The Gringo Wall

United States limit fence, US/Mexico border, easterly of Nogales, Arizona, USA, noticed from US side
United States limit fence, US/Mexico border, easterly of Nogales, Arizona, USA, noticed from US side

Some years ago an comical satirical essay in the Buenos Aires leftwing daily, Pagina 12, done me wish to cry. In 5 thousand difference the Argentinean publisher José Pablo Feinmann, ridiculed, among other things, the whole judgment of the good wall the U.S. Bush supervision projected along the limit with Mexico.

“What? Raise a wall. The gringos must be very afraid,” the publisher writes. “Just suspect the Wall then becomes a Goal, a Goal that attracts people from all parts, just to see if they can strech the Goal. What would be the Goal? The Goal would be to burst over the wall. Let’s just suspect that a crazy German comes with an huge offshoot and says, ‘I can burst over the Wall of the Gringos.’ And suspect the Wall then retains this name: The Gringo Wall.”

(The publisher goes on to remember that the word Gringo calls to mind the malice of Latin Americans, things like the Cuban Revolution and Fidel Castro and “Gringos de mierda, imperialist pigs go home,” and the Wall then becomes the pitch of burgeoning North American Fascism. There are many legends about the start of the word Gringo—perhaps from the Green Coats of American soldiers in the Mexican-American War of 1846-48, “green coats go home” becomes “greens-go.” Argentineans called all immigrants, generally Italians, gringos. But as a sequence currently Gringo means Yankee, and is generally pejorative, even if North Americans in Mexico and southwards call themselves Gringos … but maybe that’s like whistling in the dim graveyard.)


Walls customarily denote fear and have never enjoyed much success. Like the walled cities of Jericho or of Old Europe, walls have customarily been defensive. They aim at gripping out the enemy. But many centuries ago barbarians simply overran the 19-kilometer Aurelian walls around Rome, currently crumbling, and that we once walked in one day. These however were tiny walls, considerate walls, and even yet the walls of Troy resisted for 10 years, many walls fell utterly simply to hooks and rams and ladders. Instead the 155-kilometer Berlin Wall was commanded to keep people in (or was it only that?)—and who can contend what could occur in the North American Republic?—but anyway the Berlin Wall fell too. Even the 6,700 mile Wall of China has gradually crumbled and turn a traveller attraction. And what about the Israeli Wall? For the whole Arab world, for Berliners, for many Europeans, it is forty kilometers of evil. The reality is, walls just don’t work.

The tiny suspicion of a 700-mile wall between the USA and its neighbor Mexico was mind-boggling. The picture of a globalized star in which contradictorily walls are built and bridges pulp recalls the feudal complement when the lords only left their walled castles escorted by armed guards. The play of illegal immigration was likely to turn the major issue of the XXI century. Now it is here. And domestic leaders have motionless to demeanour to the apart past for solutions: the Israeli wall and now the Wall of the Gringos are what they come up with.

A stipulation of some years ago sealed by 28 of 34 nations of the Organization of American States—of march NOT by the United States—expressed “deep concern” for such a “unilateral measure” discordant to the suggestion of general understanding. Walls, it said, do not solve the problem of illegal immigration, and it urged the United States to commend this position. Latin American leaders collected in a limit in Uruguay cursed the suspicion of the Wall. Former Mexican President, Vicente Fox, a conservative, tangible the suspicion of a wall on the Mexican limit “stupid.” For then Chilean President Michelle Bachelet a wall confronting Mexico “damages the links of loyalty in the hemisphere.”

At this point, we am adding an practice we have available myself, the interpretation of a story about walls by Jorge Luis Borges, which however had positively zero to do with the Wall of the Gringos, to whose story we have combined a few of my own comments.

The Wall and the Books (La Muralla y los Libros)

By Jorge Luis Borges

(translation from Spanish and comments by Gaither Stewart)

He, whose prolonged wall the wand’ring Tartar bounds

Dunciad, II, 76. (1)

I read, in past days, that the man who systematic the construction of the scarcely huge Wall of China was that First Emperor, Shih Huang Ti, who further systematic the blazing of all the books before him. That the two huge operations—the 5 or 6 hundred leagues of mill to conflict the barbarians, the critical extermination of history, that is of the past—issued from one person and were in a certain clarity his attributes, inexplicably confident me and, at the same time, uneasy me. The intent of this note is to examine the reasons for that emotion.

