Mexican Indigenismo, Choctaw Self-Determination, and Todd Downing's Detective Novels
Abstract

Abstract:

Todd Downing, the Choctaw author of ten detective novels published between 1933 and 1945, is one of the most prolific and most neglected American Indian writers of the twentieth century. In eight of the novels, Downing appropriates and refigures Mexican indigenismo—the official post-revolutionary celebration of Mexico's indigenous history and culture—to reveal evidence of the modern indigenous people obscured by indigenismo discourse. He also makes three extraordinary discoveries in the context of mid-twentieth-century American Indian literary and activist histories. He detects a persistent though enervated European colonial presence and a more potent neocolonial invasion of Mexico by U.S citizens. He also identifies a contested yet successful indigenous Mexican resistance to this invasion. Finally, Downing's literary model of self-determination in novels such as The Cat Screams anticipates the anticolonial discourses of the American Indian civil rights movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s and the literary renaissance that attended it.