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Constructing the Image of the Mexican Revolution

Cinema and the Archive

By Zuzana M. Pick

Publication Year: 2010

With a cast ranging from Pancho Villa to Dolores del Río and Tina Modotti, Constructing the Image of the Mexican Revolution demonstrates 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 from Que Viva Mexico! (1931–1932) to And 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 Revolution unites historicity, aesthetics, and narrative to enrich our understanding of Mexicanidad.

Published by: University of Texas Press


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-x

Research funding and academic leave to prepare the manuscript was made possible by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and the Marston Lafrance Fellowship of Carleton University. SSHRC’s financial support enabled me to disseminate the preliminary results of the work done on this project in Mexico, Canada, and...

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Introduction: Visualizing and Romancing the Revolution

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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 ...

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Chapter 1. The Revolution as Media Event: Documentary Image and the Archive

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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 for The Fall of Ciudad Juárez and Trip of the Revolutionary Hero Francisco I. Madero stated, 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, ...

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Chapter 2. Historicity and the Archive: Reconstruction and Appropriation

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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 ...

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Chapter 3. Pancho Villa on Two Sides of the Border

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pp. 69-96

In The 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 ...

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Chapter 4. Avant-Garde Gestures and Nationalist Images of Mexico in Eisenstein’s Unfinished Project

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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 Tiss

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Chapter 5. Reconfiguring the Revolution: Celebrity and Melodrama

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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...

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Chapter 6. The Aesthetics of Spectacle

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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. ...

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Chapter 7. Competing Narratives and Converging Visions

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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 ...

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Conclusion: Thoughts on Working with the Archive

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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 ...


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pp. 219-230


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pp. 231-242


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pp. 243-253

E-ISBN-13: 9780292793422
E-ISBN-10: 0292793421
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292721081
Print-ISBN-10: 0292721080

Page Count: 265
Illustrations: 65 b&w photos
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 560680598
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Constructing the Image of the Mexican Revolution

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Subject Headings

  • War films -- Mexico -- History and criticism.
  • Motion pictures -- United States -- History -- 20th century.
  • War films -- United States -- History and criticism
  • Motion pictures -- Mexico -- History and criticism.
  • Mexico -- History -- Revolution, 1910-1920 -- Motion pictures and the revolution.
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