A Review of Hecho en México

Hilo de Pasión

by | Dec 4, 2010

Hecho en México
By Lolita Bosch
Mondadori, 2007, 407 pages

A happy result of Lolita Bosch’s decade-long residence in Mexico City is Hecho en México, a compelling collection of short stories, essays, crónicas set to music, personal correspondence and poems written by others during the last ninety years. Made accessible to the general reader by Bosch’s introductions and footnotes, the anthology also appeals to specialists, as the thirty-six well-chosen texts, in all sorts of registers, and accompanied by Alejandro Magallanes’s startling graphic designs, cover a very wide range of important topics.

Bosch, who was born in 1970 in Barcelona and is a novelist in her own right, designed the collection to be an “hilo de pasión,” unconventional: “He hecho este libro sin pensar en mis amigos,” she writes in her prologue. “Sin pensar en la editorial. Sin pensar en los vivos ni en los muertos.” She explains that details of a writer’s era, gender, fame, rate of publication or residence—urban center, provinces, beyond the nation’s borders—did not shape the selection, nor did she seek to create a panorama of “the best” of Mexican writing: “Este libro, si yo fuera mayor se llamaría biblioteca personal…es sobre todo, lo que yo leo, sigo y uso de la literatura mexicana para explicarme otras cosas.”

Those “otras cosas” echo the work of the late cultural commentator Carlos Monsiváis, whose “En los albores de la industria heterodoxa” sits in the center of Bosch’s book. His interests, like hers, range from the stuff of headlines—drugs and unthinkable violence, sprawl and unbreathable air—to bits and pieces of culture: salacious slang, found objects, the politics of book fairs, an air-borne taxi and a delicate haiku crafted by José Juan Tablada in the aftermath of the armed Revolution. Together, Bosch’s selections offer multiple windows on the people, landscape and culture of modern Mexico, and are fueled by the yearnings, frustrations and considerable talents of those who composed them.

Certainly one of Bosch’s talents is the ability to sustain a natural, intimate tone while providing accurate, thoughtful, and often quirky background information to guide the reader through the collection. She does not assume that figures revered within Mexico will be automatically familiar, especially to those like herself who grew up elsewhere. On the other hand, she does assume that her readers are curious about all the arts, their respective traditions and major innovators. When in his performance piece titled “Misa fronteriza,” for example, Tijuana’s inimitable Luis Humberto Crosthwaite mentions José Alfredo Jiménez, Bosch supplies the following footnote:

Me hubiera gustado decir que José Alfredo Jiménez (Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato, 1926-Ciudad de México, 1973) era un mariachi, cantante y compositor muy popular en México, pero Luis Humberto Crosthwaite protestó: “Una mejor definición para José Alfredo debería ser así: el máximo compositor de la canción vernácula mexicana. Creo que no hay discusión en ello”. Y añadió: “Exijo que si se tiene que explicar quién es José Alfredo, también debería explicarse quien es Led Zeppelin”. (Véase la nota 12 de la página 46.)

And on page 46 we find the following “Nota para Luis Humberto Crosthwaite”:

Led Zeppelin es el nombre de una banda de rock and roll fundada en 1968 por Jimmy Page, John Paul Jones al bajo, Robert Plant como vocalista y John Bonham a la batería. Fue uno de los grupos fundadores de lo que se llama heavy metal y se disolvió en 1980.

Bosch’s sense of playfulness is always in evidence. How she tricks rising literary star and fellow dog-lover Mario Bellatín (“un referente de la literatura latinomericana contemporánea [que] ha visto su obra traducida al francés, alemán y al inglés”) into supplying personal information to accompany his short story “Bola negra” (about a self-cannibalizing entomologist named Endo Hiroshi) is a case in point:

En febrero de 2000 le mandé nueve preguntas por email. En ese entonces ya éramos buenos amigos, y como sabía que le daría pereza contestar mis preguntas, le escribí con el nombre falso de Rita Jiménez y me hice pasar por una investigadora de la Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Durante un par de semanas Mario y yo nos comunicamos con cierta frecuencia sin que él supiera que estaba escribiéndose conmigo. Finalmente mandó las respuestas y yo, de parte de Rita Jiménez, le di las gracias personalmente.

