I've phrased my question too esoterically. How would you complete the sentence: Mexico is ....

Jamie L

http://www.facebook.com/authorjrlankford
http://www.jrlankford.com


Marlene


Oct 25, 2004, 6:12 PM

Post #8 of 24 (2888 views)

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Re: [jilla] Author Seeks Soul of Mexico

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Unpredictable. (Mostly in a good way)

For example, last week one of our pulmonia (open air taxi's unique to Mazatlán) drivers returned a teacher's knapsack upon discovering it later in his vehicle where it had been accidentally left behind. There are no radios and no way to get ahold of them, all privately owned and hundreds of them driving the streets.

The knapsack contained an expensive digital camera. We broke it to him that he was likely saying goodbye to his knapsack, books and camera. An hour and a half later at nearly midnight, the driver was back blowing his horn, knapsack intact. We have one happy and thankful foreign visitor!


Carol Schmidt


Oct 25, 2004, 6:49 PM

Post #9 of 24 (2881 views)

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Re: [jilla] Author Seeks Soul of Mexico

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The same way I'd answer the question "The United States is...", by throwing up my hands. Is the US Kerry or Bush? Laura or Teresa? Obama or Alan Keyes? Jerry Brown or Ahnold? Hattiesburg or Cape Cod or Orange County or Des Moines or Atlanta?

Are you talking about the urbane wealthy class in Mexico City or rural tribes in Chiapas? Beach bums in Puerta Villarta or factory workers in Juarez? Radical students or goat herders? A proselytizing Jehovah's Witness or someone who's taught in a Catholic school? I may be wrong but I think that understanding differences between classes and regions and urban/rural are far more important than trying to come to some universal statement about Mexico and Mexicans. Decide who your character is and learn his particular background and then you can better figure out his responses to sudden wealth.

By the way, I heard of a friend of a friend who is a Mexican architect who won a lottery, immediately bought houses for all his relatives and paid for college and medical expenses for many, and found himself a gorgeous young wife an bought her a fancy red sports car convertible and a big house. Today he's broke, minus wife, any house of his own, and of course that convertible, and his relatives can't keep up their houses. He sees her tooling around all the time, looking for new money. Sudden wealth is not always good. Your story could surely be a comedy, but you'd better really know what you're talking about or your stories could be seen as ethnic stereotypes, and as I said above, saving face and insisting on respect for oneself, one's family and one's friends is very important. Have you lived in Mexico and toured many areas of the country to give you some depth of understanding as your foundation? You don't always have to write what you know, but you need to have some real empathy and insight, not just research.

Carol Schmidt

Carol Schmidt


Marlene


Oct 25, 2004, 9:21 PM

Post #10 of 24 (2856 views)

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Re: [Carol Schmidt] Author Seeks Soul of Mexico

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http://www.jrlankford.com - her website listed in her Mexconnect profile mentions she has traveled the world.


JRLankford


Oct 25, 2004, 10:07 PM

Post #11 of 24 (2846 views)

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Re: [Carol Schmidt] Author Seeks Soul of Mexico

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I've travelled extensively and written about many countries, have spent some time in Mexico and plan a major trip there for this book. There are well-known perceptions about the national consciousness of all countries I've so far visited, to the point that there are popular phrases, jokes and stories about each. I gave an example for the USA. Naturally all countries contain individuals who are unique, yet a national character still exists. I know I'll eventually find the answers I'm seeking, however, if those here find this thread disturbing, everyone please ignore my post.

Jamie L

http://www.facebook.com/authorjrlankford
http://www.jrlankford.com


Georgia


Oct 26, 2004, 7:16 AM

Post #12 of 24 (2816 views)

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Re: [Marlene] Author Seeks Soul of Mexico

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Ditto on the taxi drivers here: a couple of years ago, we arrived in Guadalajara in a driving rainstorm: flooded streets, terrible visibility. We decided to stay in Tlaquepaque. The taxi/ark driver got us there, but my husband left his hat in the taxi. Now, Guad is a huge city. Nevertheless, the next morning the hat was delivered. The driver did not hang around to be thanked/tipped: just left the hat and went about his business.


alex .