Historically there is no poser in the two measures. A contemporary of the wars of Hannibal, Shih Huang Ti, King of Ch’in, cowed the Six Kingdoms and separated the feudal system; he built the wall since walls were defenses; he burned the books since the antithesis invoked them in sequence to boast former emperors. Burning books and building fortifications is common charge to emperors; the only thing unaccompanied about Shih Huang Ti was the scale on which he operated. So some Sinologists would have us understand, but we feel that the contribution to which we referred are something some-more than an deceit or a exaggeration of pardonable inclinations. To hang an orchard or a garden is common; not to hang an empire. That the many normal of races renounced the memory of its past, fabulous or true, is no tiny matter. The Chinese had 3 thousand years of chronology (in those years, the Yellow Emperor and Chuang Tzu and Confucius and Lao Tzu) when Shih Huang Ti systematic that story began with him.

Shih Huang Ti had outcast his mom as a libertine; the approved saw only sacrilege in his critical justice; Shih Huang Ti, perhaps, wanted to erase canonic books since they accused him; Shih Huang Ti, perhaps, wanted to annul the whole past in sequence to annul one memory: the calumny of his mother. (Not distinct another king, in Judea, had all the children killed in sequence to kill one.) This surmise is worth considering, but it tells us zero about the wall, about the second facet of the myth. Shih Huang Ti, according to historians, forbade all discuss of the word death and searched for the elixir of immortality and isolated himself in a incongruous palace, which had as many bedrooms as the year has days; the information advise that the wall in space and the fire in time were sorcery barriers commanded to hindrance the allege of death. Everything persists in his being, wrote Baruch Spinoza; maybe the Emperor and his sages believed that immortality was unique and that crime could not dig a sealed sphere. Perhaps the Emperor hoped to reconstruct the commencement of time and called himself The First, in sequence to be truly the first, and he named himself Huang Ti in sequence to be in some way Huang Ti, the mythological czar who invented essay and the compass. The latter, according to the Book of Rites, gave things their loyal names; equally Shih Huang Ti boasted, in fast inscriptions, that all things in his sovereignty had the name they merited. He dreamed of first an imperishable dynasty; he systematic that his heirs should be named Second Emperor, Third Emperor, Fourth Emperor, and so on to infinity … we spoke of a sorcery design; it would also be probable to suspect that constructing a wall and blazing the books were not coexisting acts. This (according to the sequence we choose) would give us the picture of a aristocrat who began by destroying and thereafter quiescent himself to conserving, or that of a disabused aristocrat who broken what he shielded earlier. Both conjectures are thespian but lack, as distant as we know, in chronological basis. Herbert Allen Giles (2) relates that those who secluded books were branded by a impassioned iron and cursed to build the immeasurable wall until the day of their death. This information favors or tolerates another interpretation. Perhaps the wall was a metaphor, maybe Shih Huang Ti cursed those who worshipped the past to a work just as immeasurable as the past, as foolish and useless. Perhaps the wall was a plea and Shih Huang Ti thought: “Men adore the past and we can do zero against this love, nor can my executioners, but someday there will be a man who feels as we do, and he will destroy my wall, as we broken the books, and will erase my memory and will be my shade and my counterpart and will not be wakeful of it. Perhaps Shih Huang Ti walled in the sovereignty since he knew it was frail and he broken the books since he accepted they were dedicated books, or rather books that taught that which the whole star teaches or the alertness of every man. Maybe the blazing of the libraries and the construction of the wall are operations that in a secret way cancel any other.

The devoted wall that in this moment, and in all moments, projects its complement of shadows opposite lands we will not see, is the shade of a Caesar who systematic that the many zealous of nations bake its past; it is likely that the suspicion itself touches us by, over and above, the conjectures it allows. (Its trait can be in the antithesis to building and destroying, on an huge scale.) Generalizing the progressing matter, we could infer that all practices have their trait in themselves and not in some speculative “content.” This would be in agreement with the topic of Benedetto Croce (3); as already Pater (4), in 1877, contended that all the humanities aspire to the condition of music, which is zero but form. Music, state of happiness, mythology, faces made by time, certain twilights and certain places, try to tell us something, or they told us something that we should not have lost, or wish to tell us something; this imminence of a revelation, which does not happen, is, perhaps, the esthetic act.

