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Artful Assassins

Murder as Art in Modern Mexico

Fernando Fabio Sánchez

Publication Year: 2010

Violence as a way of life, and murder as a political tool. This philosophy is nothing new to Mexico, most recently demonstrated in the wave of assassination and indiscriminate killing brought on by the drug war gripping the country. In Artful Assassins, author and scholar Fernando Fabio Sánchez unveils the long record of violence inspiring artistic expression in Mexico, focusing on its use and portrayal in film and literature. Sánchez is uniquely positioned to explore this topic, through his work as a novelist and poet in Mexico before entering academia in the United States. Sanchez argues that the seemingly hopeless cycle of violence experienced by Mexico in the 20th century, as reflected in its "crime genre," reveals a broader intrinsic cultural and political failure that suggests grave implications for the current state of crisis. Tracing the development of a national Mexican identity from the 1910 Mexican Revolution onward, Sánchez focuses on the indelible presence of violence and crime underlying the major works that contributed to a larger communal narrative. Artful Assassins ultimately offers a panoramic overview of the evolution of Mexican arts and letters, as well as nationalism, by claiming murder and assassination as literary and cinematic motifs. The collapse of post-revolutionary political unity was presaged all along in Mexican culture, Sanchez argues. It need only to have been sought in the art of the nation.

Published by: Vanderbilt University Press


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Title Page

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Table of Contents

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pp. ix-xi

The present version of this study would not exist without the effort and knowledge of Stephen Clark, to whom I am also indebted for his cleverly coining the first half of the book’s title. My thanks to him and his wife, Elma Cano, for their patience during the long sessions of writing and revising. I would also like to thank Eli Bortz, acquisitions editor at Vanderbilt University Press, for believing in this project from the outset. To Glen S. Close and Robert Buffington, our thanks for their ...

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pp. 1-7

In the early 1920s, Mexico came into being as a grand narrative built upon the Revolution of 1910. One of the foundational elements of this narrative construct known as Death scenes, principally the assassinations of the five leading varo Obreg

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1. Before Mexican Crime Fiction: The Death Scene and the Construction of Postrevolutionary Mexico

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pp. 9-36

In mystery fiction, the solution to a crime is sought through the exercise of intelligence. Edgar Allan Poe states as much in his prologue to The Murders in the Rue Morgue (1841). In this seminal work, Poe suggests the need to create a new type of reader for a new type of “hero,” one whose heroism resides in his use of intellect rather than in physical prowess. ...

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2. Ensayo de un crimen and El hombre sin rostro: Early Critiques of Nationalism during Mexico's Transition to Modernity

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pp. 37-83

Manuel Ávila Camacho, whose term ran from 1940 to 1946, was the first of Mexico’s modern capitalistic presidents. During his administration, an economic strategy of industrialization and accumulation of capital—known as “developmentalism” (Babb 105–13), “balanced development” (Cline 253–62), or “moderation” (Niblo 75–147)—was set into motion. Ávila Camacho’s agenda facilitated the transition to nonmilitary governments, with his successor Miguel Alemán being ...

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3. El complot mongol and La cabeza de la hidra: The Era of Latent National Crisis

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pp. 84-124

The thirty years from 1940 to 1970 were one of the most important periods of economic advancement in Mexican history, so much so that during these years economists began to speak of the “Mexican miracle.” At times during this period, annual GDP increases were in excess of 6 percent (Babb, Proyecto: México 110). The policies responsible for stimulating such growth were “a commitment to industrial protection, ...

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4. Cosa facil, Un asesino solitario, and Amores perros: The Age of National Disintegration

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pp. 125-177

The concepts of “Mexico,” “Revolution,” and “modernity” are closely intertwined in the national project starting in the 1940s. As seen in our analysis of Bernal’s El complot mongol and Fuen-tes’s La cabeza de la hidra, the relationship between “Mexico” and “Revolution” came under attack starting in the late 1960s. In Fuentes’s novel, the mission of the Mexican agent was to fight to keep this connection alive. However, despite such efforts, this same novel shows that the ...

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pp. 179-183

The textual analyses presented in this study reveal the act of murder and assassination to be a platform on which the concept of the postrevolutionary Mexican nation is constructed and critiqued. In the decade of the 1920s, Mexican muralism and the novel of the Revolution offered organic interpretations of the violence of the armed movement and the assassination of its leading caudillos. These readings of the Revolution provided the basis for the creation of a ...


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pp. 185-198


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pp. 199-218


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pp. 219-226

E-ISBN-13: 9780826517289
Print-ISBN-13: 9780826517265

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2010

OCLC Number: 727944846
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Artful Assassins

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Assassination in literature.
  • Detective and mystery stories, Mexican -- History and criticism
  • Children's literature, English ǂx History and criticism.
  • Murder in motion pictures.
  • National characteristics, Mexican, in literature.
  • Mexico -- In literature
  • Literature and revolutions -- Mexico -- History -- 20th century.
  • Detective and mystery films -- Mexico -- History and criticism.
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