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Culture, Politics, and National Identity in Mexican Literature and Film, 1929-1952

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Anne T. Doremus

From 1929 to 1952 Mexico underwent a period of intense nationalism as the state, newly emerging from the Mexican Revolution, sought to legitimize itself, consolidate its institutions, and promote economic growth. As a consequence, these years also witnessed a fervent search for national self-awareness in the cultural sphere. This work contrasts constructions of national identity in some of the most renowned literary works of the period with those in some of the most popular films, revealing their distinct functions within the nationalist project. It demonstrates that in spite of their striking dissimilarities, articulations of a Mexican consciousness in these two mediums were complementary within the framework of nationalism, as they satisfied and shaped the interests and desires of distinct sectors of Mexican society.

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Introduction 1

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Introduction In the decades following the Revolution, specifically from 1929 to 1952, Mexico underwent a period of intense nationalism as the newly emerging state sought to legitimize itself, consolidate its institutions and promote economic growth. As a direct and indirect consequence of this nationalism, these years witnessed an intense search for national self- awareness in the cultural sphere. Responding in part to the identity crisis triggered by the Revolution, many artists and intellectuals set out to define what it meant to be Mexican. They constructed new articulations of national identity that sought both to satisfy the demands of many Mexicans, and to help the state attain the social control it needed to consolidate itself and implement its economic policies. Among the ways they did this was by I) stressing the notion of a shared or collective identity; 2) compensating for social and economic inequalities and containing social tensions (above all by glorifying the lower classes as the most virtuous and authentic Mexicans); 3) emphasizing character traits important to preparing Mexicans for modernity; I and 4) urging Mexicans to gain self-awareness (to avoid losing their identity as a result of cultural incursions from abroad, particularly from the United States). Mexican society experienced enormous change in 1929. The presidential elections signaled the beginning of a new era in which the state would focus on creating political and economic stability through institution-building. This year also witnessed the complex transformation of caudillismo into the National Revolutionary Party (later renamed the Institutional Revolutionary Party), which...

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