Tex[t]-Mex: Seductive Hallucinations of the "Mexican" in America by William Anthony Nericcio
University of Texas Press, 2007
Reviewed by Marc García-Martínez


He remembers
a Mexican Marlon Brando once
on French tv.

How, in westerns,
the Mexicans are always
the bad guys. And—

Is it true
all Mexicans
carry knives?

—excerpt of "Mexicans in France" by Sandra Cisneros

Just as John Berger's pioneering Ways of Seeing challenged us to re-tamper with the ways we view the many images of our many-sided material world, William Anthony Nericcio's profusely illustrated Tex[t]-Mex: Seductive Hallucinations of the "Mexican" in America challenges us to re-evaluate our various ways of seeing the ubiquitous (and unfortunately iconic) representations of Mexicans and Latinos in our nation's popular media—those unyieldingly banal and "droll mannequins appearing in photographs, in movies, in newspapers, and on television (15).

As archivist, visual folklorist, and chief literary interrogator, William Nericcio crafts his words and observations with great pains and accuracy. He contends—in a beautifully spirited and unrepentant fashion—that the verbal-visual representations of Mexicans and Latino ethnicity which pervade our society have all been distributed, reproduced, and rendered recognizable (123) in order to seduce us to consume and to accept the fake as true; to feebly "drink it all in," as he pithily puts it (209).

Blending various wide-ranging modalities of art criticism, autobiography, performance, and rhetorical analysis (think Guillermo Gómez-Peña's New World Border meets Kenneth Burke's Counterstatement meets Dorfman's & Mattelart's How to Read Donald Duck), Tex[t]-Mexinspect—the oftentimes bizarre, sometimes repulsive damage of socio-commercial policies as they manifest themselves through these "animated, conjured, fabricated, costumed ‘monsters' that pass for ‘Mexicans' in the popular imagination of the United States" (173).

Readers will quickly discover and most definitely appreciate that the author provides them a very heartfelt personal attachment to the subject at hand, yet analyzes it with pure academic vigor. Moreover, the book's language (which may be notably abstract or perhaps slippery at times) presents itself as ultimately readable and conversant—a true dialogue to be sure. It is certain, then, that Tex[t]-Mex will speak to all readers at all levels.

If there is a drawback to Nericcio's insurgent work, it's that it is more or less instantly outdated, for newly-sprung, further examples of the curious and heretofore sad verbal-visual folklore he so expertly demystifies are at this very moment re-pervading our society to serve our dreaded commercial ends. We can't stop this from occurring, of course, but this timely and necessary book helps us to see them coming from a mile away.