By David Agren / Maclean’s
Mexican senator Carlos Romero Deschamps appeared distracted during a recent debate on anti-corruption legislation. Cameras subsequently caught him thumbing through a catalogue of yachts priced well beyond his known pay grade—though likely within the grasp of a politically powerful person who represents workers in the state-run oil industry and who once gave his son a Ferrari.
Critics had a field day with the photo, yet publications sympathetic to the senator’s party kept their coverage subdued. ElDeforma, Mexico’s version of The Onion, tweeted a disavowal instead: “About Romero Deschamps, it’s not a story from @eldeforma. In fact, we don’t know how to make fun of something that is already so . . . beautiful.”
Truth can seem stranger than fiction in Mexico, where the news cycle can often be summed up as surreal. The media landscape has become an ideal space for spoofs and satire sites such as ElDeforma (“deformed” or “warped” in Spanish, and a play on Reforma, a widely read newspaper) and YouTube shows such as El Pulso de la República. Both are gaining audiences in a country with a history of media manipulation, and are offering rare criticism and ridicule of the ruling class.
“The news is pretty depressing in Mexico. We only wanted to open a space to laugh,” says Daniel, one of the founders of ElDeforma. (The staff use pseudonyms in stories and interviews.) “I wouldn’t say that we’re changing Mexico, but we’re opening a path so that people can be critical.”