- 1 This article has been realized with the support of the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO-Vlaanderen (...)
- 2 Maingueneau (Dominique), Dhondt (Reindert) & Martens (David), “Un réseau de concepts. Entretien ave (...)
1As is pointed out by Reindert Dhondt and David Martens in a recent interview with Dominique Maingueneau, the concept of ethos is most often studied with regard to a particular text or work, but seldom in its historical dimension, e.g. in relation to the evolution of an author’s career2. The aim of this article is precisely to undertake such a comparative analysis of ethos in the early and more recent work of a single author: the Mexican novelist, poet and columnist Jordi Soler.
- 3 Soler (Jordi), Los rojos de ultramar, Madrid, Alfaguara, 2004.
2In spite of occupying a prominent position within the scene of contemporary Hispanic literatures, until today, Jordi Soler has not often been studied in the academy. He began his literary career in the nineties with the publication of a series of novels and collections of poems in Mexico, where he also contributed on a regular basis to cultural magazines like Nexos and newspapers like Excélsior, La Jornada, y Unomásuno. It wasn’t until 2004, with the publication of Los rojos de ultramar3, that he became famous on the international level, particularly in Europe. From then on his novels have been simultaneously published in Mexico and Spain, and several have been translated into other languages, including French and German. Since 2002 he has also written for the highest-circulation daily newspaper in Spain, El País.
- 4 “Un réseau de concepts. Entretien avec Dominique Maingueneau au sujet de l’analyse du discours litt (...)
3Bearing in mind Maingueneau’s admonition not to study ethos separately from the broader scenography it is part of, we have singled out two corpora of columns set in two specific temporal and geographic settings: on the one hand, Mexico in the period between 1990 and 1995, the years in which the much-debated North American Free Trade Agreement between Canada, the USA en Mexico was being negotiated and, from 1994 on, implemented; and Europe in the increasingly ‘global era’ of the first decade of the 21st century on the other hand. While conceiving ethos, again following Maingueneau, as “un ethos discursif construit par le destinataire à partir d’indices de divers ordres fournis par l’énonciation4”, we will demonstrate how the construction of ethos in Soler’s texts to a large extent draws upon the construction of the image of a cultural ‘other’, more in particular that of the United States. In our analysis of the image of the self and the other in Soler’s columns, Ruth Amossy’s insights with regard to doxa and the role of stereotypes in the presentation of self will be especially useful.
- 5 “I live on the same street where my mother was born, and my daughter was born on that same street. (...)
4Born in 1963 in the Mexican state of Veracruz, Jordi Soler’s cultural identity transcends in many aspects the Mexican sphere. He grew up in the depths of the Veracruzan jungle, on a coffee plantation founded by his Catalan grandfather and four other Catalans who had gone into exile at the end of the Spanish Civil War, in 1939. Even though his professional language is Spanish, Jordi Soler is a native speaker of Catalan and has chosen, from the very beginning of his career, the Catalan variant of his actual name, Jorge Enrigue Soler, as artistic pseudonym. In addition, since 2004 he has been living in Barcelona, the city of origin of his maternal grandparents and today also of his own children, as a result of which the family history seems to be completing a circular course: “Vivo en la misma calle en que nació mi madre, y mi hija nació en esa misma calle. Esto me ha convertido en el paréntesis mexicano de la saga de una familia catalana5”.
5However, Mexico and Catalonia are not the only geographical cultural spaces in which Soler moves. An English language course in Toronto during his adolescence, the regular work related trips to the United States in the eighties and nineties, when he featured as one of Mexico’s most influential radio figures, and his experience as cultural attaché at the Mexican embassy in Dublin from 2000 until 2003, have strengthened his familiarity with the English-speaking world over time.
- 6 For the relation between identity and alterity, see also Maingueneau (Dominique), “Identité”, in Di (...)
- 7 Visible since the turn of the century and especially in his latest novel Diles que son cadáveres: S (...)
6In the present contribution, we will analyze the dynamic construction of identity in Soler’s literary journalism in interrelation with the specific cultural and political ‘other’ represented by the United States6. This choice is motivated by the fact that the United States remains a privileged subject of writing throughout the period examined, although there are some changes in the perception of ‘American’ culture, and the function of the US with regard to the construction of an image of the self is subject to considerable shifts. Contrary to his fascination with Irish culture7, Soler shows a great reticence, and on occasion plain contempt for the domestic and foreign policies of this country, as well as for the ‘American way of life’ that, according to him, issues from these policies. Our aim, then, is to study how the enunciator represents himself discursively when taking up a position towards the US ‘other’, how the image of the other contributes to construct the image of the self, and how this relational construction evolves in time.
