The Value of International Psychoanalysis–part one

I have the dedicated passion of a convert.  Not too many years ago–maybe 5 or so–I really couldn’t see the value of an analyst in the US (that would be me) paying much attention to international psychoanalysis–or even regional psychoanalysis.  It seemed to me that we had so much in APsaA–so much going on, so many problems, so many possibilities, that paying attention to the rest of the world and what was going on psychoanalytically there seemed if not unnecessary, then something I didn’t have space in my head for or time in my day. I no longer think that way.

The Mexico City Congress is now concluded and it was an event I am sorry you missed if you didn’t go.  I love Mexico City (and its passionate psychoanalytic community) more and more the better I get to know it.

For me, the most riveting part of the experience of being a part of an international psychoanalytic event is learning about practices, programs and innovations outside of our psychoanalytic universe.  Often, these ideas that come from Europe or Latin America are utterly importable.

I’ll just mention one in this post.  I learned of a program in Stockholm that just knocked me over with its simplicity and “out of the box” creativity.  It is called Freud’s Bar.  Publicized to students on Facebook and twitter, the program involves a psychoanalyst being present at a designated time and place (the place being a nice bar–the kind where you can get a drink) and giving a 15 minute talk about psychoanalysis and then answering questions.

Some six hundred students attended the Mexico City congress as compared to less than 25 at previous IPA congresses.  Their attendance was in part due to a blitz via Facebook and twitter.  Obviously, the congresses must be set up to provide sessions that are attractive to students.  APsaA is ahead of the IPA on this and could be of help.



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Report from late April–Mexico City (still) Safe and Beautiful

Daniel Paul, IPA member from California, visited Mexico City late in April, 2011 and reported to other IPA members on his experience there—essentially reporting that he felt very safe, which mirrors my experience last December, and Arnie and Arlene Richards’ last fall.  I continue to encounter some members who have negative fantasies about the security situation in Mexico City–their personal safety–that are wildly out of sync with the facts and the experiences of those of us who have actually travelled to this beautiful city to check things out.

Daniel writes:

I was in Mexico City for a few days at the end of April 2011. I want to share how safe I felt, because I know that safety has been a concern for some members. I walked on Reforma Avenue in the Chapultepec Park area. This boulevard was built by Porfirio Diaz and was intended to be Mexico’s answer to the Champs Elysees in Paris. The median strip is often decorated with many highly imaginative sculptures. I then walked two miles on Madero Street in downtown Mexico City, starting from Bellas Artes (Palace of the Fine Arts) all the way to the Main Cathedral Square, visiting old churches and museums a long the way. This was during the day. I felt very safe and experienced no difficulties.

For the rest of Daniel Paul’s report click here

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Safety in Mexico City

Please visit Arnie Richard’s blog for a great deal of information on the IPA Congress, on  traveling in Mexico and on the safety situation in particular.

Arnie alerted us to this travel website blog post from Royal Resort news  which contains an excellent summary of the security situation.  It stresses the geography of Mexico in particular.  You absolutely cannot make an informed decision about travel to Mexico without looking at the geography.  The post just referenced quotes the travel minister:

Mexican Minister for Tourism Gloria Guevara Manzo gave another example by asking listeners if they heard about a violent crime in New York, would they cancel a trip to Birmingham, Alabama, 979 miles away, the answer would obviously be no. So why would an incident occurring thousands of miles away on the other side of Mexico affect a trip to the Mexican Caribbean?

This post is definitely worth checking out.  It contains detailed statistics on crime and travel, that taken together, make a compelling case that security should not be a concern for you in planning a visit to the IPA Congress this summer.

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“Off the Couch” and on to Mexico

“Off the Couch” is a new ezine (web-based magazine) edited by Robert White.  The ezine is a brand new offshoot of Arnie Richard’s successful blog.   Volume one, number two of the ezine, just released, is devoted to the arts and culture of Mexico with articles on photography, art and folk arts.  The visuals are worth a visit alone. But the articles are really interesting.  Bob White writes an introduction to the issue; I was asked to write an introduction to the pleasures of Mexico City (which is a summary of the information in this blog) but then there are some seriously fascinating pieces.  Danielle Knafo’s article “Frida Kahlo:  Mother and Mirror” satisfies some of the gnawing fascination Frida’s work instills in the viewer.  Arden Rothstein introduces the fabulous folk art of Oaxaca, which really is quite incredible.  Bob White took on the complex subject of the painting Kahlo created in response to Freud’s Moses and Monotheism.  Poetry by Martin Espada is also included. To see the magazine, go to Off the Couch.

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Update on security –no whitewash, more empathy?

A colleague recently posted to the APsaA list-serve a wrenching message indicating that she felt this blog and IPA messages were “white-washing” the security situation in Mexico City.  I admit to being very taken aback, especially by the intense tone of the email and the degree of alarm she felt.

It occurred to me that perhaps in conveying to you the results of my personal research into the safety situation in Mexico City, I had failed to be sufficiently empathic to the general level of fear in the U.S. about safety in Mexico. For that I apologize.  But I remain convinced that Mexico City is as safe as any large global city and that IPA members can visit without any more concern than they would need contemplating a visit to New York or Rome.

