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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 6: lndigenism, Mestizaje and National Identity 131

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Chapter Six Indigenism, Mestizaje and National Identity During the 1940s, the indigenist movement in Mexico gathered momentum as the state stepped up its efforts to integrate the Indian into national life. Signaling indigenism's growing importance (not only in Mexico, but in many other Latin American nations as well), the Mexican state hosted the Primer Congreso Indigenista Interamericano in 1940. This meeting led to the creation of the Instituto Indigenista Interamericano in 1942, which was based in Mexico, and to the foundation of the Instituto Nacional Indigenista in 1947. This decade also marked a period of intense modernization. In 1940, with Manuel Avila Camacho's election to the Mexican presidency (1940-1946), the social reform of the Lazaro Cardenas years came to an abrupt end. Priority shifted dramatically from social to economic progress, a trend that accelerated during the Miguel Aleman presidency ( 1946-1952). Indigenism formed an integral part of the state's economic development plans. As Cynthia Steele points out, Indian labor "was considered essential to the nation's economic growth" (70). Braulio Munoz likewise asserts that integration "translated a desire of the Mexican bourgeoisie ... to create an adequate internal market to support its growth" (194 ). Integration would also strengthen the sense of national unity, which was critical to protecting the nation from internal divisions and foreign intrusions. I Besides paying increased attention to the Indian's integration into mainstream society, the state initiated a new direction in the indigenist movement that would persist into the following decade. In the 1930s, Lazaro Cardenas had sought to...

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