7To that effect, we will analyze a twofold selection of columns published by Soler in the Mexican and Spanish press, in which the author tackles subjects related to the US from the geographical distance represented by Mexico City and Barcelona as places of residence. The first selection consists of articles published in the Mexican newspaper Excélsior in the first half of the 1990’s, a period in which a long relation of mistrust and fierce ideological antagonism between Mexico and the USA was rapidly giving way to a politics of narrow economic relations and integration of the markets. The NAFTA agreement, which came into force in January 1994 was strongly criticized in Mexico, both before and after its implementation, making the relation between the two countries an important issue in Mexican social discourse in the early 1990’s. The second selection contains columns written in the first decade of the 21st century, when Soler had already emigrated to Europe, and was working first as a diplomat in Dublin, and later as a publicist in Barcelona. These texts were published in the Mexican newspaper Reforma (2002-2009) and the Spanish newspaper El País (2006-2010).
- 8 Charaudeau (Patrick) & Maingueneau (Dominique) (eds.), op. cit., p. 516.
- 9 The specificity of the scope of this article compels us to leave the very interesting question of l (...)
- 10 Castellani (Jean-Pierre), “Perspectivas del columnismo en la prensa española”, Olivar: revista de l (...)
- 11 Ibid., p. 68, “the most clear, confessed and demanded form of [the] affirmation of a personal viewp (...)
- 12 Hypothesis defended by Fernando López Pan. See López Pan (Fernando), La columna periodística: teorí (...)
8Besides scenography, special interest will also go to the generic scene of the columns, concept defined by Charaudeau and Maingueneau as the specific scene implied by the genre, with its particular roles for the partners in enunciation, its inscription in place and time, its material support and ways of circulation, etc.8 Since the texts of our corpus are periodic publications of individual signature, they are not only associated with a particular medium and a particular writer, but they also are very well situated both in time and in space. In the same way as it is published on a particular date, the discourse is generally enunciated from a specific place of residence, and directed to a reader who is supposed to know where the author lives. The element of genre comes into play here, since one of the characteristics of literary journalistic genres9 as radically subjective as the column, is precisely, as stated by Jean-Pierre Castellani10, their appearance of intimacy and the relation of loyalty and even complicity that they stimulate in the reader. Given that column writing is, in the press, “la forma más clara, confesada y reivindicada de [la] afirmación de un punto de vista personal11”, which therefore demands the predominance of the first person singular, one can understand the concept of ethos as the basic configuring element of the journalistic column12.
- 13 Maingueneau (Dominique), Le Discours littéraire: paratopie et scène d’énonciation, Paris, Armand-Co (...)
- 14 Ethos préalable. Amossy (Ruth) (ed.), Images de soi dans le discours. La construction de l’ethos, L (...)
9Accordingly, in addition to the scenographies and the generic scene of Soler’s texts, the analysis will also take into consideration the ideological tendencies associated both with the respective newspapers and with the very signature of the author, since these in themselves can already create certain expectations among the readership when it comes to ethos. We will thus analyze, besides the discursive ethos, the “prediscursive ethos”, as defined by Dominique Maingueneau13, and which Ruth Amossy calls the “prior ethos14”.
10The first part of our analysis concerns a selection of articles that were published between 1990 and 1995 in the cultural supplement El Búho of the Mexican newspaper Excélsior. Traditionally of a center-left bent, from 1976 until 2000 Excélsior’s editorial stance has been characterized by its overt support of the government of the Institutional Revolutionary Party (Partido Revolucionario Institucional, or PRI), which held power in Mexico for 71 years without interruption, and of the Mexican establishment in general. It is thus not surprising that these texts do not openly criticize the national political scene.
11At the moment of publication of this first corpus, Soler undoubtedly represented certain liberal tendencies as apologist of the musical opening up in Mexico. He was known in the eighties and nineties as analyst of the international rock music and as presenter and director of the popular radio station Rock 101. The US was a main referent for him at that time, not only because of personal musical preferences but also for professional reasons, since it was the destiny of the frequent work related journeys he set out on as a young radio figure.
12However, the centrality of the US in the Excélsior discourse can also be linked to the historical context in which it originated, that is, the years in which the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) was negotiated, signed and finally implemented among the US, Mexico and Canada. The controversies to which this historical event and its preparation gave cause emphasized the very ambiguous relationship between Mexico and its northern neighbor, oscillating between collaboration for one thing, and dependence and inequality for another.
13In this first corpus, the ethos is characterized by a passionate defense of individual freedom and the profession of what is socially prohibited and disapproved. Ambiguous as it may seem, it is exactly on this point that the United States is found to be of major concern, not as bulwark of progressive youthful thinking, but as epicenter of the indoctrination of common society on a national and worldwide scale. Consequently, and as we will try to demonstrate in what follows, in Excélsior, the ‘self’ of the enunciator is constructed exactly by means of the radical rejection of the northern neighbor.
