By RICARDO CASTILLO
First, let me explain some Mexican meanings for the word “chocolate.”
Chocolate is Mexico’s sweetest gift to humanity. That, however, does not mean that Mexicans use the word chocolate just to refer to confectionaries. In Mexican slang, chocolate can mean the contrary of sweet – bitterness or outright anger.
Take, for instance, the phrase used in the title of a Mexican movie directed by actor-comedian Alfonso Arau some 10 years ago. It is titled “Like Water for Chocolate,” which is a literal translation of the phrase “como agua para chocolate.” The question to ask to get to the true meaning is: What is water for chocolate like? The answer: hot or boiling over.
In everyday Mexican slang, you may hear the question, ¿Cómo estás? If the person being asked the question is angry, surely the answer will be “como agua para chocolate.”
Then, there is another meaning to chocolate that has absolutely nothing to do with cars illegally imported from the United States, popularly known as “chocolates.” (My U.S. friends in San Miguel de Allende – where illegally imported cars abound – pronounce the word to describe these vehicles “chocolatees.”)
The phrase goes to letting someone get “a taste of their own chocolate soup” (which roughly translates to “giving them a taste of their own medicine”) as I am using in the headline of this column – when I’m through explaining the full meaning of chocolate – which is not about the sweet cacao fruit, but Mexican politics.
Basically, the best description for the “own chocolate soup” sentiment can be found in the New Testament. when Christ tells his followers “don’t do unto others what you don’t want done unto you.”
Last Friday, Dec. 21, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) got a taste a soup of his own chocolate soup. For years on end, AMLO made a practice of protesting against “the mafia in power” administrations in what became nearly run-of-the-mill antics. But now, the tables were reversed, and the protests happened both to him personally and to the Chamber of Deputies, which was literally locked up during eight hours that day in what deputies literally said was the equivalent of a “kidnapping.”
The so-called kidnappers were led by now-minority Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) Deputy Ismael Hernández Heras, who spearheaded a group of about 2,000 alleged “farmers” (well-known paid for protesters) from his group known as the Antorcha Campesina (Farmers’ Torch.)
The lock up of the deputies – as well as of Chamber of Deputies employees – lasted until National Regeneration Movement (Morena) leader of the deputies Mario Delgado met with Hernández and promised him he’d meet the next day with him to discuss the budget allotted to farming organizations – 50 of which are said to be represented by Antorcha Campesina.
Meanwhile, the Chamber of Deputies demanded police protection from new Mexico City Governess Claudia Sheinbaum, who had, on taking office, dissolved the capital’s riot police (granaderos), proclaiming them “costly and unnecessary.” So when the deputies called for protection from the city upon seeing their sanctuary under siege, there were no “granaderos” to protect them.
Unexpectedly, the national PRI leader Senator Claudia Ruiz Massieu hailed the lockup as a gain for the farmers. no doubt echoing the old AMLO phrase that all is fair – even if illegal – in politics as long as it gets you what want. To make a long and weary two-day story short, the “campesinos” released the Chamber of Deputies, Hernández Heras got what he wanted in terms of cash and by Sunday. Dec. 23, the definite 2019 Federal Budget was approved in what AMLO praised as “a Christmas present” for his cause and Morena party.
But the assault on the Chamber of Deputies was not the only protest AMLO had to deal with. Members of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) took to the streets and wanted to take Mexico’s Benito Juárez International Airport by assault and shut it down. Unlike the Chamber of Deputies, the airport is protected – by law – by the Federal Police, which met the several hundred PRD marchers a few blocks before they got to the airport, persuading them to give up their attempt to take the airport.
In yet a third unpleasant event, AMLO got personally touched by a protest against his still-to-be policies. This time, AMLO protested not because of the protest itself but because the protesters blockaded the condo where he lives in southern Mexico City, near the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
“They expected me to go into the building by the back door, but I am not used to that,” he said. “I walked in by the front door while harassed by hecklers. To these people, I give some advice. I believe in protesting, but as far as I can recall, I never went to the house of a government officer to protest. I always did it in the proper place, not his or her home.”
There’s no question that in these three cases AMLO was getting a taste of his own chocolate soup, but these incidences may mark only the beginning of a long story of protests now staged by his vociferous enemies, namely, the PRI and the National Action Party (PAN), both of which will now no doubtresort to AMLO’s effective old tricks of protesting everything or anything.
Times have changed in Mexico, and for the next six years, those who once shunned protests will be the ones staging them. They are feeling “like water for chocolate” and no doubt take it out on AMLO, feeding him a banquet of “soup of his own chocolate.”
Merry Christmas, everyone!