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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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CHAPTER 1: Mexican Culture in the 1920s 18

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Chapter One Mexican Culture in the 1920s Many of the patterns of cultural life in the 1930s and the 1940s had their roots in the 1920s and before. For example, it was during the 1920s that art, under Jose Vasconcelos, began to play a primary role in nationalism. This provoked a controversy among artists, as some reacted against the use of art for political and social purposes. Thus began the debate between the "cultural nationalists," who favored art's use as a pedagogical and aesthetic tool directed at the masses, and the "universalists" who opposed it. This debate prevailed through the 1930s and the 1940s. Notwithstanding their disagreements, both the cultural nationalists and the universalists were highly involved in politics during the I 920s, whether through their art or other means, and most supported the state. This trend continued through the 1930s and the 1940s and, as we will see, could largely be attributed to such factors as economic necessity, a long tradition of close involvement with politics and the state (particularly in the case of the writers), and the state's intolerance for opposition. The concepts of national identity that developed in literature and film during the 1930s and the 1940s also had their roots in the 1920s and before. National identity was a major topic for writers during the 1920s. Intellectual giants such as Jose Vasconcelos, Antonio Caso and Alfonso Reyes directed much of their writing towards understanding the national character and problems, considerably influencing writers in the decades to...

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