Los de abajo

by Enrique Lomas

The immortal novel dealing with the Mexican Revolution, "Los De Abajo" (The Underdog), by Mariano Azuela, was written and published for the first time on this border. Very close to where you can find El Centro De Trabajadores Agrícolas Fronterizos, in the Pablo Baray building on Oregon avenue, between Fourth Street and Fr. Rahm, in El Paso Texas, there is a bronze plaque. Here a legend has been inscribed; in both English and Spanish, indicating that in this precise location, Mariano Azuela wrote and delivered to the El Paso Del Norte newspaper, his novel Los De Abajo. Which was to to be published in chapters from October to December 1915.

Mariano Azuela was born in Lagos de Moreno, Jalisco in 1873, and was a prolific writer despite his true profession being that of a doctor. Accepting the National Literary Award in 1949, Azuela is the author of at least 22 novels, the last of these being "Esa Sangre" which was published four years after his death.

Azuela describes with mastery in "Los De Abajo," Demetrio the native...

"...of pure race, with eyes of a peculiar metallic shine, through whose blood flowed red and hot, like a human being at last content and free, mounted on his horse involved to the marrow in the Maderista Revolution.

Demetrio, at these heights, didn't remember, or did not want to remember the miserable hut, where you live as a slave, always under the vigilance of the lord or the arrogant and furious steward, with the unchangeable task of being up before sunrise, with the shovel and basket or the plow and the mat, to earn a the end of the day a cup of atole and a plate of beans..."

With vigor and unflinching truth, was the way Mariano Azuela narrated the misery of of the Mexican people in those bloody days in which Mexico lost more than one million of its sons; 500 thousand in the battle fields and the rest migrated to the United States of America.

At the start of the XXI century, the underdogs are still there, just as miserable as Mariano Azuela's "Los de Abajo" with the exception that these unfortunates see television in color and have at their disposal an infinite number of soap operas with which they can dissipate their misfortunes.

The Mexicans at the bottom, in this modern day, along with Zedillo's present economic model, will not redeem themselves in the near future, say the experts. A recent study conducted by the University of Mexico signaled that, it would take up to six and a half minimum paying jobs just to balance the scales. This due to the fact that the salary of these individuals who find themselves in the depths of poverty, has devalued up to sixty percent. With the salary that Mexican workers rely on today, only six percent of what is needed is met in the ever rising economy, say economists that dispute on the program "Para Empezar" (To Start) by Pedro Ferriz de Con.

This means that Mexicans today as where those in Mr. Porfirio Diaz's day, which gave origin to the revolution, are hungry not just for justice but for bread, beans, and tortillas.

The curse of "Los de Abajo" crosses the border and directly effects migrant workers in the United States. In the state of Georgia, during the busiest working months, up to 100 thousand migrant workers are employed and work in agriculture in 79 counties. Many of them are Mexican, and a well examined panoramic view of their living conditions worries both Mexicans and the world. "Thirty-eight percent of agriculture workers are women and children under the age of fourteen. The infant mortality rate among agriculture workers is twenty-five percent higher than that of the general populace. The life expectancy rate is only 49 years old in comparison to the national average of 73 years".

Ciudad Juárez is slowly turning into a place where unemployment is disappearing, there is work for everyone. Paradoxically, however, a recent report published in El Diario de Juárez reveals that this misery extends itself dangerously to neighborhoods damaging family stability seriously. It is not necessary to be to good of an observer to realize that in the popular neighborhoods there exists a huge need in many households and that the curse of Los de Abajo touches thousands of people from Juárez.

It is necessary to take into consideration then if the ones at the bottom are to exist and remain we should consider and analyze what those in the top are doing. Up to what point will those, the powerful, the owners of all the money, accumulate all the benefits that belong to other human beings? And if this is to be; What can be done to insure that all the riches of this country are distributed with justice and equality?

(Oct. 30, 1997)


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