Bellatín is among the most critically acclaimed writers anthologized by Bosch. Other well-known figures include Tablada, Manuel Maples Arce, Xavier Villaurrutia, Salvador Elizondo and Jorge Ibargüengoitia. Following a description of the latter’s diverse production—novels, short stories, essays, drama—and his death in a 1983 airline disaster at Madrid’s Barajas Airport, Bosch presents “El puente de los asnos,” a tongue-in-cheek recollection of Ibargüengoitia’s school days in 1930s Guanajuato. From the fifth-grade teacher, “el profesor Farolito, llamado así porque se le encendían las narices cada vez que perdía paciencia, cosa que ocurría dos o tres veces diario,” to the history textbook that stated “La mezcla de español e indígena produjo en México una raza nueva que se ha distinguido por sus virtudes guerreras y por el aborrecimiento que le inspira todo lo europeo…,” readers are treated to a not-so-veiled critique of a system Ibargüengoitia considered well-intentioned yet absurd. This particular brew concocted by Ibargüengoitia —reminiscence tinged with pride, affection, exasperation and even ridicule—characterizes several of the best essays in Hecho en México, including Alma Guillermoprieto’s “Ciudad de México, 1992,” and Juan Villoro’s “El eterno retorno a la mujer barbuda.”

But Bosch includes many starker visions as well. The fate of “El niño ki’andaba por ai” by painter Gerardo Murillo, aka el Doctor Atl, depicts a society indifferent to human suffering. In “Epílogo personal” from Huesos en el desierto (2002)journalist Sergio González Rodríguez writes of the mass murder of young women in and around Juárez. With regard to Mexico’s drug trade and associated crimes, Bosch includes lyrics by norteño bands Los Tigres del Norte (“Las mujeres de Juárez”) and Grupo Exterminador (“Cruz de marihuana” and “Las monjitas”). The intransigent machismo that has long proscribed the lives of Mexican women in general is also documented through popular song—Paquita la del Barrio’s “Rata de dos patas”—as well as “Tomate,” Sabina Berman’s chilling story of child rape and revenge. Berman’s interpolated variants on her piece’s short but vivid title bring into focus another thread that runs through Mexican culture as a whole and Bosch’s anthology in particular: the importance of words per se, and especially of language play. On this score, Café Tacuba’s “Chilanga banda” is a memorable entry, as is a slice of a dictionary of over a thousandmexicanismos compiled by former attorney general, Supreme Court Justice, Guillermo Colín Sánchez. Bosch’s excerpt from Colín Sánchez’s work starts with Albur (“Juego de palabras de doble sentido”), ends with Alegre (“Reloj despertador”) and includes two phrases used to describe how a person might speak: Al chilazo (“directamente, sin trabas, sin tapujos”), and Al chile (“con sinceridad, con claridad” ). These last two descriptors can well be applied to the texts Bosch has selected and organized for Hecho en México, as well as to her own work as editor of this intriguing book.

Fall 2010 | Winter 2011Volume X, Number 1

Nancy Abraham Hall (Ph.D., Romance Languages and Literatures, Harvard University), grew up in Mexico City. She has been a member of the Wellesley College Spanish Department since 1989.

Related Articles

Guatemala: Editor’s Letter

Guatemala: Editor’s Letter

The diminutive indigenous woman in her bright embroidered blouse waited proudly for her grandson to receive his engineering degree. His mother, also dressed in a traditional flowery blouse—a huipil, took photos with a top-of-the-line digital camera.

Increasing the Visibility of Guatemalan Immigrants

Increasing the Visibility of Guatemalan Immigrants

Guatemalans have been migrating to the United States in large numbers since the late 1970s, but were not highly visible to the U.S. public as Guatemalans. That changed on May 12, 2008, when agents of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) launched the largest single-site workplace raid against undocumented immigrant workers up to that time. As helicopters circled overhead, ICE agents rounded up and arrested …

First Take: Never Again

First Take: Never Again

I traveled to Guatemala for the first time in late 1980, believing, with the breezy confidence of a 20-something, that my photographs of Guatemala’s war—army, guerrillas and terrified civilians—would bring me photographic stardom…

Print Friendly, PDF & Email