  1. Dunciad  by Alexander Pope in which the producer referred to his many enemies as dunces. This satirical poem of 920 lines, in 3 books, describes the aristocrat of dunces and a calamity star of concept dark in Pope’s huge travesty of writers, books and booksellers, aggressive those who write for pay. At one indicate there is a scapegoat bonfire of the books. This arrange of literary anxiety and source is used by Anglophile Borges via his work.
  2. Herbert Allen Giles (1845-1935), eminent British diplomat and Sinologist.
  3. Benedetto Croce (1866-1952), Italian literary historian, critic, philosopher, wrote: “Art is not the further of form to content, but expression, which does not meant communication but is a devout fact, and ethics is recognised as the countenance of the concept will, of the spirit.”
  4. Walter Pater (1839-94), English writer, essayist, connoisseur and art historian, famous precisely since his life is so hidden in mystery, whom Henry James called “the facade but the face” and the kind of literary source Borges plants in his bizarre tales. Here Borges quotes Pater that “all art constantly aspires toward the condition of music.” we found on line this chronicle which is divulgence of the inlet of Pater, and so of one side of Borges:

In 1894, the last year of his life, Pater was invited to meet Mallarmé, who was then lecturing at Oxford. Mallarmé taught English in a lycée; Pater’s French was excellent; but the two connoisseurs of sign apparently suspicion it too coarse to actually speak. According to one account, they “regarded any other in silence, and were satisfied.”

Translator’s note: This standard Borges interpretative chronicle/ chronological thoughtfulness (neither brief story nor essay!) is enclosed in Antología Personal (Personal Anthology), the chronicle we have translated here, the first book of which was published by Editorial Sur in 1961 and for which Borges wrote in the Prologue that his “preferences commanded this book.” It seemed again in English in Everything and Nothing, New Directions, 1999. we chose to translate this tale/account since it is shorter and, perhaps, reduction obvious than others; secondly since it is standard of Borges’ works in which he playfully drops unknown names and references in his potential recounting of people and place and times, which only at first seem problematic or meaningless; and thirdly since of the writer’s voluntary to the volume.

As predestine would have it and in Borges style, we saw in a May issue of the best of the “NY Times in Italian,” the essay “Walls Raised Against the Enemy, A Long History,” which cites the first such wall as Shih Huang Ti’s Wall of China, an essay commanded to denote that they never work, not in Berlin nor in Israel nor in Baghdad. Nor will it work on the US-Mexican border, we would add.

Tracing the references and my close reading of the Prologue is to clarify to a singular grade the Borgesian world. If you try to pursue diligently all Borges’ literary pointers you have to be prepared to enter an huge intricacy in which one thing leads to another and then another, inexorably and but end, so that you do need the self-evident round of fibre to find your way out. Though with contemporary web hunt engines this intricacy is only a few clicks away, while we was clicking and yearning to exit we illusory Borges instead in one of his libraries, finding, tracing and questioning such sources of impulse by following his own instincts, pulling down book after book from the labyrinthine spaces filled with semi-illuminated shelves that he must have desired and hated.

Toward the finish of this exercise, once the interpretation was finished and the names pinpointed, we returned to his Prologue to the book in which he refers to Benedetto Croce as he does in “The Wall and the Books.” Borges: “Croce opined that art is expression; from this exigency, or from the deformation of this exigency, derives the misfortune novel of the times…. we at times have also searched for expression; now we know that my gods no longer concur me anything but reference or account.”

Creative writers can good know him. On a identical hook Umberto Eco (The Name of the Rose) says that, “every work of art is a diversion played out at the worktable. Nothing is some-more damaging to creativity than the passion of inspiration. It’s the myth of bad romantics that fascinates bad poets and bad narrators. Art is a critical matter. Manzoni and Flaubert, Balzac and Stendhal wrote at the worktable. That means to construct, like an designer plans a building. Yet we prefer to trust that a writer invents since he has a talent murmur into his ear.”

(Well, so much for walls, even if we have digressed from the subject, we consider it is transparent that to me walls do not sound like a good suspicion at all).

Gaither Stewart is a maestro journalist, his dispatches on politics, literature, and culture, have been published (and translated) on many heading online and imitation venues.

Originally published in The Greanville Post

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