14Broadly speaking, the texts by Soler in Excélsior present the US politics by drawing attention to its concrete consequences on a human level and by relating it to the Mexican and occasionally to the global sphere. In the article “Muertos por telegrama” (26/08/1990), for instance, which was written at the outbreak of the Persian Gulf War in 1990, the condemnation of the military intervention of the United States in Iraq leads to an invitation to reflection directed at the Mexican public. However, the main focus of the critical discourse is on the tension between, on the one hand, the process of “Americanization” of Mexico and its strong acceleration in the context of trade liberalization in North America, and, on the other hand, the campaigns undertaken by the United States against illegal drug trade and immigration, and the xenophobic atmosphere that these, in the enunciator’s opinion, have given rise to among US population. Historically, 1994 symbolizes this paradoxical construction and deconstruction of borders since the coming into force of NAFTA and the commencement of the construction of the Mexico – United States barrier in that year. The predominant perspective in this first corpus is, thus, of a binational order.
- 15 “which terrified me and instigated me to write, as a therapy, these lines”. (This and all following (...)
15Facing these real historical phenomena, and the US public opinion in general, the discourse originates from and reflects intense personal emotions of irritation and consternation. The scenography of “La televisión sin microbios” (04/03/1990), for example, is constructed around a US newscast “que me aterró y que me orilló a escribir, como terapia, estas líneas15”. The persistent use of the pejorative term “gringo” to refer to the American is likewise illustrative of the fact that the voice of the enunciator rises in antagonism to the neighbor, pushing him into a condition of radical alterity. It also hints at the vehement and even temperamental tone by which this voice, as we will argue, can be defined.
16In order to further comprehend the discursive strategies which found the Excélsior ethos, we will now take a closer look at the specific elements on which this figure of the ‘other’ as opposite of the ‘self’ is constructed. First and foremost, the enunciator vehemently condemns the unique idiosyncrasy of the American population as a result of the tremendous influence of the mass media in this country. He particularly discusses the propagation of a spirit of patriotism and war, and the advertising campaigns that reinforce a new ideal of beauty and a new ideology of health and of family life. This disapproval is often formulated in an ideologically charged and rather aggressive language linked to the concept of control, as illustrated by the following passages:
- 16 “considering that the brains of the people in that country are connected to the same terminal, and (...)
[…] considerando que los cerebros de la gente en ese país están conectados a la misma terminal, y que responden a los mismos estímulos16 (04/03/1990);
- 17 “without realizing that they have been cruelly re-educated by a group of thinkers who have decided (...)
[…] sin darse cuenta de que han sido cruelmente re-educados por un grupo de pensadores que han decidido que esta es la forma más decorosa de existir17 (05/07/1992);
- 18 “The government of the United States has managed to control even the most intimate desires of its v (...)
El gobierno de Estados Unidos ha logrado controlar hasta los deseos más íntimos de sus vasallos18 (05/07/1992).
17It was Maingueneau who, in his theory on ethos in literary discourse, introduced the term “vocality” as a characteristic of written discourse which gives body to its enunciator:
- 19 “Whereas rhetoric has closely linked ethos with the spoken word, instead of reserving it to judicia (...)
Alors que la rhétorique a étroitement lié l’ethos à l’oralité, au lieu de le réserver à l’éloquence judiciaire ou même à l’oralité, on peut poser que tout texte écrit, même s’il la dénie, possède une « vocalité » spécifique qui permet de le rapporter à une caractérisation du corps de l’énonciateur (et non, bien entendu, du corps du locuteur extradiscursif), à un garant qui à travers son ton atteste ce qui est dit ; le terme de « ton » présente l’avantage de valoir aussi bien pour l’écrit que pour l’oral19
18Since it implies a range of both physical and psychical features, vocality confers through collective representations ‘corporality’ and ‘character’ to the guarantor. In the examples quoted above, the rebellious tone adopted by the enunciator – his way of speaking – reminds us of the mentality and behavior – the way of being – of an irreverent young man and, by extension, of the movements of youthful counter-culture.
- 20 Amossy (Ruth) (ed.), Images de soi dans le discours. La construction de l’ethos, op. cit., pp. 134- (...)
19These same assertions also indicate that, in addition to exaggeration and an attacking attitude, humor and particularly caricature are essential to the definition of this figure. Here also, discourse is based on a range of specific stereotypes. According to Ruth Amossy20, the speaker makes use of stereotypes to construct both his own image and that of his public, with the intention of relating these images to the doxa. By doing so, the images are recognizable for the audience and the necessary relations are established in order to transmit the message.
20In the fragments quoted above, the enunciator inscribes his discourse in the mode of reasoning proper to the target audience. It supports the cultural model of protest which undeniably characterizes Mexican society in the context of NAFTA, and which consists in considering the USA as the radical ‘other’. Predominant in this first corpus is, thus, a collective ethos inspired in the Mexican national ethos.
- 21 “In this type of control there are no tricks, it’s about the legitimate right of self-defense of th (...)
