HOW BACKWARD the frontierish hope to hybridize.
I ask for directions to the frontera from the Calle Independencia in Tijuana and the parking attendant looks back at me puzzled. I am told to ask for la línea, the line. Where there is a line, a point moving along in a fixed direction — Mexican Federal Highway No. 1, the world’s busiest port of entry — there is waiting. A leaden stop-and-go of cars, street carts and passengers staring out windows, sometimes for five hours or more. La línea is a terrible delay.
“At the frontera, the Other is repelled. Both sides of the línea are rejected like two magnets of the same sign which only force could keep together, in so far as as soon as we allow them to operate according to their own rules, the separation is violent […] If the apparent theme is bidirectionality or symbiosis, the deeper theme, in contrast, is incompatibility” (Heriberto Yépez, “La hibridación es un engaño. El significado real del arte fronterizo,” Made in Tijuana, 2005).
The delay is caused by a magnetic repulsion of poles.
Heriberto Yépez (born in Tijuana, 1974) has published a number of works pertaining to the U.S.-Mexico border. Theoretical, philosophical, novelistic, and poetic genres collide and push against each other in his dialectic of hybridity, which is nonsyncretizing and incommensurate with synthesis. Many readers will associate cultural hybridity with happy fusion, where differences melt away in the blazing heat of wholeness and implicit unity. The misfortune of such association is similar to the equating of experimental jazz and jazz fusion. One tears itself apart in a conflict of positions while the other is a subgenre keyed for selling crossover hits.
In his writings, Yépez takes issue with what has become of the “hybrid,” a category that he sees as a commodification of contradiction. The “happy hybrid” of multiculturalism has domesticated the Other, packaged alterity for mass consumption, made synthesis marketable — indeed, created a household brand.
The U.S.-Mexico border is an especially fertile region for examining the psychogeography of this conflict of positions: the headspace of the hybrid as he or she tries to move through familiar paths inventively. But it is not with the fluidity that NAFTA gives to commodities that this hybrid moves. It is with the livid antipathy that NAFTA fosters by facilitating the exploitation of workers on both sides of the border that the hybrid crashes into itself. Yépez is at the forefront of a generation of writers who are questioning notions of fluidity and synthesis, a generation that has seen those same categories veil the advent of global neoliberalism. He is at the forefront because he is at the frontera.
The category of hybrid, he contends, must remain a place where radical dialectics can take place, a relation of energizing antinomies: attraction and repulsion, rupture and negation. In Tijuana, the hybrid flips a middle finger to the North American Free Trade Agreement.
I wait in line, like everyone else, in the city of Tijuana.
It is a city with a split mind. Oriented toward the United States, its “psychohistoric unconscious” is a spinal ganglia stretching to pre-Columbian origins. ...read more