Regular readers of the Rio Grande Guardian know I love and write frequently about Mexico. In this case I share my opinion of a new book currently causing a sensation in Mexico City: Cuándo Empezó Xoder Méjico? (Grijalbo, 2015). It is by a friend, Eduardo del Rio García (rius).

Rius is the creator of the famous satirical comic book, Los Supermachos, for those aficionados who recall that era. (It inspired a clever film by Arau, “Calzonzín, Inspectór.”) Alas, rius did not receive royalties.

The new book is a blistering critique of politics in Mexico by rius. (He writes his famous pen-name in lower case.) He is the grand old man (82 now) of Mexican political satire. The oeuvre of this prolific thinker contains over 100 books.

I have had the honor and pleasure of interviewing rius over the years. I just completed a book-length manuscript, Mexico and Rius: Culture and Critic. I wish I could share more of those insights here; buy my book when it is published (ojalá). But for now, a review of Xoder. The humor, knowledge and analysis are useful to South Texas and to the U.S.

Rius continues his long career, touting (as I do, as we all should do) the culture and potential of Mexico. I thought I was finished with my book about rius; I had closed with reactions to his auto-biography, Mis Confusiones: Memorias Desmemoriadas (Grijalbo, 2014), when along came this newest book. A kinder, gentler translation of Xoder might be “When Did Mexico Begin to Get Screwed?”

Xoder is pure rius. It is funny, full of his monitos (drawings, caricatures) and those of others, credited. It is spiced with classical photos and lithographs. The answer to the irreverent question itself is: NOT the fall of the Aztecs to the Spanish in their magnificent city of Tenochtitlán; NOT during the French or the Yanqui (U.S.) invasions. But the climax (pardon the indelicacy) came in the 20th Century.

The stage was set, historically, with those previous penetrations; but the final push (again, pardon the indelicate metaphors) occurred more recently, during the 1950s, under the auspices of right wing, pro-capitalist President Miguel Alemán Valdés (MAV). The corruption has not experienced coitus interruptus; it persists with the current sexenio (six year term) of EPN, President Enrique Peña Nieto (le petit mort?)

The work is original: hand lettered; collages from his archives of drawings by other masters; and, of course, his own caricatures. His message is simple, strong and clear: “Peña Nieto is the worst president in Mexican history.” He thinks a national referendum would substantiate that claim. The claim is arguable, however. Others, thinking of, say, the dictator Porfírio Díaz, or even globalizer (and thief of elections?), Carlos Salínas de Gortari, might disagree.

Such distinctions are, of course, subjective. Rius sees EPN as the perfect culmination of the “perfect dictatorship.” Indeed, since his “Kennedy-esque” appearance and that of the apparatus of government have a softer look than previous regimes, this sexenio may be even more untouchable than others.

There is a Constitutional limit of only one term; but is that enough? It is a regime that has allowed the famous capo, “El Chapo” Guzmán to escape — twice. He has been captured (through strange circumstances involving a Mexican telenovela star and an American film star). But that event is minor compared to the perception that the government is not only unable to control drug cartels, but aids and abets their illegal, violent activity.

The hero for rius in all his works and reiterated in Xoder, is son of revered (by those on the left) President Lázaro Cárdenas.  He is the grand old man of Mexican politics and a friend of rius. The chief villain of the book is the 1950s President Miguel Alemán. He is credited for the pervasive corruption, seemingly endemic in Mexico.

Alemán’s demagoguery and manipulations occupy in detail at least three-fourths of the entire book. Rius shows how Alemán coopted the trade and rural unions as well as the business sector. He controlled with an iron hand the military and the major political party, the PRI. He delighted in almost Mussolini-like posing and strutting or, like Peron in Argentina, spreading his image nation-wide though postage stamps and huge propagandistic posters. Presidents since Alemán have merely developed and applied his tactics. The U.S. government played along, since his high finance and business emphasis fit their own ideology.

Rius’s analysis of Alemán, with his characteristic dark humor, is quite original and historically useful. This latest book is dedicated to helping Mexico solve its problems, by first understanding their origin. Of course, just as in U.S. politics, more is needed than anger.

Fortunately, despite the odds, some progressive actions have been manifest. Rius and other intellectual leaders are involved with new civilian and community groups, protesting crime and poverty. Even Mexico’s Indigenous peoples have organized to try to protect their rights.

Some successes in the area of environmental reform and electoral change have also occurred. The right wing opposition party, PAN, beat the PRI twice at the beginning of the 21st Century. Rius, the cynic, does not think this is true reform; he calls those officials “PRIAN” — sort of Mexico’s “one percent.” It is possible, but not yet probable, that a humanistic party on the left, dedicated to helping the masses, might arise; rius has helped with such causes. But for now he despairs, as do many lovers of Mexico.

I share those concerns but am not quite as pessimistic as rius. I wish I could muster more data to support my optimism. Perhaps the argument is based on the strength of the people and their ability to endure.

There is a classic dicho or saying in Mexico: No hay mal que perdure mas que cien años ni gente que lo aguante (“There is no evil that can last 100 years nor a people who will put up with it.”)

Let us hope Mexico changes. It is our neighbor for life. What happens there affects us (and vice versa). Rius remains a lover of Mexican culture, if not its politics. If Xoder is not rius’s last book, if he produces yet another, Mexico, the Rio Grande Valley, Texas, the U.S. and the world will benefit again from his art, humor and righteous anger.