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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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Conclusion 182

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Conclusion Consistently throughout the 1930s and the 1940s many authors constructed images of national identity that were markedly different from those portrayed in the majority of films. Critics like Roger Bartra failed to take into account these differences, viewing articulations of the national consciousness during this period as uniform. As a result, they neglected to see the disparate purposes these constructions served within the nationalist project. As I have attempted to show, through their constructions of national identity, authors and filmmakers appealed to and shaped the interests, desires, and fears of two distinct audiences. Many authors were writing for the middle class and the educated elite. They expressed a strong interest in the nation's modernization, and viewed themselves as key players in that process. At the same time, however, they were concerned with the loss of cultural identity that might result from modernization and the imitation of North American culture. They therefore analyzed the national character in order to reveal its defects, and exhorted Mexicans to renounce the imitation of foreign cultural models as well as the "false" nationalism being promoted by the cultural nationalists. By discovering the most troublesome character traits in the most disadvantaged Mexicans, they privileged their particular audience and provided an emotional outlet for fears and resentments of the growing number of poor urban immigrants. Cinema was run primarily by businessmen, and also tended to promote the values and interests of the middle class. However, it needed to take into account a huge popular class audience...

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