Essay Review of "The City of Mexico in the Age of Diaz"

1071 Words Oct 23rd, 1999 5 Pages
The Great Divide

University of California-Berkley geographer and author Michael Johns argues in his novel, The City of Mexico in the Age of Diaz, that the central Zocalo of Mexico City does more than geographically segregate the East from the West, but Mexico's national mentality as well. During the years of Diaz's democratic façade, the upper classes thrived upon plantation exports, feudalist economics and the iron fist of Diaz's rurales while struggling to maintain European social likeness. East of the Zocalo, shantytowns housed thousands of poor pelados that served as societal blemishes of a suburbanite's experience. In Johns's work, the penniless and indigenous serve as the scapegoats for the priviledged and their obsession with
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No one would undertake the unglamorous task of assisting the poor, but rather they attempted to veil the masses in the shadow of their refined buildings and recent assumption of culture.

Another shield of the upper classes was the dichotomy of violence and pacification that the father of Mexico, Poriforio Diaz, bestowed upon the pelados. Robbery and social crimes, such as drunkenness, lead to the imprisonment and shipment of lower class rateros (thieves) to work as hacienda slaves. Johns writes, "It also provided workers for hacienda owners … thousands of these mostly peasant migrants were sent back to the countryside as slave laborers on henequen estates in the Yucatan …" (70). Rurales left the countryside's radicals dead, working, or subdued. However, city police, without all the gaucho flamboyance of the rurales, served as little more than a city joke: "The government and the police captains were as concerned with watching their own lawmen as they were with catching criminals" (72). This lack of discipline and respect further ripped apart the division in the classes. When little could be done to control the lower classes' actions, Mexico City did not turn to the social programs installed by the very countries they tried to mirror. Instead, Diaz lead a strategy beginning in 1866 to pacify the masses with the allowance of social activities like the burning of the Judas's bull fights or parades through West Mexico City. "Revenge on the act of

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