Boris the Boricua
Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 6th December, 2011
London Mayor Boris Johnson this evening had his fifth meeting with the capital’s Ibero-American community, i.e. the Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking populace, who are thought to number about 700,000 in the city, and over one million in Britain as a whole. As a warm-up act, those of us (including several Ambassadors) who had gathered in one of the large meeting halls of Senate House, University of London, were entertained with an interesting power-point presentation which highlighted those areas where the community is strongest, including Southwark and Lambeth (mainly Hispanic Americans and Portuguese), Brent (Brazilians) and Tottenham (a bit of everything). Isaac Bigio, the indefatigible Peruvian journalist and Ibero-American community activist who has been one of the prime movers in getting this section of London’s diverse population politically motivated, gave an amusing stream-of-conscious style introduction to Boris, claiming that because the Mayor had been born in a Puerto Rican trust hospital in New York (true), his parents had called him Boris, as a nod to boricua (which is what PR natives call themselves). That got a big laugh and a round of applause, but Boris himself — who is not so much a Mayor as a performance — provided an alternative and rather moving explanation, which was that he was called Boris after a man who had known his parents when they were living in Mexico and who had stumped up the airfare to New York so the pregnant Charlotte Johnson (a painter whom I knew in Brussels, along with her husband Stanley) could give birth in the comparative safety of the United States. Boris — who is the spitting image of his father, even down to his voice and intonation — was his usual charming bafoon self, mixing overtly political points with wild gestures, sighs and outrageous exclamations. One of his more challenging over-the-top statements was that we Londoners are now ‘going through a neo-Victorian period of investment in our city,’ which offers great prospects for progress and infrastructure. If he uses that line much in the run-up to next May’s elections, I’m sure his opponents will be quick to point out that whereas the Victorian age was wonderful for capitalists and professionals, life for much of the urban poor was pretty dire.