MEXICO CITY — The first taste the Mexican audience gets of Donald Trump is his golden head speaking from the face of a giant $100 bill, calling them “frijoleros” (“beaners”) and bragging about the wall that will block them from setting foot in the United States.
Trump and his bewigged followers only get more cartoonishly evil from there: tossing crumpled up bills at servants and drinks in waiters’ faces, stealing from the blind, bribing the police, snorting mountains of cocaine and ingesting exotic cures for impotency.
Such is the latest Mexican revenge against the Republican presidential candidate: A group of Mexican comedians is performing a popular play called “Los Hijos de Trump,” or “Sons of Trump,” in Mexico City’s Aldama Theater. It’s another riposte in Mexicans’ ongoing rebuttal to the candidate who launched his campaign by declaring that Mexican immigrants were criminals and rapists. From bashable Trump piñatas to Halloween masks with swooping manes, the candidate has often been met with mockery.
“Mexicans laugh at our tragedies,” said German Ortega, one of the stars of the play.
“Sons of Trump” is an adaptation of a show called “Brokers,” written by a Spanish comedy troupe, that skewers the lives of the super-rich. The actors involved are all quick to point out that they aren’t representing the antics of the real-life Donald or pursuing an explicitly political agenda.
“This is a social critique, in general, of the elitists,” said Freddy Ortega, German’s brother and fellow long-time television comedian, who also stars in the show. But the oversized Trump face beaming from billboards and the theater marquee hasn’t hurt interest. “It's had a marvelous result.”
As long as Trump continues to hover near the top of the polls, Mexicans will be eagerly, and trepidatiously, following his campaign. The U.S. presidential race always attracts interest here, but it is rare for a candidate to make Mexico so central to his platform. Since Trump began with slights against Mexican immigrants and then doubled down with proposals for mass deportations and stripping citizenship from illegal immigrants’ children, he has come to loom in the Mexican imagination as a gringo bogeyman.
In recent months, several Mexican businesses have called off projects with him because of his comments, including billionaire Carlos Slim’s Ora TV production company and the Mexican entertainment giant Televisa, which decided against broadcasting his “Miss Universe” pageant.
Mexican newspapers have been inspecting Trump’s new book, “Crippled America: How to Make America Great Again,” for clues about his plans for their country if he becomes president. (Trump writes that he would increase fees for border crossing cards and temporary visas or impound remittances to pay for the border wall he wants to build.)
There is no shortage of indignation about such proposals. A group of 67 Latin American artists, writers, actors and scientists this week published an open letter about the “hateful discourse of Trump” and called on people to “remember the historic campaigns against other ethnic groups that ended with millions dead.”
The Nobel-winning Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa, one of the signatories, told an audience at a literary festival in Houston last week that Trump’s comments about immigrants were “intolerable.”
“Attacking immigrants in a country that was built by immigrants is a contradiction that offends the best tradition of the United States as an open society,” Vargas Llosa said. “You have to be very critical and severe with someone who at this time, after all the terrible lessons that history has taught us about the consequences of racism, dares to use such arguments that appeal to the worst entrails of human beings.”
“Sons of Trump” happily roots around in those entrails as it goofily satirizes capitalist pigs. The Trump character functions in the play as the patron saint of the filthy rich, encouraging his look-alike “sons” — often by means of a spooky disembodied voice — to cheat, steal or kill their way to pecuniary glory. He’s the apotheosis of all the deadly sins, with special attention to gluttony and greed. Most of the play is unspoken, as the actors clown around and pantomime their jokes.
Offstage, the actors agree with the widespread Mexican repudiation of Trump’s anti-immigrant talk, but they also don’t take him too seriously.
“I don’t identify with what the man says,” Freddy Ortega said before a weekend performance. “To think that we have the monopoly on thieves and rapists and drug dealers, I think that’s quite wrong. I would answer him: Isn’t your country considered the largest consumer of drugs?”
German Ortega says that the overwhelming reaction to Trump has been rejection.
“More than anything else, it set off something really cool for Latinos: unity,” he said. “He’s been able to bring together the Mexican people and all Latinos.”
The play will tour Mexico and make stops in Texas. In some ways, the brothers noted, Trump might appreciate their performance.
“His strategy, his media campaign, it’s all a show, no?” Freddy Ortega said.