Sunday, June 16, 2024

Don’t get so distracted by Mexico’s villains that you miss its heroes

Shortly after Christmas, my partner and I decided we’d go to the movie theater to see, at last, the new Spider-Man movie.

Superhero movies have never been my favorite. The whole Marvel franchise makes my inner nine-year-old roll her eyes at what she regards as “boy stuff.” But I’m also happy to hop over to the other side of our Venn diagram of shared interests for the sake of a nostalgia-filled childhood hero.

I’d had a vague sense that it was a popular choice, given how many screens on which it was scheduled, but was surprised to find that all the showings for the rest of the evening were sold out by the time we got there at 5 p.m.

If there’s one thing that Mexicans love, it’s superheroes.

Spider-Man seems to be an especially popular one, spotted frequently at birthday parties and painted on the outside of small local businesses. While I didn’t totally understand the movie, I did find it wholesome, its message clear: the bad guys aren’t really bad … not deep down.

A place like Mexico, which one might very well conclude is “lawless” in many respects, is the perfect breeding ground for heroes and villains alike. In fact, I’ve seen scenes from various iterations of Batman over the years and thought, “Gosh, Gotham City might as well be Mexico City.”

Think about it: most people are just trying to get by and not run into any trouble. A few people are very, very corrupt and sometimes, even worse, very powerful and very corrupt. Villains grow out of trauma-laced soil, as do heroes, the exact combination of ingredients needed to create either one unknowable. Also in Mexico, governmental power vacuums allow the bad guys — who conveniently keep us distracted from more mundane injustices like having to pay bribes or the dwindling of butterfly populations — free to roam.

It’s not that people are indifferent. There are just too many things to worry about at once, not least of all one’s own survival.

While President López Obrador likes to see himself as Mexico’s savior, I view him as someone who rather teeters on the line between trying hard to do good and also falling for his own exaggerations despite the evidence. After all, who’s ever heard of a superhero insisting that all the problems going on right in front of us are somehow figments of our imaginations?

Luckily, there are quite a few other heroes out there, both with and without capes. Look for them, and they might even make you believe that we’ll be all right after all.

One that made the news this past week actually brought tears to my eyes: Zadrigman, rescuer of street animals in Michoacán. According to this hero — who in true superhero fashion will not reveal his real identity — he’d made a pact with his dog that they’d do this work together. His dog died before they could start, but he continued on by himself, rescuing and finding homes for street animals.

A while ago, I also wrote about a pair that goes by the name the Supercívicos and focuses on pursuing small-scale justice by calling attention to minor infractions, infractions that most others would simply ignore. They don’t hide their faces, but they do have special outfits and “super” in their name, so I’m counting it!

Other examples of heroism and everyday acts of kindness abound and deserve, in my opinion, much more attention than the villains.

There’s the boy who in January set up a table in front of his house to give away toys so that other children could get presents on Kings Day. There’s the firefighter who carried a flaming tank of gas out of a restaurant and the police officer who returned a man’s 30,000 peso-filled backpack, in which he was carrying money he intended to use to buy an oxygen tank for his sick wife.

Batman appeared in Monterrey at the beginning of the pandemic to encourage people to stay home, and a transit officer just this week escorted a pack of stray dogs down the highway so they wouldn’t get hurt. An indigenous community in Sonora is working to protect hundreds of hectares of mangroves.

The villains may be flashier, but heroes abound. Keep your eyes peeled, and you’ll see plenty of them working quietly on everyday miracles.

Sometimes they’ll even do it in a fun outfit.

Sarah DeVries is a writer and translator based in Xalapa, Veracruz. She can be reached through her website, and her Patreon page.

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