Many years before “the Karen” became so famous in the United States during the pandemic, another similar phenomenon was already setting a trend in Mexican social networks.
Under that moniker, hundreds of middle-aged white women have gone viral in recent months thanks to videos of them starring in racist acts or trying to show their supposed superiority by refusing to abide by rules.
But Mexico has long had its own version of these characters (in this case, both men and women) who achieved fame after starring in public scandals: they are the so-called “lords” and “ladies.”
Mexicans have spent a decade wasting creativity on the internet, where they are baptized and popularized based on “memes”, especially on Twitter.
But the “new normal” caused by the covid-19 also motivated the recent appearance (much to their regret) of new stars of this phenomenon closely linked to the pandemic.
For many, these characters are nothing more than a funny phenomenon. But according to experts, that the “lords” and “ladies” remain for so many years in the country only reflects the great inequality and classism that persists in part of Mexican society.
“You don’t know who you are talking to”
The labels “lords” and “ladies” (which could be another version of the Mexicans known as “mirreyes” and “lobukis” ) are given to people who act abusively, break the rules, attack others or demand that they are treated before the rest.
“It is used for that reason of ‘you think you are a lady or a lord because you think you are someone of power’, but in the end, it is nothing more than a sarcastic use to show their bad behavior,” Luz María Garay, professor, tells BBC Mundo of Communication of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).
In some cases, it does correspond to people with a medium-high or high socioeconomic level, who intend to exercise their supposed power and privilege.
“And it is at the moment when someone reproaches them for their attitude and records them, that those people use the phrase ‘you do not know who you are talking to, you are a naco'” adds the expert.
The first best-known case dates back to 2011 when women who were nicknamed ” Ladies de Polanco” (one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the Mexican capital) rose to fame.
That year, the internet was scandalized by a video in which they appeared insulting and beating a policeman who apparently stopped them for a road incident.
The main objective behind the publication of these videos is to report acts of arrogance and abuse so that they are punished. This was the case with the “Ladies of Polanco”, who had to end up paying a fine to avoid jail.
Also in 2013, when after the daughter of Humberto Benítez – then director of the Federal Consumer Prosecutor’s Office (Profeco) – ordered the closure of a restaurant where he could not get a table, her father and other agency officials were fired. She was christened “Lady Profeco”.
However, as Garay acknowledges, “in the end, many of these accusations do not go beyond public derision in the digital world because there is no follow-up or complaint, so the scandal remains on the networks for a couple of days and is over.”
Pros and cons
Precisely this massive exposure against the will of the “lords and ladies” can sometimes have unexpected consequences.
“There are times when these people become victims because nobody gives them the right to reply. Society automatically judges and punishes them without being able to explain whether what is seen is true or not,” Rodrigo Sandoval, professor of the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences of the Autonomous University of the State of Mexico.
Sandoval recalls the case of journalist Lydia Cumming, who in 2016 was baptized as “Lady Reporter” as a result of a photo that showed two people carrying her to prevent her from getting wet in a flood in the city of Puebla.
Although she assured that she had not asked to be loaded and that it only happened for a few seconds, the controversy caused served so that her company fired her in a fulminating way.
Sandoval, the author of a study that analyzes some thirty of the most representative cases of “lords” and “ladies” in Mexico, warns of “how dangerous it can sometimes be for the online society to become judgmental and the repercussions for the designated person, of which the person who launched the meme is obviously not responsible. “
Garay agrees to underline the positive end of this phenomenon when it comes to making violent or abusive practices visible, but he also recalls the other side of the coin.
“Sometimes the privacy of these people is violated as with the use of their image without authorization, or even their data or address is published. Sometimes, this digital violence or persecution is solved simply by closing their social networks, but in other cases, it can even have a psychological impact on them, “he says.
The phenomenon in pandemic
Far from disappearing, this phenomenon in Mexico also survived the covid-19 thanks to “lords” and “ladies” who pretended not to respect the new norms and behaviors that the pandemic brought us.
It was the case, for example, of people, pointed out in networks for having skipped the line when it came to being vaccinated against the new coronavirus.
Or “Lady Pizza” and “Lord Pizza”, two customers of a pizzeria who – in separate incidents – caused a real scandal and even attacked vendors who refused to serve them for not wearing masks in the store.
“Do you want to see how I talk to my band and right now worth v **** they arrive and blast them?”, The woman shouted as she hit the window to sell her long-awaited pizza.
“Lady 3 pesos” also became famous, who rebuked the security guards of a supermarket because they did not allow her access with her minor daughter (at that time prohibited as a preventive measure against covid-19).
“You earn three pesos, right? Oh, poor man, go eat pork rinds in green sauce at your little house, ” the woman said contemptuously to one of the guards, whom she claimed to be a lawyer.
After what happened, the woman was fired from the real estate company where she worked. He posted an apology message in which he claimed to have received death threats over the phone.
However, he chose to take what happened with humor and later published a video in which he appeared eating pork rind tacos in green sauce to show that they really are one of his “favorite foods.”
What does it say about Mexico?
Experts agree that behind this phenomenon the existing inequality in Mexico is latent, which in a certain way disappears thanks to the easy access to social networks in which anyone can expose the behavior of the “lords” and “ladies”.
“The use of these labels allows equality, it does not matter if you have a lot or little money: if you have a cell phone with internet, you have the same power to report a rich person or with big cars. Technology makes us homologous, makes us equal”, Sandoval highlights.
Regarding the people who are exposed, the phenomenon reflects those Mexicans who sometimes try to take advantage of their influences or “levers” to exercise abuse of power.
“Many of the more recent ‘lords’ and ‘ladies’ are not really high class or wealthy, but are ordinary people who want to appear, have abusive attitudes, and just want to be smart or smart,” says Garay.
Regarding those who publish the videos, for her part, the academic believes that in some cases she also hides a certain “social resentment” when making her remarks with a mocking tone.
“That kind of mockery is part of Mexican slang, making fun of restrictions, as well as making fun of death a little …”, says Sandoval.
“It really is to make it clear that the ‘lords’ and ‘ladies’ also commit abusive or violent practices that are sometimes only associated with poorer or ‘neighborhood’ people. It is to show that they are general practices,” he explains.
“I do not know if I would say envy, but rather revenge towards those classes that have always abused others and that in the digital scene you can charge the bill,” he adds.
In fact, Garay believes that the current political scene in Mexico contributes to this confrontation on social networks, beyond the phenomenon of “lords” and “ladies.”
“With this government in which there is a discourse of equality and of ‘the poor first’, the networks have become an arena of a very strong dispute with sectors that are very opposed between those who support the president and those who oppose them,” he says.
“The use we see of hashtags on a daily basis reflects that we know how to manage the networks in this polarized environment in the country, and we will see it even more with issues such as the pandemic, vaccination, and the June elections,” he predicts.