Jack London and the Chicken Thieves

Jack London was, is clever, a man of contradictions. But who cares about that after reading “White Fang” and “Call of the Wild” as a child and “Martin Eden” as a teenager? In any case, it never hurts to review, even in passing, some of the springboards, jumps and falls of his life, such as those related to the Mexican Revolution, the historic earthquake “next to home” that shook the imagination -and until the action- of the writer born in San Francisco.

By the beginning of the last century, London was already a declared socialist militant. When he learned of the seizure of Mexicali by the revolutionaries Simón Berthold and José María Leyva under the orders of the anarchist leaders Ricardo and Enrique Flores Magón, in 1911, the author – who was already well known for “White Fang” and ” Before Adam”, among other works, he hastened to write a public letter of support for the revolt in Baja California.

Addressed to the “dear brave comrades of the Mexican revolution”, the text was published in February 1911, a few weeks after the action in Mexicali.

“We socialists, anarchists, vagabonds, chicken stealers, outlaws, and unsavory citizens of the United States,” the letter reads (as translated in the classic Spanish edition of “American and British Writers in Mexico, 1556-1973”). ” by D. Wayne Gunn published by the Fondo de Cultura Económica), “we participate with our hearts and souls in your effort to overthrow slavery and aristocracy in Mexico”.

However, in the midst of the maelstrom that were the last years of the life of the author and adventurer -who would die a few years later, in 1916-, London would take an intellectual and professional somersault when he commissioned Collier’s magazine to cover the intervention American in Mexico in 1914.

There are some unlikely legends that London even participated in the anarchist takeover of Mexicali in 1911. But it was in 1914 when he spent -this time for real- six weeks in Mexico, writing articles that justified the US military operation, even with somewhat racist arguments. At the same time, he recognizes an article by Adriana Díaz Enciso in Milenio, from 2014, intelligently portraying the social and economic situation of Mexicans.

A short time later, London “compensated” for this militaristic incursion with the publication in the Saturday Evening Post of the sensitive story “The Mexican.”

“London’s position in the face of the vicissitudes of Mexico in those turbulent years incurred in no less tumultuous contradictions,” says Díaz Enciso, who quotes the writer’s daughter, Joan, to recall the “moral collapse” that would lead the author of “Colmillo white” to death by possible suicide on November 11, 1916, when he was barely 40 years old.

Upon his return from Mexico, Joan once said, London was “a sick man, physically and mentally,” a condition that makes it very difficult to pursue the profession of chicken thief.

You may also like