What happenes in Chapter 1 of The Labyrinth of Solitude?

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dymatsuoka | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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In this chapter, entitled "The Pachuco and Other Extremes", the author, Octavio Paz, examines the problem of establishing a Mexican American identity.  He uses the pachucos, Latin American youth who sought to express their uniqueness during the 1940s and 1950s through distinctive dress and antisiocial behavior, as an example.  The tragedy of the pachucos, according to the author, is that they rebelled against both their Mexican pasts as well as against the American society which would not accept them, leaving them men "who belong(ed) nowhere".  Paz describes their declaration of selfhood as "suicidal", affirming or defending nothing except the "exasperated will-not-to-be".

The author depicts Mexican and American attitudes as being fundamentally at odds.  According to him, Americans try to avoid seeing reality and horror, while Mexicans contemplate it; Americans "are credulous", while Mexicans "are believers"; Mexicans "(tell) lies because (they) delight in fantasy...or...to rise above the sordid facts of...life", while Americans do not lie, but instead substitute "social truth for the real truth".   In the author's experience, Mexicans in America are "truly different...and...truly alone".  Like the pachuco, with an intangible sense of self-loathing, they "withdraw into (them)selves...increas(ing) (their) solitude by refusing to seek out (their) compatriots, perhaps because (they) fear (they) will see (them)selves in them" (Chapter 1).

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