21Not only caricature, but also irony is used as a vehicle of criticism of the United States. In his assertion “En este tipo de control no hay engaño, se trata del derecho legítimo de autodefensa de los países, ni modo de permitir que se les llenen de negros y mexicanos sus tierras doradas21” (05/07/1992), the enunciator incorporates the ideal of the American dream and the official discourse of the US government on the subject of border security in order to refute both, obviously, at the level of the interpretation.
22In this context, an important discursive strategy applied by the enunciator is the appropriation of the value system of the United States, especially the value of individual freedom. The critical impact of this strategy is double. In the first place, it destroys the myths surrounding the ‘other’ by denying the authenticity of the American culture, or, in other words, by disclosing the yawning gap between the discourse of the US and its practices. As antithesis of the importance of individual liberties, value with which he clearly identifies, the enunciator represents the control of the system in the US:
- 22 “And they have forgotten that such excessive control encroaches on the freedom of the individuals a (...)
Y se les ha olvidado que tanto control atenta contra la libertad de los individuos y que a lo mejor la actual decadencia en su país empieza por la incapacidad de ese grupo de hombres güeros que ya no son libres y que son cada vez más incapaces de elegir por sí mismos22 (05/07/1992).
- 23 “Where will this so famous ‘freedom’ of our neighbors end?”
23The emphasis, often by means of irony, on the country’s disloyalty to its own values – as in the rhetorical question “¿En dónde terminará esa tan famosa ‘libertad’ de nuestros vecinos?23” (27/03/1994) – echoes once again the anti-US discourse which prevails in Mexico, especially at that particular moment in its history. In such a way, the very stereotyped character of Soler’s discourse actually ends up relativizing the value of the individual that he defends.
24Secondly, this discursive strategy also implies the claim of certain values that aren’t central to the Mexican identity, or that don’t correspond to the values proclaimed by the Mexican government. In sum, Soler’s individual ethos does not correspond with, and in many aspects even differs from the collective Mexican ethos.
- 24 “liking of extreme things”.
25As we have already observed, the image offered of the US often verges on the caricature. Among other things, the enunciator draws attention to the “gusto por las cosas extremosas24” (27/03/1994) in this country, and he illustrates this characteristic with the following elements:
- 25 “The climate divided between polar cold and murderous heat. Entire masses of drug addicts and alcoh (...)
El clima dividido entre fríos polares y calorones jarochos. Legiones enteras de drogadictos y alcohólicos contrarrestados por otras legiones de moralistas cargados de remedios ridículos. Un presidente actor de Hollywood seguido por un presidente ex jefe de la CIA. Y en el centro, como el vértice en donde se juntan todas estas extremosidades, un cantante que nació negro y ahora es blanco, que ayuda a los niños y abusa de ellos, que es inocente pero reparte dinero para no ser culpable25 (27/03/1994).
- 26 “extraordinary breeding ground for mental illness”.
- 27 “a country of insane people”.
- 28 “What destroys is excess, not drugs, in the same way as excessive exercise destroys, and excessive (...)
26The US, as victim of its own ideology and development, ultimately represents for the enunciator a “país-caldo-de-cultivo extraordinario para las enfermedades mentales26” (08/09/1991) or, in sum, “un país de locos27” (12/01/1992). These statements again exemplify the oral, aggressive and not infrequently offensive tone in which the ‘other’ is described in the discourse of this first corpus. As central argument, the enunciator calls attention to the destructive nature, not of drugs or smoking, but of immoderateness, taking control once again of the US discourse in order to deconstruct it: “Lo que destruye es el exceso, no las drogas, de la misma forma en que destruye el exceso de ejercicio; igual que el exceso de pureza construye seres humanos despreciables28”.
- 29 “Winona Ryder, no matter how imperialistic, artificial, manipulating and hamburgerous she is”.
27The conflict with purism and puritanism as forms of excess can explain Soler’s more permissive stance when it comes to language contact (31/01/1993), reflected by the incorporation of English words into his own discourse. On the other hand, the use of the English language is also representative of the – eventually– very partial rejection of the northern neighbor, which contrasts with the exacerbated anti-US tone in affirmations like “Winona Ryder, por más imperialista, artificial, manipuladora y hamburguesera que sea29” (10/09/1995).
28Now, the control exerted by the US through its media turns out to go far beyond cultural and geopolitical borders. In “El ombligo de Madonna no parece ojo de japonesa” (10/09/1995), for example, it is stated that the US ideal of beauty does not only include the white beauty, but also the black, the oriental and the Latin. This planetary influence is repeatedly described by the military metaphor of the bombardment, as in the following example with its very polemic reference to the nuclear bombings in Japan during the final stages of World War II:
- 30 “So the Japanese girls […] are very keen on having an eyelid surgery to westernize their eyes and t (...)
Pues las japonesas […] son muy afectas a operarse los párpados para occidentalizar sus ojos y esto finalmente quiere decir: con el afán de parecerse a la belleza que propone el bombardeo visual, el Enola Gay reencarnado en los medios de difusión, desde Estados Unidos30 (10/09/1995).
