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3 Charros A Critical Introduction Christopher Conway Primary Materials ● El Zarco by Ignacio Manuel Altamirano (novel, 1901) ● Allá en el Rancho Grande (Out on the Big Ranch), directed by Fernando de Fuentes (film, 1936) ● “El ranchero y el charro”(The Ranchero and the Charro), performed by Diego Herrera and Leandro Ríos (song, 2015) ● “El Corrido del caballo blanco” (The Corrido of the White Horse, 1961) and “Las botas de charro” (The Boots of the Charro, 1972) by José Alfredo Jiménez (songs) ● “El charro mexicano” (The Mexican Charro, 1946) and “Yo soy mexicano” (I Am Mexican, 1941), performed by Jorge Negrete (songs) ● “Corrido del cuaco Lobo Gatiado” (Corrido of the Horse Named Lobo Gatiado ) (song, n.d.) ● “Corrido del caballo Alazán Lucero” (Corrido of the Horse Alazán Lucero) (song, n.d.) T his chapter explores two interrelated topics: the evolution of a national symbol over time and the specific ways that it is constructed in novels, films, and song. Our subject is the Mexican charro, Charros 67 a deeply influential symbol of Mexican identity that is universally recognized inside and outside of Mexico. To introduce his story we begin with general observations about nationalism and cultural invention, then examine the centuries-old history of the charro and the cultural uses to which he has been put. The charro is so ubiquitous in the modern Mexican and Mexican American imagination that he seems to be natural and eternal, but that isn’t the case. In Nations and Nationalism, Ernest Gellner writes that one of the powers of modern nationalism is to give its inventions an aura of timelessness that transcends governments, ideologies, and individuals (47). To critically ex­ amine the charro, then, is to draw attention to the historical conditions of his emergence and to underline his ideological uses. The most immediate questions at the outset are, “What is a nation?” and “What is nationalism?”Gellner writes that two people are of the same nation “if they share the same culture, where culture in turn means a system of ideas and signs and associations and ways of behaving and communicating” (7). We can understand how nationalism creates this shared system through the categories of narrative, tradition, space, and iconography. Each triggers a sense of communal identity because it manufactures, transmits, and perpetuates a symboli­ cally meaningful feeling of belonging in a collective public.1 After all, the whole point of nationalism is that it isn’t outside of the people whom it designates as members of its family, but rather that it seeks to live inside them as a feeling. The first register, narrative, refers to storytelling, such as history textbooks that are widely read or used in schools, and to novels, stories, or films, all of which reinforce a community’s symbolic claim to nationality. Another register is the “invented tradition,” or a ritualistic activity designed to encourage civic pride in national collectivities, as in the case of the commemoration of Mexican independence in Mexico City on the night before September 16, when the president addresses a vast gathering of people with a litany of vehement “¡Vivas!”2 Nationalism also makes use of space, situating its invented traditions and inspiring stories in specific places that in turn acquire a sacred aura.Through this process, ancient ruins, national monuments, and imposing buildings become meaningful locations in a country’s culture.Finally,nationalism is iconic.What this means is that it manufactures or appropriates a thing, a person, a group, or an emblem and imbues it with meaning by continuously citing it as a symbol of nationality. In the case of Mexico, the repertoire of national icons includes the emblem of the eagle and the serpent, which appears on the country’s flag, the Virgin of Guadalupe, pre-Columbian heroes, and well-known photographs of 68 Christopher Conway the revolutionary leader Emiliano Zapata.These registers—narrative, tradition, space,and iconography—are not separate from one another but deeply interdependent .Their overlap is so pronounced that it challenges our ability to explain them as separate categories or concepts. Here we present them separately just to emphasize the varied workings of nationalist culture. Thanks to a profusion of charro imagery in tourist advertisements and in film, as well as to the fact that mariachis adopted his costume, the charro is arguably the most universally recognized emblem of Mexican identity around the world. His global presence as the embodiment of a nation may be compared to other universally recognized emblems, such as...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780816537532
Related ISBN
9780816534265
MARC Record
OCLC
1001412342
Pages
320
Launched on MUSE
2017-08-23
Language
English
Open Access
No
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