Mexico would seem like an unlikely place to harbour Nazi sympathizers. After all, the majority of the population is mestizo – of mixed indigenous and European heritage – with only a small percentage of population being of “pure” European descent.
Outside of these groups, there is modest diversity. About 5% of the population speaks an indigenous language, with double that number identifying as indigenous. There are also descendants of Sephardic Jews who came with the earliest colonists, and “crypto-Jews” who settled in the Northern Gulf region. These Jews had been hiding their identity since 1492, when Muslims and Jews were expelled from Spain during the “re-conquest” of Christianity and the expulsion of the Moors.
As evidence of how close this history remains, the town of Matamoros, Tamaulipas, across from Brownsville, Texas, literally translates as “murder the Moors”.
Over the past centuries Jews were excluded – and, to some extent, excluded themselves – from much of the dominant Mexican culture, finding success as professionals and business people. As well, in Mexico, unlike in Canada and the United States, Jews are not well represented in the political sphere.
Mexicans, however, are aware of their existence, and many hold on to views that can only be described as racist and ignorant. These harsh views are in fact more in evidence among those Mexicans of European descent than among the mestizo population, though there is a subculture of mestizo skinheads that glorifies Nazism, much as we seen in the United States, Canada, and parts of Europe.
Flag for the Partido Nacional Socialista de México
Earlier this year, Mexico was transfixed by the story of a young disabled girl who had apparently gone missing from the home of her wealthy parents in Mexico City. There was no word from kidnappers, and the child would have been unable to walk off on her own. Some days later, she was found dead in her room, and her mother, Lynette Farah, described in the Mexican press as a “wealthy lawyer”, was charged with murder. As the story was breaking, an educated Mexican of European descent told La politica that the horrific event was believable given that the mother was Jewish.
In fact, Ms. Farah is a Christian of Lebanese descent. I’m not sure if there are any racist theories about that particular religious and ethnic group, but conspiracy theorists might want to take note that the richest man in the world, the Mexican Carlos Slim, is a Christian of Lebanese descent.
Here in Guadalajara, the anti-Semitism is hardly overt, but it does crop up in strange places. For example, a few blocks off the central square in Tlaquepaque, the colonial neighbourhood to the south of town, there is a store selling “hunting and fishing supplies” that appears to be more devoted to the glorification of Nazi Germany. Outside the store is the owner’s Volkswagen 181, complete with a stylized Balkenkreuz Iron Cross and the Swastika with palm tree insignia for Rommel’s Afrika Korps. Inside, the store is plastered with Nazi flags.
Behind the counter: Hitler and Madonna
A brief conversation with the owner, a man of Spanish descent who shall remain nameless, went like this.
“Why are you such a fan of Hitler?”
“He knew how to keep order.”
“But World War II was a disaster. And he killed six million Jews.”
“He didn’t kill six million Jews.”
“No, three million died. And that was because Germany couldn’t feed them. All the supplies were going to the troops.”
“But why support someone who killed millions of people?”
“Half of Guadalajara is controlled by the Jews.”
“Yes. There is no such thing as a poor Jew.”
“I am not against the Jews. They take care of themselves. Look at their ties to Israel. We in Mexico are a former Spanish colony. Does Spain help us? Do we help Spain? The Jews stick together. I admire that. We should, too.”
My excuse for being there was that I was interested in an air pistol. We waited for a few police officers to pass, and I took a couple shots at the empty building across the street. Not bad.
“Mind of I take some pictures?”
“Yes, please do!”
I told him I might come back. I think not.
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