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The Map of Mexico

The map of Mexico is a superficial gloss of what it pretends to show. The twirls and zigs, the roads, mountain ranges, cities, rivers, political boundaries that it delineates are in fact the multiple walls of a labyrinth without exits. Within this labyrinth 120 million individuals scramble for tags and tatters, never having enough and perpetually losing what they try to achieve. Above the labyrinth is a celestial dome accessible by way of a few heavily guarded winding staircases. The dome is the residence of a privileged elite who have more than they can use and perpetually are accumulating more.

Those in the labyrinth aren’t permitted in the dome and those in the dome don’t descend into the labyrinth. Interchanges between the two are confined to a messenger corps who belong to neither but profit from both. Among the duties of the messenger corps is diverting attention from conditions in the labyrinth by simulating a labyrinth that is not a labyrinth. In this simulation joyful campesinos swishing beautiful scarves and colorful skirts dance and sing. Lovers wind their bodies around each other. Workmen rise in unison to hurrah! soccer balls deflected into a net. Mothers ladle steaming pollo coloradito onto children’s plates. Criminals are caught and punished. Bikini-clad vacationers romp into frothing white surfs.

So diverting is the simulation that it alters the perceptions of those in the labyrinth and they begin to believe in the simulation. Not that they experience what those in the simulation experience but in believing that the simulation exists they experience themselves as not-quites, through circumstance edged out of what could be. Although diverted they become depressed. Or angry. They flail at those around them or retreat into the caves that pockmark the labyrinth, cursing their misfortune or praying to saints and virgins that simulate miracles that never occur.

Among the messenger corps are simulators called “politicians.” When they’re not drinking or gambling they blunder through the labyrinth posting directional arrows (sometimes called “laws”) that lead nowhere but that those who live in the labyrinth are expected to follow. Where the directions indicated by the arrows intersect, those following them are required to remit certain of their belongings, usually money but sometimes property or children. The more intersections that exist the more affluent the politician-messengers become; therefore, they post as many arrows as possible. Following the arrows and being detained at—or trying to evade—the intersections keeps those in the labyrinth so occupied that they forget about the existence of the celestial dome above them.

Just as those in the celestial dome forget about them. As individuals, that is. Farms, mines and oilfields cannot produce the wealth those in the celestial dome accrue without farmers, miners and oilfield workers so those in the celestial dome condone their presence in the labyrinth and begrudgingly scatter tidbits of payment for them to wrangle over. But to those in the celestial dome those in the labyrinth remain faceless, mere objects, like cattle in a herd or trees in a forest, to be used—even briefly admired—then  replaced by faceless others like them.

Instead of looking downwards into that messy bumble of confused passageways, intersections and dead ends those in the celestial dome look upward, towards the even greater and more celestial dome in the north which they imitate, eulogize and try to please as it builds its own walls and defenses fortifying simulations of its own.