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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 3: The Alienation of the Indian and the Integration Process 56


Chapter Three The Alienation of the Indian and the Integration Process Since the time of conquest and colonization, and above all smce independence from Spain, writers and intellectuals have sought to capture the essence of Latin America through an analysis of the indigenous peoples and cultures. Following independence, archetypes of the Indian were often employed to foster national identity and create social and political cohesion. In the wake of the Mexican Revolution, these archetypes proliferated as artists and intellectuals aspired to construct a national identity based not on European culture, as had been the case during the porfiriato, but rather on a uniquely Mexican one. Authentic "Mexicanness" was discovered in Mexico's Aztec heritage and glorified in the work of many artists, most famously that of the Mexican muralists. During the 1930s idealized images of the Aztecs continued to prevail in the work of many intellectuals and artists. However, at the same time, some writers began to take a more critical look at Mexico's indigenous populations and to analyze the reasons for their continued isolation. In stark contrast to the muralists, the main indigenist novels of the 1930s, El re::,plandor ( 1937), by Mauricio Magdaleno, and El Indio ( 1935), by Gregorio Lopez y Fuentes, find very little to redeem the Indian; he is apathetic, indifferent (even to death), meek, superstitious, fatalistic and prone to alcoholism and violence. The novelists attribute these characteristics to the Indian's long history of exploitation and abuse. They underscore the need for measures to improve the Indian's...

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