- 31 “we, contemporaries in Mexico”.
- 32 “the gringos, unlike us the Mexicans”.
- 33 Ferrante (Joan), Sociology: A Global Perspective, Belmont, Thomas Higher Education, 2008, pp. 101-1 (...)
29Focusing particularly, however, on the presence of US cultural manifestations in Mexico, the enunciator passes from the traditional singular “I” to the plural form “we”, speaking thus as a member of the Mexican cultural community (e.g. “nosotros, contemporáneos en México31” (26/08/1990), “los gringos, a diferencia de nosotros los mexicanos32” (19/01/1992)) and responding to the anti-US mentality which is characteristic of this collective. In sociology, the us-versus-them consciousness upon which, as illustrated here by Soler’s columns, the creation of self-identity is based, has been described by the concepts of ‘ingroup’ and ‘outgroup’. The ‘ingroup’ is defined as a social group to which an individual psychologically identifies as being a member, particularly founded on a sense of separateness, opposition or even hatred toward another group, known as the ‘outgroup’, whose members he/she tends to view in highly stereotypical terms33.
- 34 “Now that the Free Trade Agreement is about to fall to us”.
- 35 “The United States, that country that has filled our best corners with hamburger restaurants”.
30Nevertheless, the enunciator’s identification with the Mexican collective is far from being absolute. Once again, his strategy – and the construction of a radical opposition between Mexico and the US in general – is found to be twofold, implying both self-confirmation and self-criticism. It is in this way noteworthy that he does not oppose to the ‘other’ any positive feature inherent in the Mexican culture. Moreover, although the enunciator, when criticizing the tendency towards ‘Americanization’ in Mexico, generally ascribes to the Mexican population the position of passive victims condemned to suffer the consequences of the expansionist imperialism of the US (e.g. “Ahora que está a punto de caernos el Tratado de Libre Comercio34” (15/11/1992), “Los Estados Unidos, ese país que ha llenado nuestras mejores esquinas con tiendas de hamburguesas35” (31/01/1993)), in several other fragments he reproaches his compatriots explicitly with their blind admiration of the foreigner.
31For example, some testimonies on the Mexican television on the occasion of the visit of George Bush to the city of Monterrey, prompt the enunciator to the following observation:
- 36 “everyone, without exception, was happy, full, as if it concerned the arrival of the savior of this (...)
[…] todos, sin excepción, estaban felices, plenos, como si se tratara de la llegada del salvador de este golpeado país o del ansiado momento histórico que por fin saciará nuestra necesidad de ser gringos, […] necesidad que ha devorado hasta los rudimentos del decoro. Todos estaban orgullosos de que George Bush pisara nuestro cada vez más endeble territorio. Qué ridículo entreguismo […]. Me pregunto qué tanta culpa puede tener Bush y su corte al abusar de un país de ciegos36 (09/12/1990).
- 37 Paz (Octavio), “Los hijos de la Malinche”, El laberinto de la soledad. Postdata. Vuelta a El laberi (...)
- 38 “our two moralizing campaigns are signs of the servility we keep professing to our true conquerors. (...)
32Again, the enunciator’s discursive self-image mobilizes a specific cultural stereotype, since it evokes, confirms and condemns the so-called spirit of malinchismo of the Mexican nation, which was scrutinized in Octavio Paz’s famous essay “Los hijos de la Malinche37”. The adjective malinchista is used in Mexican popular culture in a pejorative sense to refer to the actions that evidence a preference for foreign over national things. It has its origins in the historical figure of La Malinche, the indigenous translator and mistress of Hernán Cortés during the conquest of what is now Mexico, and who was despised for centuries as a symbol of treason of the indigenous people. The association with the historical context of the Conquest, implied in the previous fragment, becomes explicit when the enunciator observes that “nuestras dos campañas moralizadoras son la muestra del servilismo que seguimos profesándoles a nuestros verdaderos conquistadores. Qué lástima38” (05/07/1992).
33As the enunciator explains, the absurdity of Mexico’s imitation of the US advertising campaigns stems from the obvious contrast regarding the levels of economic and social development and the fundamental cultural differences between the two countries, since these deny their relevance in the Mexican context:
- 39 “What the hell has to do a campaign focused on the exaltation of the family in a country like ours, (...)
¿Qué carajo tiene que hacer una campaña dirigida a la exaltación de la familia en un país como el nuestro basado en el culto desmedido por la jefecita, cabecita blanca, mamá o cabeza inamovible de la sociedad? ¿Habrá sociedad más agarrada a la familia que la nuestra?39 (05/07/1992).
- 40 “a country that does not think as we do, that does not speak our language and that is full of inhab (...)
- 41 “the tables are arranged for gringo guests, too close for our culture that rarely tolerates closene (...)