Oct 26, 2004, 7:22 AM

Post #13 of 24 (2814 views)

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Re: [jilla] national character

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Ni modo. Whatever, the acceptance of the way things are. Thats how I would characterize the view of the world from Mexican eyes. The traditional robbing of the Treasury , the little fish taking a bite back at the big fish whenever he can, the loss of ones personal fortune no matter how small, all met with the same response :Ni modo. The concept of living for today since tomorrow may never come, why save when currency will be worthless next month/year.
What qualifies me to say this, not being Mexican, nor growing up in the culture? My qualification is that I participate on this English speaking, non-Mexican dominated forum, where you have come looking. You DID ask for our opinion of what Mexicans see.
Alex


(This post was edited by alex . on Oct 26, 2004, 7:40 AM)


NEOhio

Oct 26, 2004, 8:22 AM

Post #14 of 24 (2795 views)

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Re: [Marlene] Author Seeks Soul of Mexico

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Having popped over to the web site and read the excerpts of the two novels - I have emailed the library to request them sent out. By the reviews on amazon I am anxiously awaiting a good read.


JRLankford


Oct 26, 2004, 9:19 AM

Post #15 of 24 (2777 views)

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Re: [alex .] protagonista de la novela

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Thank you so much for your replies and let me apologize for diving in with a potentially loaded question, Coral. In my enthusiasm for finding this wonderful site I forgot that no one here knows me. I would never dream of slurring any group of people. On the contrary, through my writing I try to reveal and celebrate who we are -- the same magnificent human soul, disguised in our various cultures.

Ni modo. Thank you, Alex! Of all the reading and talking and head scratching I've done, this is the first thing that has begun to click, i.e., evoked a feeling from which I may be able to write. If I don't miss my guess, Ni modo has it roots in the conquest. The more I learn, the more fascinated I become by Mexican people and culture. I've also had the great good fortune to find a psychologist in Mexico with whom I'm corresponding and who has agreed to help me. I don't want to end up with a caricature, but a person. His name is Luis Tepiltzin Moctezuma and he is already becoming so real to me that I hear him urging me to the computer to write so that he can live.

Thanks Marlene for ordering my books at your library. I hope you enjoy them. This year's developments have taken my breath away at times. Film rights. Imagine that.

More later. I appreciate the welcome and especially all the anecdotes.

Jamie L

http://www.facebook.com/authorjrlankford
http://www.jrlankford.com


djmerwin

Oct 26, 2004, 10:04 AM

Post #16 of 24 (2762 views)

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Re: [Marlene] Author Seeks Soul of Mexico

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I enjoyed your story of the pneumonia driver returning the left-behind knapsack, but disagree with your characterization of that behavior as "unpredictable." As a frequent visitor to Mexico, I have witnessed many similar incidents.

It is hard to convey people who have not experienced it, this facet of "Mexican Character"--this sort of honesty and consideratness.

The questions we ought to ask ourselves are: "Why do we find such honesty so surprising?" and "Is this kind of behavior as likely to occur NOB?"


Caarina12

Oct 26, 2004, 10:18 AM

Post #17 of 24 (2759 views)

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Re: [jilla] Author Seeks Soul of Mexico

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Jamie:

Mexico is extremely diverse, with a wide range of cultural influences. It is very hard to generalize. My husband's family is Chinese-Mexican from Baja California. When we travel into Central Mexico it is like going to another country for him. His experiences and world views are very different from the Mixe of Oaxaca, a Jewish Mexican from Mexico City or a Mestizo from Guadalajara.

Therefore, I think it's important to give your character a regional identity. In New York, the Mexican population there is primarily from Puebla. There's even a running joke about "Puebla York." I think that all the Mexican victims of September 11th were from Puebla. Your character may be more believable if he/she was grounded by a specific cultural foundation.

Puebla is just an example, but you could use any state and do specific research on that area to create that identity.

However, if you are looking for a work on Mexican national identity, I would recommend Octavio Paz' master work, The Labyrinth of Solitude. It is a bit dated, written in 1950, but I find many of his arguments valid today.

Good luck!
Caarina



abq

Oct 26, 2004, 12:59 PM

Post #18 of 24 (2725 views)

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Re: [djmerwin] Author Seeks Soul of Mexico

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I've also had taxi drivers go out of their way to return left behind items. I've also had some attempt to steal from me.

