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“Hablar de corrupcion es tocar a Mexico en el corazón,” my mentor said. “Be careful.”
Tocar. Transitive verb meaning: to touch, to feel, to play, to have to do something, to ring, to sound, to touch on, to strike, to be one’s turn, and in some sense it has no direct translation.
I recently began writing reviews of exhibitions in Mexico City for an English-speaking audience. Quickly I started feeling like a remedial parakeet raised on a 24-hour news cycle. Almost every article I write seems to invoke questions of corruption, impunity, violence, or insecurity. Whether talking about a performance artist visiting from Spain, an established Mexican video-art pioneer, emerging artists, or even Michelangelo and Da Vinci retrospectives, there always seems to be a salient reason to somewhere reference rampant political corruption as context.
Every week another story breaks: the President’s house, the Finance Minister’s house, the former Mayor of Mexico City’s house, a friend-of-a-friend disappeared, the missing 43 Ayotzinapa students, more mass graves, the Tlatlaya massacre, Chapo’s escape, the Navarte murders, another friend-of-a-friend murdered, the guards with AK-47’s play-fighting with machetes next door – all this within the last year.