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Sergio de la Mora
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    Book Description:

    After the modern Mexican state came into being following the Revolution of 1910, hyper-masculine machismo came to be a defining characteristic of "mexicanidad," or Mexican national identity. Virile men (pelados and charros), virtuous prostitutes as mother figures, and minstrel-like gay men were held out as desired and/or abject models not only in governmental rhetoric and propaganda, but also in literature and popular culture, particularly in the cinema. Indeed, cinema provided an especially effective staging ground for the construction of a gendered and sexualized national identity.

    In this book, Sergio de la Mora offers the first extended analysis of how Mexican cinema has represented masculinities and sexualities and their relationship to national identity from 1950 to 2004. He focuses on three traditional genres (the revolutionary melodrama, the cabaretera [dancehall] prostitution melodrama, and the musical comedy "buddy movie") and one subgenre (the fichera brothel-cabaret comedy) of classic and contemporary cinema. By concentrating on the changing conventions of these genres, de la Mora reveals how Mexican films have both supported and subverted traditional heterosexual norms of Mexican national identity. In particular, his analyses of Mexican cinematic icons Pedro Infante and Gael García Bernal and of Arturo Ripstein's cult film El lugar sin límites illuminate cinema's role in fostering distinct figurations of masculinity, queer spectatorship, and gay male representations. De la Mora completes this exciting interdisciplinary study with an in-depth look at how the Mexican state brought about structural changes in the film industry between 1989 and 1994 through the work of the Mexican Film Institute (IMCINE), paving the way for a renaissance in the national cinema.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79470-2
    Subjects: Film Studies, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-v)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vi-vii)
  3. Preface How I Too Came to Love Pedro Infante
    (pp. viii-xiv)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xx)
  5. Introduction Macho Nation?
    (pp. 1-20)

    Since the end of the nineteenth century, film has furnished a vehicle for the circulation of narratives of Mexican national identity. My interest lies with the various strategies used by cultural producers and consumers to negotiate and contest cinematic representations of national identity that depict highly gendered and sexualized roles for men and women. I am especially interested in revisiting the highly abused and misused terms “macho” and “machismo” in order to offer critical and alternative interpretations of these concepts. I am attracted to the question of how gendered and sexualized narratives of national identity are represented in three traditional...

  6. 1 “Midnight Virgin” Melodramas of Prostitution in Literature and Film
    (pp. 21-67)

    With no pretense of objectivity, I surmise that film junkies like myself would be hard pressed to find a more unusual take on the world’s oldest profession than the moody, film noir–laced musical cabaretera melodramas that were all the rage in Mexico in the 1940s and ’50s. Few actresses playing “fallen women” have been as infused with tragedy as Andrea Palma’s melancholic look in La mujer del puerto (Woman of the Port, Arcady Boytler, 1933) or Distinto amanecer (New Dawn, Julio Bracho, 1943); few have shown as much pleasure in unmasking middle-class hypocrisy as Ninón Sevilla in Aventurera (Adventuress,...

  7. 2 Pedro Infante Unveiled Masculinities in the Mexican “Buddy Movie”
    (pp. 68-104)

    In Mexican popular culture, the sexual and gender transgressions of the archetypal Mexican macho are a constant source of pleasure, fun, and banter. One need only look to the tradition of the albur to find sayings such as macho probado es macho calado (a real man is he who has been fucked by another man) or the near-universal joke—

    ¿Cuál es la diferencia entre un mexicano homosexual y uno que no lo es?

    Dos copas.

    [What is the difference between a Mexican homosexual and one who isn’t?

    Two drinks.]¹

    Despite the fact that male homosexuality figures prominently in Mexico’s picaresque...

  8. 3 The Last Dance (Homo)Sexuality and Representation in Arturo Ripstein’s El lugar sin límites and the Fichera Subgenre
    (pp. 105-134)

    Of all the lonely and tortured losers and dreamers in Arturo Ripstein’s extensive filmography, La Manuela, the aging and somewhat grotesque transvestite star of El lugar sin límites (Hell Has No Limits/The Place Without Limits, 1977), stands out as his most memorable character. La Manuela embodies the abject and quintessentially flamboyant effeminacy intimately linked to how male homosexuality has historically been perceived and represented in Mexican society and culture. La Manuela, as portrayed by the late actor Roberto Cobo, is both heroic and pathetic. She is admirable for her tenacity in conquering Pancho, a virile married man, whose conflicting homoerotic...

  9. 4 Mexico’s Third-Wave New Cinema and the Cultural Politics of Film
    (pp. 135-162)

    In the 1989 to 1994 administrative period, the ambitious initiatives of IMCINE Director Ignacio Durán Loera in collaboration with various national and international private and state cultural institutions carried out controversial changes to deregulate and privatize the film industry. Government investments in the film industry were drastically reduced, while at the same time IMCINE aggressively promoted a new generation of filmmakers who formed a putative “new cinema” that heralded an uneven and discontinuous and controversial renaissance in Mexican film culture. This renaissance was augmented by high-profile exhibitions of Mexican art and culture globally, but especially in the United States. Most...

  10. Epilogue Mexican Cinema is Dead! Long Live Mexican Cinema!
    (pp. 163-179)

    Not every actor inspires poetry. But for San Francisco Bay Area resident Marina García-Vásquez (2004), Gael García Bernal is

    the sparkle in onyx

    an invincible eye-smile

    obsidian against metallic

    lips waves folding into each other

    boca de cielo


    a dahlia in full bloom

    deep water-thrust of an octopus

    a lone white kite lifting over Bombay

    sun pressed against the moon

    an eclipse.

    The poem “For Gael” by the managing editor of Planet, a San Francisco-based cultural magazine, appeared in an issue carrying the theme of “man & woman.” The text occupies the right edge of a full-page black and white...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 180-196)
  12. Works Consulted
    (pp. 197-226)
  13. Index
    (pp. 227-236)