Chronicle and Diary, Politics and Self-Portrait in Elena Poniatowska’s "Amanecer en el Zócalo"
Crónica y diario, política y autorretrato en "Amanecer en el Zócalo" de Elena Poniatowska;
Crônica e diário, política e auto-retrato em ""Amanecer en el Zócalo", de Elena Poniatowska
Jörgensen, Beth E.
Re-reading Elena Poniatowska’s Amanecer en el Zócalo. Los 50 días que confrontaron a México (2007) during the spring and early summer lead-up to the July 1, 2012 presidential election heightened my sense of anticipation and even anxiety about the predicted —and predictable?— results. Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s second run for the office, this time as the candidate of the Movimiento Progresista, and his recruitment of Poniatowska again to support his campaign actively over an extended period of time recall the events of 2006 and raise questions about what was learned then and what the writing of the lengthy, detail-filled chronicle-diary of the fifty-day “plantón” and the frustrated demand for a recount “voto por voto, casilla por casilla” meant to Mexican readers and to the country’s foremost living chronicler. Now as I complete this essay in the immediate aftermath of the election, familiar-sounding accusations of fraud, vote-buying, violation of campaign spending limits and media complicity in Enrique Peña Nieto’s declared, but contested victory are being voiced by López Obrador and his supporters as well as by many others. Echoes of 2006 and the language of Poniatowska’s “plantón” chronicle resonate in today’s media coverage and create a dispiriting appreciation for how difficult and unlikely it is that real change can be achieved in Mexican politics. I cannot foresee the impact of the 2012 elections for Mexico or predict the official certification of the results and the public response to them, but as a reader of Poniatowska’s writing over a period of many years, I am alert to and skeptical of officially sanctioned accounts of contested events. I am also skeptical of other versions of the past, even a dissident version, and that too is a lesson learned from my engagement with Poniatowska’s extensive corpus. This essay addresses the representation of the political and the personal in Amanecer with an eye toward examining how the book constructs its version of the politics of 2006 and of the chronicler herself as a protagonist of that complicated story. I will show that the overarching defense of the legitimacy of the occupation and the demands for a complete vote recount in light of extensive evidence of fraud, and the favorable portrayal of López Obrador are tinged with some ambivalence about his leadership, while the self-portrait of Poniatowska as political actor is largely in line with the image of the writer that has emerged over the years in interviews and in the autobiographical elements of her work.