If you ever pick up any sort of Spanish-written yellow press, you’ll seen them: ads which, for a nominal fee, promise to bring back an ex-lover or, better yet, lure your ultimate crush straight into your arms. The ads vary when it comes to their ostenticity; sometimes they’re just a few words in length, but others feature intricate fonts and pictures of brujos (witch doctors) fully dressed in glorious, campy outfits.
These days many conjurers circumvent their time-proven, self-promoting ways by taking advantage of technology. One woman accepts online payments for her tailored rituals — “amarres,” to use the parlance of the trade — which she later films, narrates, and uploads to YouTube. Is the economy collapsing? That crafty sorceress will never know.
Day of the Dead, La Santa Muerte, Jesús Malverde (narco saint) — most Mexicans are fascinated with the occult, and I’m not impervious to the influence. Actually, I can even pinpoint the first time I was dazzled by a group of surreal and malevolent characters. It happened during the big annual celebration of the Mexican town I grew up in, and I must have been 5-years-old.
Details are a little fuzzy, but at the end of a procession, the kind where town residents gather to revere one of Catholicism’s many saints, a group of men — all of them disguised as devils, much like the ones in the “Hazme el amor” video — aggressively chased after all the visible children. Many of the kids had been taunting the men and, while holding whips and sticks, the “diablitos” would strike any child they caught up with. Strangely parents didn’t seem to mind, and I even remember one of my foul-mouthed aunts issuing a stern warning: “If you fuck with them, they will hit you, cabrón.”
But I was a naughty child so of course I wanted to mock the man-devils. Though after seeing a couple of their victims balling their eyes out — specifically two loud schoolyard chums — I decided to keep my mouth shut. The bad seed, however, had been planted, and for days I fantasized about running around dressed in evil devil garb. (I never got the outfit right but, out of frustration, I do remember chasing my sister around the house with a plastic Thurdercat sword.)
In “Hazme el amor” I tried to explore certain aspects of superstition, lust and risk — so basically some of the intrinsic elements of amarres. I theorize that most people partake in the process because it’s thrilling to make a shady bargain with a questionable character (“there’s always free cheddar in the mousetrap, baby — it’s a deal,” says Tom Waits). And all is fair in love and war, right?
But what of the consequences? Well, there may be a bigger, non-monetary price to pay for rigging the romantic system (think eternal hellfire, starvation, or neverending playlist of The Eagles’ music). But whatever, we’ll just cross that bridge when we get there.