34Taking as a starting point the idea that the US is “un país que no piensa como nosotros, que no habla nuestro idioma y que está lleno de habitantes de otra raza40” (15/11/1992), the enunciator calls attention to the problems that may involve the direct implementation of US chains like McDonald´s to Mexico, since not only the names of the hamburgers are impossible to pronounce for a native Spanish speaker, but also “las mesas están dispuestas para comensales gringos, demasiado cercanas para nuestra cultura que casi nunca tolera la cercanía 41” (19/01/1992).
35Summarizing, it may be stated that, in the texts in Excélsior, the enunciator adheres to a collective ethos based on a popular anti-US stance in Mexico in order to define, in subordination to this first ethos, a personal ethos founded on what is supposed to be exactly a major US value: that of individual freedom. The focus in this corpus is on the bilateral relationship between Mexico and its northern neighbor. In this context, the enunciator tends to give an essentialist portrayal of cultural identity, both when it comes to his native country and the United States. In the last case, it is symptomatic that the Hispanic population, meanwhile the nation’s largest ethnic or race minority, is left out of account in the columns.
- 42 “Two powerful reasons to not quit smoking, one geographical and the other political. First: tobacco (...)
36The antagonistic ethos of the irreverent and rebellious young man in Excélsior culminates in the suggestion of certain types of symbolic revenge in the discourse. In the article on McDonald´s (19/01/1992), for example, the enunciator advocates in a ludic way the idea of exporting a chain of taco restaurants with exclusively indigenous names (“Tlacoyos Huitzilopoztli o Sopes Xochicalco o Alambres Chalchiuhtlicue”) on the menu. And as a more direct and personal action, smoking is depicted as an act of rebellion against the US ideology: “Dos razones poderosas para no dejar de fumar, una geográfica y otra política. Una: el tabaco es uno de los pocos productos americanos que han conquistado el mundo. Otra: fumar equivale a desobedecer las órdenes de Estados Unidos42” (05/07/1992).
37Nevertheless, in accordance with his reflection on the topic of freedom, the primary objective of the discourse is to stimulate the individual reflection of the reader:
- 43 “Before abstaining from tobacco and alcohol and drugs and artificial food and Coca-Cola, we should (...)
Antes de abandonar el cigarro y el alcohol y las drogas y los alimentos artificiales y la coca cola, deberíamos reflexionar, en la intimidad y sin hacerle caso a la televisión, en lo siguiente: queremos vivir placenteramente o queremos vivir a toda costa. Y que la respuesta y su implementación sean individuales43 (05/07/1992).
38The second part of our analysis is dedicated to a selection of articles published in Reforma and El País between the years 2002, when Soler had already settled in Europe, and 2010. Regarding the political tenor, the Spanish newspaper El País, defined on its webpage as “un periódico independiente, […] con vocación europea y defensor de la democracia pluralista44”, is situated in the centre-left and the left. The Mexican newspaper Reforma, on the other hand, is of a more ambiguous ideological stance, since it has been labeled, despite its alleged non-partisan editorial style, as right-wing by international references such as The Guardian45.
39It is however important to take into account the different relation that, in the Spanish and Mexican context, socio-ideological positions associated with leftism bear to the phenomenon of cultural nationalism. Whereas in the case of El País, the Europeanism responds to an overt reserve towards nationalism in general, in Mexico the left is traditionally related to an anti-American stance which by no means excludes nationalism, even though it can also take the form of a Latinoamericanism.
- 46 “La desgracia de llamarse Jordi” (27/11/2004) & “Los republicanos del triángulo azul” (23/01/2005).
40Unlike the Mexican readership of Excélsior and Reforma, the Spanish readers of El País in general only know of Jordi Soler by his novelistic and literary journalistic texts published after his move to Barcelona. Nevertheless, the moment he began to write with some frequency for this newspaper, which was by the end of 2004, coincided with the publication of Los rojos de ultramar, the first novel of a trilogy which would represent a fictionalized account of the history of his maternal family and of his personal childhood in Veracruz. Moreover, given that two of his articles published in that period in El País deal with the same subject of the Spanish Republican exile46, we can infer that in Spain also, the prior ethos inevitably has been linked with leftism.
41In spite of the greater physical distance, in this second collection of texts, the US remains as an important geographical cultural point of reference for the enunciator. In parallel to the corpus of Excélsior, his overall position towards the US politics and mentality, especially towards the puritanism, the mechanisms of control and the imperialist expansionism that in his view define them, is here explicitly disapproving. Where the Excélsior texts focus on the relation between the US and Mexico in the context of NAFTA, the columns of this second corpus particularly discuss the government of George W. Bush, the national and international repercussions of 9/11 and the presidential election of 2008. A common strategy is the use of irony (first example) and caricature (second example), however of a less offensive kind, in order to criticize the US:
- 47 “the poor devil didn’t know that the penitentiary system of the United States had just made that ju (...)
