20 / CHRONICLESnpublic health presented by Third World immigrants showsnno signs of decreasing.nAlong our southern border in particular, violence isnincreasing. U.S. Customs Chief William von Raab hasndescribed the situation as a “modern-day horror story” andnnoted the involvement of Mexican officials in drug smug­nSouls in DistressnTourists seldom give a secondnthought to the natives who, likenhostages, inhabit the lands we onlynlike to visit. As Jose Emilio Pacheconreminds us in his short, spare Battlesnin the Desert & Other Storiesn(New York: New Directions Books;n$8.95), there is intelligent life outnthere, and it suffers.n”I can’t stop thinking about thenbody, that gruesome wound, thenblood spattered all over, even onnthe walls. I don’t know how mynfather did it during the Revolution,neven though he told me that after anwhile you get used to seeing deadnbodies,” writes Pacheco in “ThenPleasure Principle.” And in “Battlesnin the Desert” he says, “Thenextinguished brilliance of the OttomannEmpire still persisted like thenlight of a long-dead star.” History,nsays Pacheco, matters, and itnweighs like a millstone upon thenliving. It crushes all those who arenunable to attain that selective amnesianthat is a prerequisite for success.nMexico is definitely a countrynwith history, yet so is the UnitednStates. But in Mexico or Morocco,nthe legions of the dead hold swaynover the remnant of the living.nConservatism per se is no value—n”Revolutions,” Marshal Foche hadnsaid, “are an affliction of the losers.”nIn Mexico, oblivion might benbliss, but its bloodsoaked ground,nbleached by a sun Octavio Paz sangnpaeans to, demands constant libations.nThe Mexican Feast of thenDead is an ecstatic celebration thatnchildren look forward to — likenChristmas or Halloween.nThough Pacheco seems eager tonequate The Fall with a loss of innocence,nothers have also suffered thensame in regions where The Fall isnREVISIONSnnot perpetual. Willful savagery isnthe result of something more thannlost innocence, and in Mexico thenbarbarity has become a politicalninstitution. “The face of El SenornPresidente was everywhere: immensendrawings, idealized portraits,nubiquitous photographs, allegoriesnof progress showing MiguelnAleman as Our Father Who Art innHeaven, laudatory caricatures,nmonuments. Public adulation, incessantnprivate abuse,” writes Pacheconof post-World War II Mexico,nthough it could well have beennof Romania, Uganda, or NorthnKorea. A good book has become thenparadigm of a major monstrosity,nand the book pales into banality.nPacheco is no Orwell, nor does henattempt to be. The Mexican’s eyesnare Janus-oriented into his childhood,nwhile Orwell’s were turnednoutward, into a theory.n”War, any war,” writes Pacheco,n”seemed to me to be the stuff ofnwhich movies are made. Sooner ornlater the good guys win (who are thengood guys?). Fortunately, there hadnbeen no wars in Mexico since GeneralnCardenas squelched the SaturninonCedillo uprising. This wasndifficult for my parents to believe,nbecause their childhood, adolescence,nand youth were spent againstna background of constant battlesnand executions.” In his yearning fornheroism, Pacheco, who seems tonhave pangs at eating meat, is likenany North American boy, eager tonpush gleaming buttons and stuffnhimself with ice cream.nBut, ice cream is an discrim, andevilish North American invention,nspecifically introduced to humiliatenthe pueblo nacional. In ancountry where guns and knivesnseem to be a part of the wardrobe, isnit any wonder that a boy will mournnthe botched execution of a catnnngling and other criminal activity. John Gavin, while henserved as U.S. Ambassador to Mexico, informed MexicannPresident de la Madrid that Mexican Defense MinisternGeneral Juan Arevalo was working in league with drugntraffickers, but Gavin’s warning was ignored. The volume ofndrugrunning and banditry is outstripping the ability of then(“The Sunken Park”)? A machonwaiter, who mortifies a youngnwoman intent on slipping a note tona youth she has taken fancy ton(“Acheron”), exhibits the wanton,ncasual cruelty of misplaced virtue,nin an environment where righteousnessnhas become the only capital.nYet, bankruptcy is universal:nWere that understood, maybe WallnStreet bankers would look at morenthan financial indicators beforenthey offer their loans to Brazil, Yugoslavia,nor Nigeria. In lands wherenhonor and courage mean death,nmoney buys only indulgence.nThird World is a state of mindnand is probably created more by itsnelites than by its benighted multitudes.n”Even I,” writes Pacheco inn”Battles in the Desert,” “who nevernknew anything about what wasngoing on, realized that for years mynfather had been maintaining anothernhousehold: a woman—his exsecretary,nand two children.” “ThenWorld is a village,” wrote MaonTse-tung, “and the West is a city,nand the village shall vanquish thencity.” He must have smiled then,nsenilely and imbecilically as usual,nbut Pacheco seems to bear him out.n”Civilization” is a condition arisingnout of civility, civitas—there’s yetnto be a rural civilization, Americannsuburbia not excepted. Suburbs,nafter all, are a lower order of cities.nIf Ciudad Mexico is a Wound ofnthe World, it is not because it is ancity or because someone had malevolentlynintroduced civilization tonMexico; it is because unkept obligationsnturn disastrous when thenupper classes regard their own peoplenas aliens. Battles in the Desertn& Other Stories is an honest booknby one of Mexico’s leading poetsnabout the world we all inhabit, innits First, Second, Third, or FourthnQuarter.n