Sadism is not an everyday word in the Spanish vocabulary. Yet, it is an every day event if you live in Mexico.
On any given day, if you asked around, you would be lucky to find someone in Mexico who could identify the root of the word, and fewer still would relate it to the Marquis de Sade. Instead, many Mexicans might associate sadism with the ancient stories of the Maya and the Aztecs, who were known to break skulls or remove the hearts of their enemies, believing such offerings would appease the gods and bring a better future to their people.
These actions, perceived today as savage, instilled in the Mexican culture a sense of fatalism that crystallized with the arrival of the Spaniards, whose conquest involved controlling Indian tribes and converting them to Christianity by way of blunt force and subjugation.
A Nation Born of “Double Violence”
As the Nobel Laureate poet and essayist Octavio Paz said in his perhaps best-known book The Labyrinth of Solitude, “If Mexico was born in the 16th century, we have to understand that [the country] is the son of a double violence; the one imposed by the Aztecs and the one from the Spaniards.”
Like any other country, Mexico is difficult to understand without first understanding its past.
Mexicans revere and fear death, but also laugh about it. Death could be the ultimate sacrifice as well as the ultimate punishment. The concept has even become part of its culture through songs of love and loneliness, which have survived for generations.
Foreigners might wonder how, amidst the present violence, a concept like sadism is largely ignore by the Mexican masses. Yet, even children as young as seven can easily identify old traditional songs, such as, “No vale nada la vida . . . la vida no vale nada.” That roughly translates as, “Life is worth nothing . . . nothing is worth living.”
After enduring nearly three centuries of submission under the Spanish crown and another century dealing with the broken promises of a revolution that has only benefited a small portion of the population—those who were already in power for generations—Mexicans can only find hope in their immediate families. And for decades now, that immediate family, for millions of Mexicans—has been the drug cartels.
With no political connections, no access to education, no jobs and no hope for the future, millions of young men and women had opted for the cartels as their best bet. They all know that pledging allegiance to the cartels means committing to a lifestyle that might sooner or later end with jail—or death. However, many have declared publicly that they’d rather live a short life “as a king,” than a long life “as a pariah.”