The Culture of Power in Mexico through the lens of Corruption

Posted in 2011 Journal

From Idealism to Corruption: Power in Mexico from gnovis on Vimeo.


Author Carlos Fuentes (2003) and filmmaker Luis Estrada (1999) have used their work to depict the culture of power and corruption that exists in Mexico. This project seeks to use their existing work and remix it to create a cultural identity narrative that explores the culture of power through the lens of corruption. By using this novel and film and remixing them with other visuals and scores, this narrative seeks to argue that despite individuals’ desires to not engage in corruption, the culture of corruption is so ingrained and pervasive in Mexican society that it is seen as the only way to get ahead. Thus, despite individuals’ well-intentioned goals to be honest, corruption always wins.
Statement: This cultural identity narrative depicts the culture of power by focusing on corruption
in Mexico. The video combines films, a novel, and music to create a visual narrative of
power and corruption in Mexico. The primary text, Carlos Fuentes’ 2003 novel, La Silla del
(The Eagle’s Throne), and Luis Estrada’s 1999 film, La Ley de Herodes (Herod’s Law)
are used to demonstrate the pervasive culture of power that exists in Mexico. In order
to present this message, this narrative uses images from Fernando Sariñana’s 2000 film
Todo el Poder(Gimme the Power) and Alejandro González Iñárritu’s 2000 film Amores
(Love’s a Bitch) to visually depict the culture of power and connect these images
to Carlos Fuentes’ text. These secondary films were chosen due to their focus on power,
violence, and corruption in Mexico. Finally, the film highlights music from three Mexican
artists: Alejandro Fernandez’s ‘Como Quien Pierde Una Estrella’ (Like Who Loses a Star),
Molotov’s ‘Gimme Tha Power’, and Control Machetes ‘Si Señor’ (Yes Sir) to enhance this
theme of power.
Both of my primary texts, La Silla del Aguila and La Ley De Herodes, depict Mexican politics
and the role corruption has played throughout the decades. They present the idea that
despite individuals’ yearnings to create a better country, they are corrupted by power.
These texts also touch on Mexico’s political history and the role of the PRI, the political
party that dominated Mexican politics for 71-years through corrupt mechanisms that
ensured the party remained in presidential power. Both of these texts refer to the popular
phrase in Mexico, “el que no transa no avaza,” which can be translated to “he who doesn’t
deceive doesn’t achieve,” or “honesty gets you nowhere”. This sense of dishonesty and
corruption is thus seen as necessary in order to get ahead. Furthermore, if one chooses the
non-corrupt route, they will be pushed aside and taken advantage of by those who choose
corruption. Through this narrative, I seek to show how this notion is ingrained in Mexican
society and leads people to see corrupt means as a way to gain power.
La Ley de Herodes is set in 1949, and Estrada presents a satire of the political party, the PRI,
which ruled Mexico for 71-years. He presents a story of a man who becomes the mayor of
a small town and wants to bring social justice and improve poverty, yet after he finds that
the old mayor stole all the funds, he starts trying to use the law to increase the budget. He
quickly finds himself using the law to get money from all the individuals in the town and
rather than re-investing it to improve the conditions of the town, he keeps it to himself.
Throughout the film, the viewers see the change in the main character from a man who
believes in the ideals of his party and one who wants to bring social justice to one who is
corrupted by his power and joins the ranks of previous corrupt mayors.
Similar to this narrative, Carlos Fuentes sets his novel in 2020 and tells a story of Mexican
politics. The narrative begins by letting the reader know that Mexicans have lost their
access to telecommunications and computers due to a disagreement with the United States,
and they are now forced to write letters to each other. Through these letters a story of
deception, lies, and power unfolds. Throughout his narrative, Fuentes shows the story of
the numerous contenders to the Silla del Aguila, the Mexican Presidency.
These two texts span seven decades between the times in which they are set, and show
the culture of power and corruption that has persisted in Mexican politics during this time.
Estrada shows how it has been occurring since the 1950s while Fuentes predicts it will
continue to occur in the 2020s. Interestingly, this span of seven decades is equivalent to
the seven-decade rule by the PRI where election corruption and fraud was common to
ensure the political party remained in power.
Molotov’s score ‘Gimme the Power’ repeats throughout the narrative to emphasize the desire
to get ahead and gain power in Mexico society. The lyrics speak of the corruption that
exists in Mexico, from police extortion to government officials that are getting rich at the
people’s expense. It touches on the poverty that exists in Mexico and the fact that no one
does anything about it because no one cares. The artist also uses the song to state that he
will continue to complain about the corruption and encourage the Mexican people to use
their collective power to fight it. Although the song is in Spanish, the chorus’ repetition of
the words ‘power’ and ‘gimme’ (or give me) in English are central to the theme of power
expressed throughout the video.
Through my cultural identity narrative, I wanted to present Estrada and Fuentes’ works
as parallels to each other in order to demonstrate how, despite the different time frames
between the production of the two, the themes of power and corruption are still present
and consistent. These themes are further supported by Molotov’s music and the other
visuals and songs.