ABSTRACT

In this chapter, I examine the work of two major Mexican public intellectuals – Samuel Ramos and Octavio Paz – from the mid-twentieth century, specifically their commentary on working-class male Mexican speech play at that historical moment. Drawing on critical Marxism but also on Michel Foucault, I argue that such commentary casts this working-class sector as social deviants based on their scatological and sexually eroticized speech play. Such a categorization occurs at a moment when the Mexican working class is experiencing a continuing social marginalization as a result of the betrayal of the democratic goals of the Mexican Revolution of 1910. I offer an alternative understanding of such speech play as a form of popular knowledge whose very practice as play questions the cultural hegemony of the Mexican state. The analysis has considerable relevance for the present moment as this hegemony continues in contemporary Mexico.