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


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 2: The Revolutionary and State Consolidation 30


Chapter Two The Revolutionary and State Consolidation With the Revolution still looming in the recent past, national identity during the Maximato (I 929-1935) continued to be expressed through the archetype of the revolutionary. In novels such as Martin Luis Guzman's La sombra del caudillo (In the Shadow of the Caudillo) and Rafael Munoz's Vdmonos con Pancho Villa (Let's Go with Pancho Villa), the revolutionary fighter is violent, immoral and ignorant. Such a depiction had predominated in novels of this type since Mariano Azuela' s Los de abajo (1915), widely considered a founding work. One exception to this articulation was Nellie Campobellos's Cartucho, which portrayed the Revolution and the revolutionary fighter in a much more positive light. However, this work was not widely read during the period. Guzman's and Mufioz' s novels appeased many intellectuals and wealthier Mexicans, who were unable to relate to the violence and chaos of the Revolution, and who feared the masses' increased access to power following the war. Moreover, by underscoring the ignorance of the masses (as embodied by the revolutionary), and the troubled state of the national soul, these writers were establishing the need for educated men like themselves in the nation-building process. In contrast, films such as El compadre Mendoza and Vdmonos con Pancho Villa, both of which were directed by Fernando de Fuentes, paint a much more favorable picture of the revolutionary, despite being influenced to some degree by the novel. Partially funded by the state, this medium sought to attain audience identification...

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