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Cold War Exiles in Mexico

Cold War Exiles in Mexico: U.S. Dissidents and the Culture of Critical Resistance

Rebecca M. Schreiber
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 336
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  • Book Info
    Cold War Exiles in Mexico
    Book Description:

    The onset of the Cold War in the 1940s and 1950s precipitated the exile of many U.S. writers, artists, and filmmakers to Mexico. Rebecca M. Schreiber illuminates the work of these cultural exiles and shows how the Cold War culture of political exile challenged American exceptionalist ideology and demonstrated the resilience of oppositional art, literature, and film in response to state repression.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6624-9
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Introduction
    (pp. ix-xxvi)

    The onset of the Cold War precipitated a distinct and extensive formation of political exile comprising U.S. writers, artists, and filmmakers who left the United States during the 1940s and 1950s for political reasons.¹ Although many of these individuals relocated to Western Europe, including England, France, and Italy, among the most crucial and least studied of this exodus were the communities that developed in Mexico.² The communities of U.S. artists, writers, and filmmakers in Mexico developed in stages after President Lázaro Cárdenas (1934–1940) welcomed U.S. Spanish Civil War veterans to reside in the country during the late 1930s. The...

  4. 1 Routes Elsewhere: The Formation of U.S. Exile Communities in Mexico
    (pp. 1-26)

    From the 1930s through the 1950s, Mexico served as a place of refuge for political dissidents from abroad. The liberal administration of Lázaro Cárdenas (1934–1940) welcomed individuals seeking sanctuary from fascist governments in Spain and Germany, political opponents of Stalinist Russia, and U.S. veterans of the Spanish Civil War. Beginning in the late 1940s, these exile communities were joined by left-wing artists, filmmakers, and writers from the United States. Julian Zimet, a blacklisted Hollywood screenwriter who relocated to Mexico in the early 1950s, also remembers meeting “school teachers, doctors, journalists, businessmen, college professors and government employees who had been...

  5. 2 The Politics of Form: African American Artists and the Making of Transnational Aesthetics
    (pp. 27-57)

    Many of the African American visual artists who moved to Mexico did so because of a passionate attraction to Mexican art. Most had encountered the work of Mexican muralists and printmakers in the United States and chose to move south of the Río Grande because of their knowledge and interest in Mexican art. Their already established familiarity with an aspect of Mexican culture distinguished them from most U.S. exiles who relocated because it seemed the course of least resistance and a matter of practical choice. This difference significantly affected the particular way in which Mexican culture would subsequently contribute to...

  6. 3 Allegories of Exile Political Refugees and Resident Imperialists
    (pp. 58-100)

    The Cold War exiles left the United States as political outcasts. Once in Mexico, however, they were often confronted with the relative privilege they personified as U.S. citizens. In this regard, important differences existed between African American and white exiles that were further complicated by class and U.S. citizenship status. Dalton Trumbo’s son Chris Trumbo later implied that the Hollywood refugees were “resident imperialists.”¹ For some of the most privileged U.S. exiles in Mexico, this dual and contradictory position—as both resident imperialists and political refugees—became an important subtext of their cultural work. This particular tension was especially evident...

  7. 4 Audience and Affect: Divergent Economies of Representation and Place
    (pp. 101-136)

    Hugo Butler and Dalton Trumbo were good friends with similar political perspectives, but they parted ways when it came to bullfighting. Jean Rouverol describes the disagreement between her husband and Trumbo in her memoirs. As she recalls, her husband felt that there was “little difference between slaughtering an animal for beef and killing it in the bullring.” Trumbo, who had owned a cow as well as a few horses on his ranch in Southern California, disagreed. While Rouverol represents their discussions as jovial, one of their conversations ended up in Walter Winchell’s gossip column in theHollywood Reporter,“transmogrified by...

  8. 5 Unpacking Leisure: Tourism, Racialization, and the Publishing Industry
    (pp. 137-169)

    During the twenty years following World War II, the Mexican tourist industry modernized and grew exponentially. Propelled by foreign speculative investment and Mexican state–sponsored promotion of “national culture,” tourism played a significant role in remaking the Mexican landscape, especially in coastal areas prime for resort development.¹ Vacationing tourists from the United States provided a stark counterpoint to the U.S. exiles residing in Mexico. Perhaps unsurprisingly, between the mid-1950s and mid-1960s American tourists were frequent subjects in U.S. exile writing.² They were the sanctioned double of the fugitive exile and a garish symbol of U.S. hemispheric preponderance. Of all the...

  9. 6 Exile and After Exile
    (pp. 170-201)

    “American tourists are fools when armed with a camera,” complained the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City to the U.S. Department of State on September 25, 1958. It seems that for all the much-touted mutual benefits of the tourist economy, certain U.S. vacationers had carelessly mistaken scenes of political insurgency for photo-album mementos. “American tourists were observed taking pictures in the vicinity of areas where the police were attempting to rout the dissident [labor and student] groups,” reported the U.S. Embassy dispatch. The Embassy worried less about these tourists documenting police brutality than about what they interpreted as the tourists’ naïve...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 202-214)

    I have argued that the work of the Cold War exiles constitutes a form of critical transnationalism that challenged the official versions of U.S. national culture from the mid-1940s to the mid-1960s. This development in their work was a direct consequence of their repression and dislocation by the U.S. government and the multiple communities of cultural producers established in Mexico. Members of the Cold War culture of political exile in Mexico produced film, visual artwork, and fictional and nonfictional writing that developed in numerous locations and drew upon multiple cultural traditions. These works were positioned both aesthetically and ideologically against...

  11. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 215-218)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 219-280)
  13. Index
    (pp. 281-304)
  14. Back Matter
    (pp. 305-305)