There is a culture of blood and a culture of ink. These two cultures confront each
other and intertwine with each other. I would like to say we are leaving an age of
blood behind, to enter into an age of ink, but there is little basis for such opti-
mism. At best, we might think that the space of ink has spread considerably. In
fact, it seems to me that—with ideologiesin crisis—we can see a return, and per-
haps a strengthening, of this tragic duality.
The culture of blood exalts identity, religious fidelity, revolutionary struggle,
and the defense of the fatherland. The culture of ink praises the multiplicity of
writing and drives its arguments home on printed paper, not on the battlefield.
The culture of blood is stained with the red color of life, but it is willing to trade
that life in, for the good of the class or the homeland. It contrasts with the black-
ness that stains the minimal arguments of writers, although sometimes the cul-
ture of ink exchanges its ideas for a plate of beans. To strengthen these meta-
phors, we could turn to the ancient Nahua’s images of black and red ink (tlilli,
tlapalli) in a legendary land, the country of wisdom. But even there, in the inks
that the wise used to paint the codices, this unsettling duality made its appear-
ance, confronting the dangerous mysteries of the night with the bloody forces
Obviously, the essays in this book are the result of drinking ink, as Shake-
speare put it, and eating paper. Many writers and intellectuals have abandoned
the old activism of the political culture of blood, and our texts sprinkle ink over
the history pages that others would print with tides of violence. We no longer
1. On Nahua uses of red and black ink in codices, see Elizabeth Hill Boone, Stories in Red and
Black: Pictorial Histories of the Aztecs and Mixtecs (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2000).