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a "people's art." A more fruitful comparison, in terms of the level of development, might be made to the early work of the Revolutionary muralists in Mexico. Lucia's shortcomings are very reminiscent of Diego Rivera's early mural "Creation" (1921-22, Escuela Nacional Preparatoria) in providing vivid testimony to the difficulty faced by colonized areas in freeing themselves from their past. Solas' consciousness of his limitations, and those of Revolutionary Cuban art in general, is made clear in his statement that, "Our work has not yet situated itself at the level of our Revolution. Cinematography has not attained this nor has any other artistic medium in our country. If we accept the idea that a culture of the Revolution is destined, by definition, to engender superior technicostylistic forms, languages and contents, we will comprehend that we still have a great stretch to cross in the field of art." (23) Humberto Solas is in the vanguard of the collective crossing ofthat stretch. THE DILEMMA OF JUAREZ BY ALLEN L. WOLL Allen WoIl is a graduate student in Latin American Histoiy at the University of Wisconsin. He has recently returned from a research leave in Santiago, Chile, where he completed articles on Chilean history that will appear in History and Theory and the Journal ofthe History ofIdeas. As the Archduke Maximilian enters Mexico with his army of conquest, a vulture alights near his carriage. Maximilian is disturbed by this evil portent, and comments: "I feel surrounded by mystery, as though everything around me possesses a hidden meaning." Students viewing this 1939 William Dieterle film of Juarez seem to feel a similar malaise. (1) Ostensibly, this film is a remarkably accurate account of the French intervention in Mexico in the 1 860's, but students rapidly become aware that this is not the only goal of the filmmakers. The subject ofthis film is in itself a surprise. Latins had rarely been treated fairly in American films. During the silent era, the image of the "greaser" dominated the screen, as such titles as Tony the Greaser (1911) and The Greaser's Gauntlet (1908) reveal. (2) Protests from the Mexican government and a brief embargo of such films halted the proliferation ofthe stereotype, but did little to elevate the violent image ofthe Mexican. Yet, suddenly, Hollywood chooses to present a historical account of Mexico's President Benito Juarez and venerate him as an equal to Lincoln. Jaurez, portrayed by Paul Muni, is depicted as a follower of Lincoln in more than principles. The shadow of Lincoln haunts this enterprise. Juarez rarely appears in his office without a portrait ofthe Great Emancipator peering over his shoulder. Similarly, forced to flee before advancing French troops, Juarez takes his portrait of Lincoln with him before removing any official documents, thus revealing the importance of the American president to him. When news ofthe assassination reaches Mexico, Juarez grieves heartily in one ofthe film's most poignant scenes. This dramatic link between Juarez and Lincoln perpetuates the suspicion that Juarez is more ofa symbol than a man. He is often immobile, and his image often fills the whole screen. He is depicted as a lone hero, despite the fact that the real president 11 had a wife and children whom he loved dearly. (3) Similarly, the film's rhetoric enforces this image of Juarez as a symbol. Juarez becomes the "defender of democratic principles" against the "war machine" ofNapoleon III. Jaurez represents "democracy," and Maximilian is the tool of a "dictator, who seized power illegally." Thus, despite the accuracy of the historical events portrayed, Juarez seems to exist in two time periods. The plot relates the tumultuous events of the 1860's in Mexico, while the symbolism and rhetoric of the film seem more characteristic of the United States in the years prior to World War II. The student is thus disturbed by the sight of a double history, and is forced to separate the elements belonging to each period in time. Therefore, Juarez must be seen as a product of its time, produced during the rise of Hitler, but before the entry of the United States into the war. Despite pretenses to the contrary, Hollywood hardly remained...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9922
Print ISSN
0360-3695
Pages
pp. 11-15
Launched on MUSE
2013-01-02
Open Access
No
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