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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 7: The Construction of the Modern Mexican 156


Chapter Seven The Construction of the Modern Mexican Under Miguel Aleman ( 1946-1952), economic growth became even more of a priority than it had under Avila Camacho. Responding to the nation's rapid urbanization and industrialization, many writers and filmmakers of the late 1940's and the early 1950's began to focus even greater attention on the construction of a modern national subject. Both were concerned with preparing Mexicans for participation in the emerging economy, but went about this task in different ways. On the one hand, many writers, and in particular essayists, pointed out Mexicans' character tlaws, in the hopes of inducing self-awareness and change. They were eager to assert Mexico as a modern nation that could compete with and defend itself against the more developed nations. They were particularly concerned about encroachments from the United States. At the same time, they wished to maintain the status quo, which promoted the interests of the newly emerging middle classes and valued the work of intellectuals like themselves. Many films, on the other hand, attempted to forge a modern national subject by providing Mexicans with models and codes of behavior. At the same time, they sought to reinforce many traditional, middle class values. They wished to help stem the social disintegration that can result from immigrants' sudden contact with modern lifestyles and values. They also sought to defuse class tensions resulting from the poor distribution of income and other social and economic inequalities. They attempted to accomplish this by idealizing the popular classes (as...

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