In Mexico, “we have a whole vocabulary that tries to normalize corruption,” Javier Treviño-Rangel told 100Reporters. “For instance, ‘That is how we do things here. It could be worse. Everybody does it. As long as it does not affect me,’ and so on.”
Indeed, Mexican humor has also contributed to that vocabulary. Take the popular Mexican saying “Hidalgo’s year,” mistakenly traced in the popular imagination to Miguel Hidalgo de Costilla, one of Mexico’s founding fathers.
In reality, the phrase has its roots in what one drinker tells another as the bottle of tequila runs down: “Chingue su madre el que deje algo” (loosely translated: Damn the one who leaves something behind). “Algo” rhymes with Hidalgo, who surely never expected his name to be associated with corruption, but then again, this is Mexico.
So, during the long 70-year-old “perfect dictatorship” (to quote Nobel prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa) of the left-of-center Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, Mexicans began applying the phrase to the final year in office of all presidents, a time when voters were convinced government employees at the federal, state and municipal level would steal their offices bare, leaving nothing behind for their successors. The PRI lost power in 2000, but the belief did not.
Lo and behold, 2012 is “Hidalgo’s year” for Mexican President Felipe Calderón.
“I have leftist friends who are convinced that (the Mexican system) allows ‘Hidalgo’s year’ and corruption in general, because it is actually an ‘odd way to redistribute wealth,’ far from illegal or corrupt,” commented Treviño-Rangel, shaking his head and staring in disbelief, as if at some absent culprit.