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Do you want Mexico to be saved? Do you want Christ to be our king? No. ~Malcom Lowry (Epigraph to The Savage Detectives)

The Savage Detectives is divided into three parts. This entry is about the finale of part I. Mexicanos Perdidos en México (1975) [Mexicans Lost in Mexico (1975)]. The end approaches chaos: García Madero is disillusioned with the Visceral Poets. Maria Font and he are on the rocks. Even Quim (father of the Font sisters) has taken a kind of fall in the young poet’s eyes. We find out the why behind Quim’s helping of Lupe—the sisters’ friend who is a prostitute—and it isn’t exactly altruistic…Quim’s wife asks him for a divorce during their annual New Year’s party for the Mexico City literary elite.

García Madero, as well, is flip-flopping between Rosario, who has been his steady mujer, and a wish to make love to his idealized version of María Font. “Today I went back to the Fonts’ house. Today I did Rosario wrong.” (122) Pancho is crying over Angélica Font. In a scene on pages 122 –124, Madero enters a cafeteria on the Zόcalo (Mexico City’s main square) and to his surprise finds Pancho, lamenting over a night of “whoring” – a test to see if he’d gotten over Angélica (self-described). The two decide to go to the Font’s house together.

Soon, Pancho and García Madero are inside a taxi, speeding through the streets of Mexico City. They pass by the “storefronts of Juárez and Roma Norte.” The reader is reminded of Ciudad Juárez in Mexico where 1000 unsolved murders of young women have occurred since 1993 (stories of these murders form the body of Bolaño’s final novel 2666). Pancho and García Madero have a heated conversation about Pancho and Angélica during the ride:

The whole problem, he confided, gloomy again, had to do with the social divide between his family, who were lowly and working class, and Angélica’s firmly ensconced as they were in Mexico City’s petit bourgeoisie. To cheer him up I argued that although this would surely make it harder to start a relationship, the chasm of class struggle narrowed considerably once the relationship was already under way […] were he and Angélica really two average people, two typical, rigid representations of the petit bourgeoisie and the proletariat?

“No, I guess not,” said Pancho pensively as the taxi we’d caught at Reforma and Juárez headed at breakneck speed toward Calle Colima.

That’s what I was trying to say, I told him, that since he and Angélica were poets, what difference did it make if one belonged to one social class and the other to another?

“Plenty, I’m telling you,” said Pancho.
“Don’t be mechanistic, man,” I said more and more irrationally happy.

Unexpectedly, the taxi driver backed me up: “If you’ve already gotten what you came for there’s no such thing as barriers. When love is good, nothing else matters.”[…]

You go at it with your girl and forget that communist crap,” said the taxi driver.
“What do you mean communist crap?” said Pancho.
“You know all that social class business.”
“So according to you social classes don’t exist.’ Said Pancho.
The taxi driver, who had been watching us in the rearview mirror as he talked, turned around now […]
“For all intents and purposes, no. When it comes to love all Mexicans are equal. In the eyes of God too,” said the taxi driver.
“What a load of bullshit!” said Pancho.

Why have I isolated this conversation? …and pulled such a long quote? Because this conversation is that important to me as a college student, it speaks so fully to my experience. If you’re like me, you went to college, high on idealism, oblivious in some regards, ignorant, but happy and accepting. (Especially if you’re the sons or daughters of hippies). You thought anything was possible, and were determined not to see people through social status, but as fellow human beings. Then you go to college, where year after year in the humanities or social science departments they teach you the social “realities” of class division, race and gender, where the lines and boundaries are etched. You learn words like: “petit bourgeoisie” “proletariat” “commoditization” and see “The Threepenny Opera.” Everything happy becomes a parody of itself and demoralized, you feel your limitations, you understand what you are to others who see you superficially, and you begin to understand others through those same terms. Disillusionment haunts your every step as you play the skeptic, the role that a good, critical education teaches you to do. Cynicism becomes a virtue, speaking to just how much you know you know. And materialist economy seeps into every issue—even love and art.

But for the true idealist, nothing can stop those moments of impending inspiration, and a burst of love will come unanalyzed, and again the inside world will project those vibrant colors and hopes and dreams onto the grimy surface pavement and brilliant steel edifices of the surrounding burbs, even onto the blackened waters of the Gulf. In the Quixotic sense, the windmill is again the giant. Some would call the idealism “innocence,” and say when it’s lost it’s lost—but I see it as possibility. And the conscious choice to believe in possibility, aware of limitation, is not ignorance, but freedom. (Beware: not in a nationalistic sense.)

I isolated this conversation between Pancho, Garcia Madero and the taxi driver because it is about that struggle between self and society. Their voices are a mix of practicality, idealism, and obliviousness (the best probably a balance). It may be parody, it may not, it may reek of deception and foolishness, it may cause you to laugh at over sentimentality, but if you find yourself saying, “who cares?” You have probably lost your spark.

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