The Technology Of Identity And The Loss Of The Self

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

The axolotl is colloquially known in Mexico as a “walking fish” even though it is not a fish—it’s an amphibian, more specifically a neotenic salamander .

 Indigenous to several lakes, like Lake Xochimilco, an ancient endorheic lakelocated in Xochimilco in southern Mexico City, axolotls are one of the few amphibians on the planet which reach adulthood without undergoing metamorphosis. Instead of developing lungs and taking to the land, like frogs and toads which change from tadpole to amphibian., adults remain aquatic and gilled.
In his in his book The Cage of Melancholy (1987), Roger Bartra refers to Julio Cortazar’s short story, “Axolotl,” as a comparative basis for understanding Mexico’s national identity stating that Mexicans are “the imaginary and mythical inhabitants of a violated limbo” resulting from the tragedy that spanned from the Conquest (1519-1525) through the Revolution (1910-1920).
 Bartra contends that we cannot understand the contemporary reality of Mexicans without exploring the trauma experienced by Mexicans during these two major historical events. According to Bartra, like the axolotl, the Mexican is “incomplete”, a larva that never matures into a salamander. This creature also symbolizes the melancholy of a lost past and an incomplete present with the Mexican continually in search of an identity.
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