Man-Ana Forever Jorge Castan-Eda Is a Preeminent Book Review

Excerpt from Book Review :

Man-Ana Forever

Jorge Castan-eda is a preeminent Mexican politician who has been advocating for years several major changes in his home country. He has consistently pointed out, both in speech and through writings, all the difficulties within Mexico and makes suggestions about how these disparages can be righted. Initially a Communist and advocate of leftist policies, Castan-eda has in more recent years been politically in the center of the road. This has stemmed from experience and the eventual understanding that no one side can be completely right all the time. There must be at some point a median ground where ideas can meet. He attempted to enter the political arena in Mexico through a third party and was disallowed from doing so by the Mexican Supreme Court. Consequently, his writings have been the means by which he has been able relate his ideas about how to improve Mexico. His most recent work, Man-ana Forever?: Mexico and the Mexicans Castan-eda explores some of the inconsistencies he has noted in the nation of Mexico and tries to explain why some of these perplexities exist. In so doing, Castan-eda asks the reader to understand the country in terms of its place in the physical and sociological order of the world. Throughout the world, nations far more impoverished than Mexico are being able to transform themselves economically and sociologically into stronger nations and burgeoning world powers. Yet Mexico for the most part has remained stagnant in its context with the rest of the world. In the book, Castan-eda tells the world about the strife and difficulties in Mexico and by doing begs the country to change.

In his newest book Man-ana Forever Jorge Castan-eda tries to define something indefinable; that is what it means to be a Mexican citizen. More so than many other countries, Mexico's citizens are consumed by what they understand to be their communal identity. A country's identity is defined by its nationalism, its own understanding of itself as a country. He writes:

National identity is a concept that defines a nation unto itself, in an ontological, historical, fundamental manner: it is what makes a nation…a nation. National character is, partly, how a national society views itself, and how it is viewed by others. Some societies identify their national "uniqueness" with their national "character," as opposed to their history, their religion, their creed, their language, or their ethnic origins (Castan-eda).

This definition must be properly understood in terms of the Mexican culture and heritage. Many countries are defined by their national identities, but few are as all-consumed with this identity as Mexico seems to be. Compare this with the idea of a national character which is simpler and easier to change with time. Most countries have national character points that outnumber the components that comprise their national identity. For Mexico, national identity is the preeminent factor. For Castan-eda, this identification is disruptive and prohibits the country from any chance at growth.

For more than seventy years, the country of Mexico has been dominated by the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI). Those who belong to this party are likely to obtain positions within the government, even if they are severely and supremely under qualified. In Man-ana Forever, author Castan-eda relates his personal experiences during the 1988 presidential election in Mexico. During that election, candidate Cuauhtemoc Cardenas seemed to be the likely winner for the presidency. He had a lot of ground support from the citizenry and it looked as though he would have no trouble securing the office. However, in a result that surprised many, he was defeated officially by Carlos Salinas de Gortari, the candidate supported by the PRI. Castan-eda attempted to lead his fellow Mexicans to investigate the balloting and demand it to be conclusively shown that Gortari had won the election legally. This was not done, of course and it put Castan-eda on the outs with the powerful PRI. The cardenistas in one of the locations that were disputed, who were responsible for checking the ballots and ensuring the legality of the elections, would not even investigate the possibility of deception out of their fear of the PRI. The behavior of these cardenistas was not an isolated incident. Their fear of the more powerful party was reflected in other groups as well. This too was merely a reflection of the history of Mexico, wherein detractors and revolutionaries would find themselves on the losing end of disagreements with the government.

This particular anecdote in the book illustrates exactly what is fundamentally wrong with Mexico according to Castan-eda. Mexico is a nation that is more or less unwilling to change. The people are reluctant to accept the influences of other nations or of people who see things within the country that require reform. Suggesting change is to insinuate that there is something inherently wrong within the country; a notion that is completely unacceptable to the majority of the population. Castan-eda says that his book is intended to explain why Mexico is the way it is. "The very national character that helped forge Mexico as a nation now dramatically hinders its search for a future and modernity" (Castan-eda 2). In essence, the greatest challenge to Mexico's emerging as a potential world leader is the attitude of the Mexican people and its joint consciousness as a country.

As a group, Mexican peoples are unwilling to accept that change is in fact needed, but the statistics and the data attest to the fact that there is need for change. This national identity is what Castan-eda refers to as the nation's Mexicanness. It is the inability of the country to desire upward social mobility or to see anything of merit in making changes to what they see as an unflawed and perfect governmental system. He says that "Messing with Mexicanness is a perilous enterprise, but suppressing it out of an overzealous reverence for certain currents in modern anthropology may be excessive" (Castan-eda 12). The need for overhaul in the governmental system is something that must be done, according to Castan-eda no matter how reluctant the rest of the Mexican people may be to those changes.

Not only are Mexican people distrustful of change, says Castan-eda; they are equally suspicious of their governments and indeed anyone that isn't their own individual selves. In his chapter "Why Mexicans are Lousy at Soccer and Don't Like Skyscrapers," he postulates that the reason Mexican people as a whole do poorly at team sports is because of an innate suspicious and distaste for anyone and anything that is outside of the self. Team sports require people to put faith in their teammates. They are required to have a captain who will lead them and a coach whose orders they follow without questioning their orders. This is beyond the abilities of most Mexican people because of the way they have been raised and because of the joint psychology of the country's culture. He also notes how in opposition to how Mexicans perform in team sports, the predominant individual sports that Mexicans engage in are traditionally successful. This underscores Castan-eda's theory that most Mexican people are unable to truly trust in anyone but themselves.

Castan-eda says that there is a nearly constant drive for Mexicans citizens to leave their homeland and try to find places where their individuality and abilities can be utilized. He estimates that more than 11 million people who were born in Mexico live outside of that country. This fact shows how a large proportion of the people feel about their home country. If that large a number of people are needing to move to another country in order to find a system that satisfies them economically, sociologically, professionally, or in any other matter, then one would assume that there was something wrong with the country they were leaving. This compulsion to travel and find a new country has turned Mexico into what Castan-eda refers to as a "nation of emigrants."

The only ways to get Mexico to transform itself into a potential world power, according to Castan-eda, are to create some intense and dynamic alterations in everything from government to national consciousness. Firstly, he suggests that the country of Mexico establish a national police force. There is decidedly a lot of crime that occurs in Mexico, something that affects the citizens of the country but that also severely hinders tourism which has a negative correlation on the economy of the nation. One of the problems with the president authority system is that jurisdictions are not clearly defined, nor are departments. Often red tape over jurisdiction and responsibility leads to misdirected man hours and misinformation shared between factions. This leads to erroneous leads and wrongful charges. In line with this revitalized police form, a massive reform of the judicial system of Mexico is necessary. Much of the present system has been corrupted by self-interested parties and thus the legislative system itself has been damaged. Only an overhaul of the system can help the country remove itself from this major hindrance…

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