MEXICO CITY — If there’s any controversy you'd expect at a cheerleader contest, it would probably be one over scandalously short skirts or showing too much breast.
But a cheer-dance routine in the Mexican city of Guadalajara has caused outrage with a bizarrely offensive performance. Teenage girls wearing Nazi uniforms pranced on stage, brandishing swastika flags, as apparent Adolf Hitler recordings blared.
The competition took place on May 31 with little fanfare, but videos of the Nazi dance have spread around the web recently, provoking anger along with bewilderment.
“Can people really be that clueless?” wrote the Jerusalem-based site Jewlicious. “Please, tread carefully around Nazis. No Hitler ice cream. No dressing like Hitler in school. No Hitler fried chicken. No Hitler shampoo. Just no. And please no, no Nazi cheerleaders!”
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As the indignation rose, the event organizer Enrique Casas defended the dance as artistic expression.
“Art can be surprising in any of its forms,” Casas told Spanish news agency EFE. “It can cause discomfort.”
He refused to release the name of the dance troupe, saying it was being “demonized.”
Juan Alberto Cedillo, author of the book “Los Nazis en Mexico,” says the dance reflects a long-held fascination with Nazism by some people here.
Copies of Hitler’s "Mein Kampf," translated as “Mi Lucha,” can be found at many street stalls, along with documentaries on the Fuhrer and his regime.
“Unlike in Europe, many people in Mexico don’t understand the implications of the Nazi regime and the acts of genocide. Some like the swastika symbol because they think it looks good,” Cedillo says.
There is also an undercurrent of small far-right groups with Nazi sympathies that have existed in Mexico since the 1930s. Members are often from conservative Catholic sections of the Mexican elite, including in Guadalajara, where the contest was held, Cedillo explains.
“There is a lot of racism in Mexico, although it is not vocalized,” he says.
And yet, in unexpected settings some Mexicans' far-right fixations do come out loudly — and even to rapturous applause.
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