[Sadistic] California Dreaming: Pleasure in the Breaking of Mexican Bodies
Issue #61, September 2002
"No kind of sensation is keener and more active than that of pain; its impressions are unmistakable."
"One must do violence to the object of one's desire; when it surrenders, the pleasure is greater."
The 120 Days of Sodom
The Marquis de Sade
Hit me, hit me.
Strike me, strike me.
Love me, love me.
The peculiar and particular attention paid Mexican bodies by a predominantly Anglo Californian Llw enforcement community reaches heights that we must think past the easy solution of racism to answer.
Following my late-lamented theoretical informant, Michel Foucault, and Roland Barthes, who knew so much that he missed the ambulance with his name written on it, I think it's important if disturbing to think about the pleasure that comes from such acts as walloping an undocumented immigrant on the head and body, pinioning their arms behind their backs as they scream in an incomprehensible tongue.
Pleasure? Yes, pleasure. Sexual pleasure of a decidedly Sadistic twist. The exotic we know is erotic, and I am beginning to think that the recent history of our Southern Californian cultural space, Rodney King, the Rebellion in LA, the beatings of various Mexicans, has more to do with de Sade than it does with Hitler or Mengele or whatever. That is, that at root, there is an erotic dimension to these beatings.
We might advocate some test beating of a mojado, as we lovingly call them in Laredo, and test my theory, but my inculcated viva la raza politicization saves me this ugly task. Let's look at a couple of recent incidents to test this eros of violence theory:
As the police baton rises and falls on the body of Ms. Alicia Sotero Vasquez something must be going through her head, something to explain the sensation, the pain, the fear — all in the midst of sounds that mean nothing. Two Riverside Sheriffs are shouting at her and her accomplice, the driver of the truck above, shouting in English. Later, in the hospital, all she can say is: "They beat me worse than an animal. I didn't run, nothing. They took me by the hair. I didn't insult them. I didn't say anything to them." They wouldn't have understood if she had.
As the police baton rises and falls on the body of Ms. Sotero something must be going through the head of Riverside Sheriffs Department officer Tracy Watson, something to explain the rage and the glee, the pleasure really, that he takes as he goes about his job.
In the middle of all this hovering above the scene like a nightingale, like an angel, like a perverted voyeur, the skycam channel 9 helicopter, our eye in the sky records all that falls within its lens, all that needs to be seen again and again and again...
Click here to see CNN article and Quicktime video.
This is William Anthony Nericcio's first article for Bad Subjects.
An Italian translation of this essay appeared in January 2005.