This article brings into dialogue Manuel Maples Arce’s manifesto “Actual N°-1” (1921) and Salvador Novo’s short narrative piece, El joven: ¡QUE MEXICO! Novela en que no pasa nada (1923), two of the first pieces of vanguard writing in Latin America. Although the two authors belonged to competing Mexican vanguard groups (Maples Arce was an Estridentista and Novo, a Contemporáneo) the article argues that these two early pieces inspired the Estridentistas and Contemporáneos alike; it also explores the similar devices of the two authors. In these early texts Maples Arce and Novo borrow slogans from advertising and politics, voice doubts about state-sponsored modernizing projects, the Mexican revolution and its legacy. Furthermore, both utilize protagonists that are veiled versions of the authors themselves, wandering the streets of Mexico City and pondering the role of the Mexican artist in the wake of the Revolution. Many critics have failed to credit the Estridentistas and the Contemporáneos for their original contributions to Mexican and Latin American literature, criticizing them for parroting tropes from European movements or for failing to relate to their own social and political context. This side-by-side approach to the Estridentistas and Contemporáneos, however, reveals a distinctly Mexican aesthetic that emerged in Mexico between 1921 and 1929, suggesting that a distinctly Mexican vanguard form—the experimental autobiography—emerged in Mexico during the 1920s. Finally, the article proposes that Maple Arce and Novo’s early texts influenced vanguard authors not only in Mexico, but throughout Latin America.


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pp. 91-108
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