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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 5: The Psyche of the Provincial Mexican 104

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Chapter Five The Psyche of the Provincial Mexican While the novels of the Revolution during the 1930s had focused on the outward manifestations of the Mexican character during the period of armed conflict (Vamonos con Pancho Villa, by Rafael Mufioz, and Cartucho, by Nellie Campobello) and the caudillismo of the 1920's (La sombra del caudillo, by Martin Luis Guzman), many novels of the 1940's turned inward to examine the Mexican psyche. The shift partly reflected the changing times. When Manuel Avila Camacho was elected President in 1940, the country's political and economic structures had already taken shape, and a period of marked political stability and economic growth had begun. Accordingly, the main issue of concern in literature shifted from the Revolution's external consequences (social, political, economic and cultural) to its internal or psychological impacts (as could only be assessed at a distance from the Revolution) and their implications for the nation's future. Samuel Ramos had already addressed this issue in his celebrated 1934 essay El perfil del hombre y Ia cultura en Mexico ( 1934), which also significantly influenced the novel's direction in the 1940's. Novelists were further responding to growing criticisms that the Mexican novel had not gone beyond the purely superficial, picturesque and anecdotal. Likewise, film turned to the provincial Mexican to define national identity. Seemingly oblivious to the nation's increasing urbanization, the nation's provinces continued to provide the setting for the vast majority of films during the 1940s. An immutable place, the countryside gave a sense of permanence...

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