SUPERBARRIO: INTRODUCTION
 

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This photo essay is about Superbarrio Gomez and his journey in the construction of a "politics of the possible" (1) , an alternative political imaginary constituted via popular culture and the construction of a national and transnational social movement. Superbarrio makes evident the collapse between politics and performance; he forces us to think beyond the performance of politics in order to understand the politics of performance. Superbarrio belongs to both the majoritarian class and to the wrestling ring of popular culture, which makes his politics possible. Superbarrio's practices of popular culture creates a political imaginary in which winning was possible in spite of corrupt referees. But Superbarrio makes evident how the wrestling ring teaches us about political culture as well as social mobilization. Superbarrio's wrestling ring is a place of possibilities where corrupt landlords and politicians are unmasked .As long as Superbarrio keeps his mask, we all win. Superbarrio's journey maps an alternative political imaginary that functioned at the local, national and transnational/hemispheric register. At the local level, Superbarrio, with the strength of Mexico City's Neighborhood Assembly [Asamblea de Barrios] created a social movement that understood that to win one's home, one had to win at the national level, the National Palace and la Casa de los Pinos [presidential house]. Superbarrio became the symbol to mobilize the political imaginary in which to vote, (against seven decades of perfect dictatorship) was the only option to own the Presidential house. In 1988, Superbarrio aligned forces with Cuauhtemoc Cardenas in the winning of the national vote and they won.

But against systemic corruption, to win was not enough and the social movement had to reach beyond the US/Mexican border. In order to do so, Superbarrio made his first US tour promoting the possibility of Mexicans, living on the US side of the border, to vote for Mexican president. After all, their income has contributed to the Mexican economy 13 thousand million dollars in economic gross. Superbarrio promoted a political imaginary in which voting-- a fundamental right of citizenship-- could be exercised across national borders. But this transnational campaign was the practice of a political vision that understood the rules of the game within the then nascent process of globalization and the privatization of the Nation-State. In 1994, NAFTA (North American Free-Trade Agreement) would become the national precedent. Knowing the dirty rules of what became a macro-economic political game, Superbarrio jumped out of the national arena to fight for the rights of workers transnationally; he ran for US president in 1996. Superbarrio's strategy was to contextualize the concept of national citizenship (exercised in the voting of national citizens such as Latinos/as and Latin Americans living in the US with dual citizenship) into that of free trade, not of goods but of people. In his campaign he proposed "free citizenship", a concept that assumes rights to decent housing and working conditions across nations for all, citizens and non-citizens, the workers of the hemisphere within and beyond the US territory. Superbarrio's free citizenship becomes a model of global citizenship in which fair housing and fair working conditions function within the realm of human rights transnationally. He also proposed the voting rights of these transnational workers, their vote would count for Mexican as well as US president. Superbarrio's US presidential campaign, and his premonitory "politics of the possible", produce an alternative political, social and cultural imaginary. By implication, to believe in Superbarrio is to believe in a collective struggle that functions regionally and operates as a social movement across borders. To believe in Superbarrio is to believe in us as transnational social agents. Beneath the mask, we are all Superbarrio.

(1) I am borrowing this concept from Kumkum Sangari "The Politics of the Possible," Cultural Critique 7 (Fall 1987: 157-186).

 
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