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Sunday, November 17, 2002

In the News

I like to pick up the local papers when I travel around Mexico. The locals try to focus on as much regional news as possible to give people a reason to buy them instead of the big Mexico City dailies. Since there often isn’t much local news in cities like Durango, Chihuahua, Irapuato, or Leon, the dailies from these places will write up local traffic accidents and publish them along with gory post-crash photographs.

The wording of these reports makes me think that the authors are leaning more towards tragic opera or maudlin country folk songs than towards journalism. Much like Latin soap operas are about as subtle as a car wreck, the stories about car wrecks attempt to be as dramatic as soap operas (simply called telenovelas or novellas down here). Car mishaps, especially those involving fatalities, are seen as either entertainment or as cautionary tales.

The vehicles will be described down to the make, color, and sometimes even the license numbers are given. Along with pictures of the wrecked vehicles, the reporters will supply an exhaustive inventory of the damages to the cars and the medical injuries incurred.

The best part of these journalistic tragedies is when the writer points an accusatory editorial finger at a fatally-injured driver. They will report that the guy was going too fast, he was passing on a dangerous curve, he ran a stop sign, or he was just plain reckless. Sometimes the reporter will even speculate that the driver was intoxicated.

Allow me to translate one of these masterpieces I found in El Heraldo from Leon in the state of Guanajuato: Manuel _____, 45 years old, was driving a white Tsuru belonging to the Western Private Security Company when he apparently attempted to pass another vehicle on a turn. What he wasn’t aware of was the delivery truck heading in the opposite direction.

This particular story was accompanied by three photographs of the heavily damaged vehicles involved. The caption under one photo read: “The lifeless body of Manuel ____ remained pressed between the twisted metal.”

A news kiosk in Mexico is a pretty entertaining spot. Along with the newspapers and magazines are the mildly pornographic comic books. There is nothing too graphic in these comics, just lots of cartoon gals with really big cartoon breasts. My favorite one had a picture on the cover of a large-breasted, topless nun shooting a machine gun. For you social anthropologists out there, that one should keep you busy for your entire doctoral thesis.

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