Once I noticed my bag was partially unzipped after the driver put my suitcase in the trunk. Then I saw a small zippered notebook that was in that bag loose with the stuff. When he dropped me off, I looked for the notebook and it was nowhere to be found. After his looking for awhile, I made him lift up the felt carpet in his trunk. Lo and behold, there was the notebook. No way could it have just slipped there. Then he tried to overcharge me.

I've had too many attempt to short change me to be an accident. I've also had many Mexican strangers go out of their way to help me.


JRLankford


Oct 26, 2004, 1:32 PM

Post #19 of 24 (2718 views)

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Re: [NEOhio] Wrong names!

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Anita, someone has pointed out that I called you Marlene by mistake. Hadn't sorted out the format here, but now I see that the name in the topic line isn't the author of the post! Again, thanks for ordering my books. I'm glad you found the excerpts of interest and hope you enjoy the read.

Carol, I've been calling you Coral! That's the character in my novel who is interacting with Luis. I type her name dozens of times a day. Didn't know my fingers were on automatic.

I hope Murphy's Law is now finished with me on MexConnect and goes on to make mischief elsewhere.

Jamie L

http://www.facebook.com/authorjrlankford
http://www.jrlankford.com


Marlene


Oct 26, 2004, 3:27 PM

Post #20 of 24 (2692 views)

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Re: [djmerwin] Author Seeks Soul of Mexico

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...but disagree with your characterization of that behavior as "unpredictable." .....It is hard to convey people who have not experienced it, this facet of "Mexican Character"--this sort of honesty and consideratness.

Quote

Actually it was my Mexican husband, who knows his culture better than any of us, who felt pretty sure that the knapsack would not be returned to the owner and told him so, knowing that anyone could have jumped into the back of that pulmonia and claimed it as their own without the drivers knowledge it was even there.

I agree with ABQ's comments, there are two sides to the peso here just like anywhere else in the world. In my years of living here I have most certainly experienced both. The fact that life here is unpredictable is what makes it interesting (notice I said in my original post that I meant that in a mostly good way)


djmerwin

Oct 26, 2004, 4:58 PM

Post #21 of 24 (2678 views)

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Re: [Marlene] Author Seeks Soul of Mexico

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Your point is well taken. Truly, the unpredictability of Mexico is one of its charms. I was really just trying to emphasize the wonderful instances of honesty I have witnessed in Mexico--the waiter chasing a departing patron down the block to return an expensive camera left at a table, etc. I guess what stands out in my mind is that so msny ordinary people living on a minimum wage don't seem to consider honesty an unaffordable luxury.

It is encouraging to hear that your husband's fear that the backpack would never be seen again was based, not on the assumption that the driver would not return it, but on the possibility that someone, perhaps a gringo, would take it.


JRLankford


Oct 27, 2004, 9:21 AM

Post #22 of 24 (2609 views)

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Re: [Caarina12] Author Seeks Soul of Mexico

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Thanks for this, Caarina. I haven't yet picked where my character is from except generally from the formerly Aztec region. Thanks for the tip on Puebla, I'll use that in the book. I wonder if it's the right birth city for him, though. It was founded by the Spanish shortly after the conquest, right? I'm thinking maybe Mexico city itself. As a child he loved to hang around the ruins. His father gave him an Aztec middle name and, of course, he has the last name of Moctezuma. I was surprised to find that name in the phone books here. Luis's heroes, other than Moctezuma and Cuautemoc are Zapata and Pancho Villa and such. I have to construct a personal history that would produce that consciousness. Any other suggestions for his birthplace? I'm thinking his family may have been new middle class financially destroyed by the 1982 peso devaluation. As the oldest, he'd finished university.

Just an author's musings for now. They'll change as I go. Thanks for suggesting the Octavio Paz book.

Jamie L

http://www.facebook.com/authorjrlankford
http://www.jrlankford.com


JRLankford


Oct 27, 2004, 10:32 AM

Post #23 of 24 (2597 views)

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Re: [djmerwin] Author Seeks Soul of Mexico

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Can't resist a Mexico-newbie question. What is NOB?

Jamie L

http://www.facebook.com/authorjrlankford
http://www.jrlankford.com


Uncle Jack


Oct 27, 2004, 10:43 AM

Post #24 of 24 (2594 views)

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Re: [jilla] Author Seeks Soul of Mexico

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Actually, it should be NOTB (North of the Border) and it usually refers to the US/Mexican border.

uj
 
 
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