[…] no sabía el infeliz que el sistema penitenciario de Estados Unidos acababa de dar ese salto hacia la civilización que fue la silla [eléctrica]47 (23/02/2008);
- 48 “music helps [George W. Bush][…] to increase his heart rhythm and this in a man who acts according (...)
[…] la música le sirve [a George W. Bush][…] para incrementar su ritmo cardiaco y esto en un hombre que actúa según la intensidad de sus pálpitos resulta bastante peligroso, en uno de esos pálpitos de sístole bombardeó Iraq y en otro de diástole se atragantó con un Pretzel48 (02/05/2005).
42In addition to the negative image offered of the US, two important elements of continuity between the early and the late texts are to be found, firstly, in the personal value system supported by the enunciator, particularly in his passionate defense of the idea of individual freedom, and, secondly, in the emphasis on the menace of the process of Americanization. In several articles, published both in Reforma (06/07/2009) and El País (17/04/2010), there is a specific supranational location which functions as ideological antithesis of the US: Europe. Soler seems to ascribe to Europe an own identity based on a set of specific values, including civilization, democracy, enlightenment and humanitarianism. This remarkable idealized image, which does not only invoke an old-fashioned discourse on Europe, but also flagrantly obscures the legacy of European colonialism and the Holocaust, is constructed with the particular intention of bringing out the contrast with the present-day European reality. Indeed, the enunciator alarms of the imminent loss of the so-called original European values owing to the tendency towards Americanization, visible in the toughening up of the exterior frontiers of the European Union, among other things:
- 49 “Europe looks less and less like itself. In this territory where until very recently, basic human r (...)
Europa se parece cada vez menos a sí misma. En este territorio donde hasta hace muy poco se cultivaban y protegían los derechos fundamentales del hombre, se han ido adoptando, gradualmente, medidas propias de un Estado policial. Esa misma paranoia que, en el tema de la seguridad nacional e individual, fomentaba el gobierno de George W. Bush en los ciudadanos, se ha instalado últimamente, con sus matices, en Europa; en lugar de buscar, para ciertos fenómenos puntuales, alternativas a la europea, más acordes con los valores humanitarios del continente, se ha optado por imitar de manera simplona y burda los métodos del imperio49 (06/07/2009).
43We are already touching upon some of the elements by which the discursive ethos in this second corpus diverges, however, from the discursive construction of self-image in Excélsior: on the one hand, the widening of the perspective, and, on the other, the fading into the background of the Mexican national identity, which allows the personal ethos, based on the same idea of individual freedom, to come into prominence.
44The mere fact that, as illustrated by our corpus, Soler has written very similar and even identical texts for Reforma and El País, a Mexican and Spanish newspaper respectively, presupposes a more diversified interest of the readership and an increasing opening-up of the frames of reference. Whereas in Excélsior the ethos rarely transcends the national level, maintaining thus the binational perspective US/Mexico, in Reforma and El País, on the contrary, the ethos is constructed in more diversified ways, including new collective dimensions such as Europe, Catalonia, Spain and even movements of migration.
45As a result, the viewpoint from which the US are looked at is no longer confined to the Mexican context. Europe, for instance, does not only appear as (potential) antipode, but also as informational mediator of the US. In view of the greater geographical distance between the country and Soler’s residences since 2000, the British press, especially the electronic version of the newspaper The Guardian, emerges here as bridge allowing him to introduce certain US related topics.
46Furthermore, notwithstanding the enunciator’s persisting concern with control, puritanism and radicalization, among other issues, the US is no longer presented as the only and absolute source of these and similar ideologies. When comparing “El ombligo de Madonna no parece ojo de japonesa” (10/09/1995), published in Excélsior, with “La operación de ‘miss’ Zhang” (03/06/2002) in Reforma, one can notice how the enunciator discusses in both articles the topic of the worldwide predominance of the Western ideal of beauty, but adopts in the latter a more moderate discourse by insisting less on the prominent role played in this context by the US. The texts published after 2000 also show a clear tendency to present the criticism in a larger and even global context, increasing thus the number of actors associated with cultural hegemony. In “El control” (Reforma, 05/12/2005 & El País, 17/10/2008), for instance, rather than speaking in national terms, Soler analyzes various control mechanisms of the English-speaking world in general, including Greenwich’s monopoly of the medium of time. The version published in Reforma even draws an analogy with the situation in China, where the government exercises absolute control over cyberspace on a national scale. In more general terms, in the second corpus Soler lays bare the paradoxes inherent in contemporary electronic means of communication by analyzing its oppressive mechanisms as well as its democratic values, particularly the possibility of familiarization with and participation in national and foreign cultures and politics. Another example of this evolution is the article “Orhan Pamuk: sentimental” (Reforma, 30/11/2009), where the enunciator calls attention to the similarities between, on the one hand, Mexico’s relation of both repulsion and admiration towards the US, and, on the other hand, the peripheral position of countries as Turkey vis-à-vis Europe.
