AFTERWORD It’s certain that fine women eat A crazy salad with their meat W.B. Yeats IN JULY of 1985, Maria Langer’s small house on the street of the santo degollado was a center of political and intellectual activity. Disciples, colleagues, friends, all arrived with some claim on the time of the unassuming woman who lived in the modest house in Chimalistac, in the south of Mexico City. The eye of the conversational storm was the then 75-year-old psychoanalyst: a remarkably vigorous septuagenarian with white hair and vivid blue eyes. “Mimi” Langer’s appearance and deportment belied her age and lent credence to her thesis that a woman’s sexuality does not, by an irreversible law of nature, diminish with age. It is, rather, surrendered because it is not a culturally acceptable attribute of an old woman. Or, as she wrote, it is often stolen from women of the working class by a life of physical labor and childbearing. At one time or another it seemed that half of the intelligentsia of the most urbane corner of this capital of exiles circulated through the Libreria Ghandi then down the street and through Langer’s dining room. There she commented on one woman’s writing, another’s small personal crisis, a young doctor’s travel itinerary. . .and all the while she remained focused on the topic of our discussion. For several years, Langer and other members of the faculty of Mexico’s collaborating with the Faculty of Medicine at the University in Leon, Nicaragua, working to reorganize the curriculum and structure of the medical school. Or what remained of it after 30 years of the Somoza family. “Do you know how many doctors were graduating in the final years of Somoza?” Langer asked. “Twelve, maybe fifteen. Anastasio Somoza was so afraid of students, of their political power, that he limited the size of the school. The entire nation suffered because of his fear.” In Nicaragua, Langer later wrote, she was young again. Here was a 73-yearold woman meeting with Minister of Public Health Dora Maria Tellez, then spending half a day under the hot tropical sun while officials lesser and greater delivered prepared speeches to campesions waiting to receive land titles. Langer was full of stories about what the revolution had achieved, despite the U.S. contra war and the economic blockade. And speculation on what it might achieve should the U.S. adopt a humane foreign policy. In Vienna she took two secular Jewish lovers, Marx and Freud … She had been captivated by the youthfullness of the country. “The revolution,” she said, “was made by children.” So there was something of a reversal of the traditional relationship between the old and the young. Langer also said that she was amazed by the energy and native intelligence of the Nicaraguan people. “In Nicaragua, I realized that I’m not old nor young. I’m atemporal and I lived as if the Spanish Republic, the old republic, had won and I was collaborating in the reconstruction . . . there was this continuity.” In Spain,. Langer had met Dolores Ibarrui la Pasionara, witnessed the anarchists summer, joined the Spanish Communist Party, then worked as an anesthesiologist beside her husband Max Langer. They had begun working in improvised quarters near the front and later moved to a hospital in Murcia where they joined two American surgeons a father and a son and Bulgarians, Dutch, and French. All were fighting and this Ronald Reagan will never understand on the right side. The side of the Lincoln Brigade. In a sense, Langer’s life has been a simple Jewish tragedy, a continual search for a home. Her maternal grandfather, she wrote, was born in a wagon. “Not because we were Gypsies but because Jews in the Austro-Hungarian empire did not have the right to own a home.” Born into wealth in Vienna in 1910, Langer encountered two great obstacles. She was Jewish and a woman. The constraints imposed upon her and a sense of social justice pushed her toward the left. She took two secular Jewish lovers, Marx and Freud, and has spent an intellectual’s life trying to reconcile the two. When Franco came to power, Langer and her husband left Spain and fled to Sudetendeutschland, German Czechoslovakia where her parents owned a factory. Then, as Hitler’s armies poised on the border, she followed a thousand other Republican Spaniards and Austrian Jews into Mexico. Lazaro Cardenas, Mexico’s greatest modern president, had opened his country to “all refugees, political and racial.” Before she arrived in Mexico, she would spend years in Buenos Aires, enduring a Peronista Argentina, collaborating with Jose Bleger, then writing, in 1954, Maternidad y Sexo, an attempt to reconcile what she perceived to be the most fundamental conflict the modern woman in an anti-instinctive age. Women, she wrote, are at odds with their sexuality, divided between their natural maternal and sexual instincts and a drive to achieve economic success. \(In one sense, it is on this sexual-economic battleground that through Langer Langer saw both cause and solution to this crisis, and modern woman’s path toward a healthy and enjoyable sex life, in the development of a healthy relationships between mothers and daughters. After she arrived in Mexico 1974, fleeing the general’s repression of the left in Argentina, Langer said she sensed she had fullfilled her destiny. She could again speak openly on political issues, she could teach in the university. She became an important voice in Mexican intellectual and political life, worked to reform the department of clinical psychology at UNAM, saw patients, counseled students. A Marxist, Langer’s voice is rarely heard outside of professional circles in the United States. On July 18, her health failing, Mimi Langer closed up the house in Chimalistac and returned to Buenos Aires. Friends in Mexico say that it is unlikely that she will return again. Next Year in Argentina By Louis Dubose THE TEXAS OBSERVER 31
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