There is one situation somewhat unique to Mexico City—everyone agrees that you should not hail a cab on the streets but rather pick one up at designated stands, use a radio dispatched taxi, or have the concierge direct you to a cab.  Other than that, and taking another look at State Department assessments, I can see no reason to be afraid to travel to Mexico City.  And as I’ve tried to communicate elsewhere in this blog, many reasons to visit.

The U.S. State Department maintains a weekly update of security problems in Mexico (and elsewhere of course).

For the week of January 10, the State Department commented on 3 instances of crime.  One was a gruesome crime wave in Acapulco leaving 31 dead over a 48 hour period, including two policemen.  The second was closure of health care clinics in Sinaloa due to local violence.  And finally, 2 bystanders were killed in a drive by shooting in Guadalajara.  The latter crime happens, sadly, with great frequency in the U.S. including my hometown of Chicago.  The other two situations though are specifically linked to the campaign against the Mexican drug cartels.  Mexico is a big country.  Acapulco is 300 miles from Mexico City, and Sinaloa is 880 miles.  And you have to grasp the Mexico City is an enormous modern sophisticated city with over

Mexico City by night

21 million people in the metropolitan area.  This makes it very different from a vulnerable border town or beach resort.  In other words, the drug wars are real, and they are dangerous, but the vast majority of the victims are also involved in the drug wars somehow, and they are NOT in Mexico City.  The facts of the situation are such that that is not just a matter of chance that could change in an instant.


If you want to stay up to date on the State Department’s security updates on Mexico, go to Mexico Security Update.  Just be sure to note the location of events, and understand that just because something happens in the country of Mexico does not mean it is going to happen in Mexico City—it’s a large and varied nation.

During my December trip to Mexico City, I was lucky to spend a couple of days in the company of some wonderful young women students of psychoanalysis in their mid twenties.  I saw two of them again in New York during APsaA’s meeting and we had dinner together with my family and Pablo Cuevas.  In New York, after a late dinner,  I worried just a bit about their getting in a cab and getting back to their hotel safely.    A month earlier, in Mexico, I had observed their confidence navigating their home city.  Big cities are big cities.  I can promise you there is no attempt to whitewash or distort information.  Mexico City was an absolute delight, and I hope to go back more than once, to have a chance to see everything I want to see.


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Freud’s Mexico–a new book by Ruben Gallo

Princeton professor Ruben Gallo has just published an unexpected and unique new book called “Freud’s Mexico–Into the Wilds of Psychoanalysis”.

Jacket Cover for new book on Freud and Mexico

Freud never visited Mexico, but apparently he had a deep interest in the country, and included Mexican artifacts  in his antiquities collections.

An excerpt from the book’s advance publicity is quite riveting:

Freud’s Mexico is a completely unexpected contribution to Freud studies. Here, Rubén Gallo reveals Freud’s previously undisclosed connections to a culture and a psychoanalytic tradition not often associated with him. Freud found a receptive audience among Mexican intellectuals, read Mexican books, collected Mexican antiquities, and dreamed Mexican dreams; his writings bear the traces of a longstanding fascination with the country.

In the Mexico of the 1920s and 1930s, Freud made an impact not only among psychiatrists but also in literary, artistic, and political circles. Gallo writes about a “motley crew” of Freud’s readers who devised some of the most original, elaborate, and influential applications of psychoanalytic theory anywhere in the world: the poet Salvador Novo, a gay dandy who used Freud to vindicate marginal sexual identities; the conservative philosopher Samuel Ramos, who diagnosed the collective neuroses afflicting his country; the cosmopolitan poet Octavio Paz, who launched a psychoanalytic inquiry into the origins of Mexican history; and Gregorio Lemercier, a Benedictine monk who put his entire monastery into psychoanalysis.

After describing Mexico’s Freud, Gallo offers an imaginative reconstruction of Freud’s Mexico. Although Freud himself never visited Mexico, he owned a treatise on criminal law by a Mexican judge who put defendants—including Trotsky’s assassin—on the psychoanalyst’s couch; he acquired Mexican pieces as part of his celebrated collection of antiquities; and he recorded dreams of a Mexico that was fraught with danger. Freud’s Mexico features a varied cast of characters that includes Maximilian von Hapsburg, Leon Trotsky and his assassin Ramón Mercader, Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera—and even David Rockefeller. Gallo offers bold and vivid rereadings of both Freudian texts and Mexican cultural history.

About the Author

Rubén Gallo is Director of the Program in Latin American Studies and Professor in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Cultures at Princeton University. He is the author of Mexican Modernity: The Avant-Garde and the Technological Revolution (MIT Press, 2005).

To order the book from the MIT press click here

I’m grateful to Margaret Ann Hanly for bringing this book to our attention.  Just in time.

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Color and the Congress Venue

Interior World Trade Center Mexico City

Street Outside the Congress Venue

One of the things I love about Mexico is the astonishing use of color architecturally.       The Congress venue for the August 2011 IPA meeting is called the  World Trade Center (once you get over the shock of the name, understand it is nothing like the lost twin towers of New York).  It is a two story block structure in a surprisingly low key neighborhood with mixed residential and commercial structures.  Lots of restaurants nearby, as well as two Congress hotels (the Crowne Plaza and the Holiday Inn Express).


Outdoor Cafe at World Trade Center

Interior Corridor World Trade Center Mexico City


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