The Elections LILUS goes downtown. She takes her sea shells and beads of a thousand colors. She will make a necklace. She’s going to buy a long string to thread them on. She will wear them on her neck, around her waist, braided in her hair, wrapped around her ankle . . . But there is a demonstration. Chole! Why not keep the same president and end this mess? But no. It’s a meeting of many Siete Machos, and one of them is shouting: “The will of the people . . . the future of Mexico . . . our natural resources . . . our welfare . . . ” And Lilus thinks about the people. Where are they? The people are selling lottery tickets, calling out in English over there on Madero and San Juan de Letran, buying pulque in the Colonia de los Doctores and lighting candles at the Villa de Guadalupe. Lilus isn’t very patriotic, and she knows it. At school there are some who paste up posters and others who tear them down. According to this, there is great merit in pasting and unpasting. For This is the fourth chapter of Poniatowska’s novel, Lilus Kikus Translation by Louis Dubose. Lilus it was enough to ask one high school boy how did they paste the propaganda, and he answered: “With the tongue, slobbering fool.” That night, Lilus dreamed, with remorse, that she had a big pink tongue, and that with it she was pasting enormous posters. The next morning she awoke with her mouth open and her tongue dry. Lilus falls in with the Siete Machos. Some look on with that “We will save Mexico” face and sweat a lot. They are men of good will. Others are just standing, waiting to see what will happen. At times they take out their copies of Pepin and they’re lost in “Rosa the Seductress.” These are men of uncertain will. There are women, too. Some fat and others skinny, they know a lot about the law, that is, of braceros, of refugees and of The Jackal of Peralvillo. Among themselves they discuss and comment: “Ay, what a horrible horror! Listen Dona Rurris, with these men that act like apes. All they do is follow their noses. Last night I saw that jackal’s face on my husband.” “Dona “Felipa, how awful.” With the refugees, their verdict was that they go away to the State, the way they behave here. Suddenly, a wave of movement shakes the crowd of those of good will and those of uncertain will. Everyone begins to talk louder. There are a few shouts and Lilus decides that she’ll shout too: “iQue viva Don Castulo Raton!” And bing bang boom! she is shoved from behind. Several of the Siete Machos lift Lilus Kikus, tense but patriotic, into the air. An hour later they take her testimony and Lilus, a little withered, answers in a trembling voice: “Well, since I know that at school they’ve done such things, I thought the least I could do was shout a little shout.” Lilus heads home, and on the way, it occurs to her that if they had beaten her a little harder, at best, they would have put her in the hospital. Don Castulo Ration would have come later to visit her, in a black car, to give her a medal: “Virtuti Lilus Kikus.” The papers would publish her picture with the headline: “Lilus Kikus charms the public.” And in the society page: “A pretty Lilus Kikus, sparkling in a tidy dress, protected her party from horrors. We know that she’s loved in industrial quantities. . . . But not even this would have been important. Lilus is disillusioned. Nothing ever works itself out completely. . . . at least they were always the party of decent people, of people who attend mass not just on Sundays, who give to charities, who speak French . . . ” It is somehow difficult to see them as the future of a country like Mexico. But who would have envisioned them taking to the streets of Monclova, closing the bridge at Piedras Negras? WHAT THEN of the other end of Mexico’s political spectrum? Can Poniatowska, who perhaps has a copyright on this question, explain the factionalism of the Mexican left? “No. But even in journalism, here the left is divided. First Excelsior [a Mexico City daily], then a faction from Excelsior started Processo [a biweekly magazine], then from Processo, Uno injs Uno [a daily tabloid], and now from Uno nuis Uno, Jornada [another daily tabloid]. “Well, there are divisions over ideology and issues, but it is difficult to explain, difficult to understand . . .” The United Mexican Socialist Party, [PSUM], she adds, “has realized some success in building a coalition of leftist parties.” With which group, then, is PRI most concerned, the left or PAN on the right? Which do they fear? “Fear? Neither. The PRI is firmly in control. And it seems that they will remain in control. The minority parties are, and will probably remain, minority parties. Yet, in spite of their power, they can not seem to solve the problems of this crisis. Two, well how many, three years into a six-year term and Miguel de la Madrid is already acting as if all he wants to do is keep things from getting any worse until after he leaves office. And people are already speculating about the next candidate [PRI’s presidential candidate for the 1988 election]. Who will it be, Silva Herzog, or who? But that is not so important; what is important is that less than halfway through his sexenio [six-year term], de la Madrid is ready to hand power over to his successor.” And what will happen, if on one fine election day, everyone votes for the candidates of the minority party? “Well, nothing. That is, nothing will happen. It’s been argued that it has happened, in places . . . and PRI has continued in power. There will be conflicts, but PRI is the dominant political force in the country.” Is there, in Mexico, a great demand for representative democracy, for legitimate competition among political parties? “No, I don’t think so. There is not a tradition of two-party competition, like the competition between Democrats and Republicans in the United States.” She repeats that much of the demand for political participation is a result of class dissatisfaction: the middle class has been hurt badly by the protracted economic crisis. And the Mexican government continues to define the limits of political dissent. “Since 1968,” Poniatowska explains, “there has been a powerful neutralization of political life in Mexico.” The army’s attack on the students at Tlatelolco, and their use of extralegal armed gangs in June 1971, changed utterly the political landscape of the country, Poniatowska explains. “Political dissidents were killed, and THE TEXAS OBSERVER
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