A dose of magical realism in politics

If you lived in a place like this peaceful tree-lined street, wouldn't you want to keep it this way?


Yes, says writer Laura Esquivel, who does live in this neighborhood. In case you hadn't heard, the author best known for the book and movie "Like Water for Chocolate" is running for office in her native Mexico City. She officially kicked off her campaign to help govern the neighborhood of Coyoacan last week. In her web page, she writes that she is saddened by the fact that the plaza where she used to take her daughter for walks is not the same as the one where she now walks with her granddaughter.

In an interview with W Radio in Mexico City over the weekend, Laura said she is running for local office because she wants to help stop the decline of her neighborhood, an artsy and touristy area that for many years escaped the violence and other urban ills attacking other areas of the giant city.

Let me show you what's at stake in Coyoacan:

Beautiful architecture with breathtaking detail


Colorful buildings that house interesting and unique stores and museums, attracting tourists from all over the world.



The "Blue House," where artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera lived for many years. It's now a museum, but the neighborhood still attracts writers, artists and other creative types.

It's also home to ordinary people like you and me. In recent years, however, Coyoacan has been unable to ward off problems like:


Litter

Vandalism



And, of course, traffic. I have known grown men to cry over the horrible, bumper-to-bumper, horn-blaring traffic jams in Mexico City. Worst of all, the violence that permeates the city has also tainted this neighborhood.

So what's a writer to do about all this? More to the point, what makes Laura Esquivel think she has a chance to correct any of this?
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She tells W Radio she is willing to put her writing career on hold to offer a new perspective in local politics and to offer residents an opportunity to have their voice heard at the national level.
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She says, "What makes me think I can do this is that I've dedicated my whole life to education, to art. Art gives you all the wonderful tools to imagine reality, not just as it is, but as it can be. It's all about analyzing problems and finding the right solution. (As a writer) you have to fully analyze a character's situation, his personal history, know the crisis that caused him to have a dilemma, and find a solution for it."
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You may remember that Laura Esquivel's breakthrough novel, published in 1989, deftly used magical realism to highlight cultural and political issues that tore two young lovers apart. Cynics may very well say, or joke, that she will need some magical realism to set things straight in Coyoacan (or elsewhere in Mexico City for that matter.)
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Laura Esquivel also wrote the screenplay for "Like Water for Chocolate"

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Only time will tell. I rather think her biggest obstacle will be voter apathy. So many times traveling throughout Mexico as a journalist, I got used to hearing people from all walks of life talk about how tired they were of politics and politicians doing nothing more than helping themselves. Specifically, I remember a young man who laughed heartily when I asked whether he believed in the ideals of the Mexican Constitution. It certainly wasn't the first time I'd had such a reaction to this kind of question. In any country, many young people can be quite pessimistic about politics, but this young man just seemed so tired for being so young.
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Maybe seeing a new face enter politics will renew interest among those who've lost hope.
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You can listen to Laura Esquivel's interview (in Spanish) with W Radio here or listen to another interview she's doing Thursday morning (May 28) here.

A street in Coyoacan

Image credits: Laura Esquivel website, Flickr users: Blacknell, Daniel Kaempfe, distra, Gustavo Bando, LouisL, Matt.Wegers, scrunchlface, starobs, telojuroporMadonna

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