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Constructing the Image of the Mexican Revolution

Constructing the Image of the Mexican Revolution

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    Constructing the Image of the Mexican Revolution
    Book Description:

    With a cast ranging from Pancho Villa to Dolores del Río and Tina Modotti,Constructing the Image of the Mexican Revolutiondemonstrates the crucial role played by Mexican and foreign visual artists in revolutionizing Mexico's twentieth-century national iconography. Investigating the convergence of cinema, photography, painting, and other graphic arts in this process, Zuzana Pick illuminates how the Mexican Revolution's timeline (1910-1917) corresponds with the emergence of media culture and modernity.

    Drawing on twelve foundational films fromQue Viva Mexico!(1931-1932) toAnd Starring Pancho Villa as Himself(2003), Pick proposes that cinematic images reflect the image repertoire produced during the revolution, often playing on existing nationalist themes or on folkloric motifs designed for export. Ultimately illustrating the ways in which modernism reinvented existing signifiers of national identity,Constructing the Image of the Mexican Revolutionunites historicity, aesthetics, and narrative to enrich our understanding of Mexicanidad.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79342-2
    Subjects: Film Studies, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. 1-10)

    This book is an investigation of the ways in which the cinema participated in the visual constructions of the Mexican Revolution and the processes that shaped and contributed to the dissemination of these constructions on film since the 1930s in Mexico and internationally. It highlights the convergence between film and other visual media, including photography, painting, and graphic arts, to explain the significance of visual technologies in the twentieth century and their mediating role in the forging of the collective memories of a nation.

    The basic framework of the narrative is the widespread uprising against the regime of President Porfirio...

  5. Chapter 1 The Revolution as Media Event DOCUMENTARY IMAGE AND THE ARCHIVE
    (pp. 11-38)

    Mexican revolutionary leaders granted access and integrated photographers and cameramen into their armies to record the campaigns. This access implied, as the advertisements forThe Fall of Ciudad Juárez and Trip of the Revolutionary Hero Francisco I. Maderostated, that the images produced thereby “were the only authentic ones” (Miquel, 1997, 58). Whether or not these claims of authenticity were simply a publicity device, the presence of cameramen on trains carrying troops, on battlefields, and among crowds greeting the triumphant armies in cities transformed their understanding of the medium. As De los Reyes writes, “The revolution developed the visual-historical consciousness...

  6. Chapter 2 Historicity and the Archive RECONSTRUCTION AND APPROPRIATION
    (pp. 39-68)

    Photographers and cameramen became the earliest historiographers of what Americans called the Mexican war. Alongside diplomats, politicians, and journalists, the art historian and curator James Oles writes, “they would participate in the visual reduction of an amazingly complex historical scenario—marked and obscured by shifting alliances, by trainloads of misinformation created by all sides, and by a wide range of competing personalities—into a comprehensible construction for the American public” (1993, 59). Although the accounts of the radical activists and journalists John Reed and John Kenneth Turner remain the most well known, their bearing on mainstream public opinion was minimal....

  7. Chapter 3 Pancho Villa on Two Sides of the Border
    (pp. 69-96)

    InThe Eagle and the Serpent(1928), Martín Luis Guzmán writes, “My interest in Villa and his activities made me ask myself, while I was in Ciudad Juárez, which exploits would best paint the Division of the North: those supposed to be strictly historical or those rated as legendary; those related exactly as they had been seen, or those in which a touch of poetic fancy brought out their essence more clearly. These second always seemed to me truer, more worthy of being considered history” (1965, 163). This view of the historical credibility of legend is key to Villa’s mythology...

  8. Chapter 4 Avant-Garde Gestures and Nationalist Images of Mexico in Eisenstein’s Unfinished Project
    (pp. 97-124)

    On December 6 or 7, 1930, the Soviet filmmaker Sergei M. Eisenstein crossed the border from California into Mexico by train accompanied by Grigori Alexandrov and Eduard Tissé, his assistant and cinematographer. He had secured funding from the socialist writer Upton Sinclair and his wife, Mary, to make a film in Mexico. What the film was going to be neither Eisenstein nor his financial backers knew. What none of them suspected was that fourteen months later, on February 23, 1932, Eisenstein and his crew would recross the border, to Texas this time, because the film was suspended, to remain forever...

  9. Chapter 5 Reconfiguring the Revolution: CELEBRITY AND MELODRAMA
    (pp. 125-144)

    The golden age of Mexican cinema (1935–1950) coincides with the consolidation of the revolution that began with the election of Lázaro Cárdenas (1934–1940) and extended into the presidencies of Manuel Ávila Camacho (1940–1946) and Miguel Alemán (1946–1952.)¹ An important feature of this process was a redefined relationship between state and culture that consisted in the elaboration of policies aimed at sustaining nationalist discourses on modernization and the use of mass media to promote national unity, prosperity, and internationalism at home and abroad. The effect was a new renaissance in which cinema, music, architecture, and dance replaced...

  10. Chapter 6 The Aesthetics of Spectacle
    (pp. 145-175)

    In the era of economic prosperity and development historians have termed the “Mexican miracle” (1940–1968), the state promoted history as a heritage and marketed culture and identity as a commodity. “The post-1950 period,” Eric Zolov writes, “was the culminating moment in the refashioning of Mexican stereotypes of backwardness and danger” (2001, 235). In the process, cosmopolitan-folkloric discourses regained currency. As in the nineteenth century, modern and indigenous elements were brought together and placed at the service of a nationalist project aimed at rehabilitating Mexico’s image abroad as well as reinforcing the official view of progress and growth at home....

  11. Chapter 7 Competing Narratives and Converging Visions
    (pp. 176-208)

    In fall 1913, coverage of events in Mexico increased in the United States, with special attention to Pancho Villa and his Chihuahua campaign. As Mark Cronlund Anderson notes, the media’s fascination was due to the leader’s military deeds and the success of his agents in promoting his agenda (2000, 47). Journalists traveled to the border to report on the fighting between revolutionary troops and the Federal army. Among them was John Reed, who had been hired by Carl Covey, editor ofMetropolitan magazineon the advice of the veteran journalist Lincoln Steffens. To increase his income as a freelancer, the...

    (pp. 209-218)

    Beyond any clichés summoned by films using as a visual and narrative backdrop the events that took place and the actors who participated in Mexico during the period 1910–1917, the revolution was a defining historical moment. It has shaped the modern identity of the country for Mexicans and foreigners alike and has informed to this day the ideology of Mexican nationalism, even as modernist concepts of nationhood are being challenged by globalization. The revolution captured the imaginations of progressive intellectuals and artists in Mexico and elsewhere and sparked their militancy and creativity. Whether their fascination was shaped by direct...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 219-230)
  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 231-242)
  15. Index
    (pp. 243-253)