chapter
Editor’s introduction to Chapter Eight
ByLene Auestad
Pages 2

The chapter provides a psychoanalytic account of Mexican national identity. It explores the Mexican essayist and Nobel Prize winner for literature, Octavio Paz’s The Labyrinth of Solitude (1960), where Paz describes “the Mexican” and gives an account of this character’s customs, passions, angst, fantasies, and history. Moscovici’s concept of “social representation” is used to clarify what Paz means by “the Mexican”: systems of representations conceived as the body of a nation, an agreement about what the “real” of the social group is about. Paz asserts that Mexican solitude is expressed in a feeling of orphanhood that results from the loss of that which contained his reality after the Spanish conquest of Mexico. The author argues that the phantasy of the primal scene is at the basis of the repetition compulsion of Mexican history and the destructive cycle in which Mexican historicity is caught up. This phantasy is both pleasurable and over-exciting and horrific and destructive. Perhaps, it is argued, this phantasy is also at the heart of the Mexican’s notoriously pleasurable readiness to contemplate horror and death, that of the self and of the other. To identify with the male object means to become a Macho, and, thus, acquire the status of social powerfulness. However, it also means identifying with the Spanish conquistador, he who 144damages when he rapes, a highly hated image. Thus, the social representations of “what it means to be a Mexican man” are full of contradiction and ambivalence. The author ends by discussing whether a real loss took place in the Conquest, or whether the image of a rape on which Mexican history-telling is centred is a subjective invention, and chooses to leave open the question of whether, or to what extent, historical events are the causes of the Mexican’s psychic conflicts and phantasies.