- 50 “follows Obama with enthusiasm in newspapers, on YouTube and on the television, but who neither liv (...)
47Finally, Soler’s recent discourse on the US does not solely originate in negative emotions of rejection. In an article published in El País on the occasion of the presidential elections of 2008, the enunciator represents himself as someone who “va siguiendo con entusiasmo a Obama en diarios, en YouTube y en la televisión, pero que ni vive en Estados Unidos ni, por supuesto, puede votar por el50” (05/11/2008). His adhesion to Obama’s oratory and character, depicted as the potential germ of an evolution towards multicultural policy not only in the US but also in Europe, evidences that the US in this particular aspect is not opposed to ethos of the enunciator. What’s more, he hypothetically contemplates being part of this community:
- 51 “I find it legitimate that we who live in countries swept away by political vulgarity can get enthu (...)
[…] me parece legítimo que quienes vivimos en países arrasados por la vulgaridad política, podamos entusiasmarnos con el poderoso verbo de Obama y con su dicción y su timbre de bluesman, aunque no sea nuestro51 (Reforma, 10/03/2008).
48To conclude, we can argue that contrary to the first texts, where the enunciator’s opposition to the US ‘other’ is part of his adherence to a collective ethos of Mexican nationalism, in the second corpus discourse goes beyond the national level, widening the perspective to a transnational or global level. Embedded in a doxa in which globalization is a fact and nationalism is considered as short-sightedness, the ethos constructed in these columns can be labeled as ‘migrant’, as is corroborated by Soler’s criticism of both the Spanish and the European immigration policies:
- 52 “The toughening of the measures against the immigrants which appears cyclically in the agenda of th (...)
El endurecimiento de las medidas contra los inmigrantes que aparece cíclicamente en la agenda de la Unión Europea tiene mucho de amnesia y un buen porcentaje de ingenuidad, porque si algo demuestra la historia de los flujos y reflujos migratorios de todos los tiempos es que no hay ley, ni muro, ni forma de impedir la entrada de una persona que, con el irreprochable objetivo de alimentar a su familia, pretende introducirse en un país que le ofrezca mejores oportunidades que el suyo52 (El País, 18/05/2008).
- 53 “These strict and useless measures, which are unashamedly applied to the Mexicans as well as to mos (...)
Estas medidas duras e inútiles, que se aplican sin ningún rubor tanto a los mexicanos como a la mayoría de los latinoamericanos, hijos todos de la madre patria, deberían pesar en la conciencia colectiva de España, que hoy es rica y próspera gracias a sus emigrantes y a sus inmigrantes. Olvidar esto, pasarlo por alto, es de gente mal educada53 (El País, 18/05/2008).
49In our analysis of the way Jordi Soler constructs his identity as enunciator in relation to that of a cultural ‘other’ represented by the United States, we have observed a considerable shift – not so much with regard to the author’s construction of the US ‘other’ as such, but with respect to the role of the image of the other in the construction of an image of the self. This shift proves to be strongly related to the scene of enunciation, both in its temporal and spatial dimensions.
50In a first series of articles published in the Mexican newspaper Excélsior in the early 1990’s, in the midst of the debate on NAFTA and the increasingly stringent US immigration policy, a collective national ethos based on a strict opposition between Mexican and US cultural identities clearly predominates. As we have shown, the vocality of the guarantor in these articles, characterized by an irreverent, aggressive and highly ironic tone, as well as the use of stereotypical images representing both the Self and the Other, contribute to the creation of the US as the radical other of Mexican identity. Transnationality, as represented by the US-Mexico relations, in these texts is perceived in the first place as a menace to the Self. However, besides this collective Mexican ethos, in these articles an individual ethos can be found, which cultivates the value of individual freedom. While this personal ethos is not explicitly contrasted nor identified with the collective ethos, the enunciator does present it as radically different from the US other, stressing the inconsistency and even hypocrisy of American culture, whose social practices, according to Soler, undermine what is supposed to be the nation’s first value: individual liberty.
51In a second series of columns published in the period between 2002 and 2010 in the Mexican and the Spanish press, collective ethos has made way for an individual ethos in which the defense of personal freedom is still a key element. In this collection of texts, the construction of both the Self and the Other is more ambivalent, dynamic and heterogeneous than in the first corpus – an evolution due mainly to the reduction of the part national identity plays in the construction of the Self. With respect to ethos, this is reflected by the emphasis on the mobility of persons and information, on transnational experiences and (personal) networks, and on the hybridity of cultural identity. As for the image of the Other, US culture is no longer considered as monolithic nor perceived to be confined to the national territory. Soler’s ‘migrant’ ethos indeed relates to a plurality of ‘others’, in which, besides the US, Catalonia as a place of residence and memory and Europe as the home of a humanist tradition constitute important points of reference.