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7 Solitude Robert McKee Irwin Primary Materials ● “Canción mixteca”(Mixteca Song) by José López Alavés (music, 1915) ● Nostalgia de la muerte (Nostalgia for Death) by Xavier Villaurrutia (poetry,1938) ● Cuando los hijos se van (When Children Leave Home), directed by Juan Bus­ tillo Oro (film, 1941) ● Soledad, directed by Miguel Zacarías (film, 1947) ● Angelitos negros (Little Black Angels),directed by Joselito Rodríguez (film,1948) ● Un día de vida (One Day of Life), directed by Emilio Fernández (film, 1950) ● Víctimas del pecado (Victims of Sin), directed by Emilio Fernández (film, 1951) ● El diario de JoséToledo (The Diary of JoséToledo) by Miguel Barbachano Ponce (novel, 1964) ● Después de todo (After Everything) by José Ceballos Maldonado (novel, 1969) ● La pasión según Berenice (The Passion of Berenice),directed by Jaime Humberto Hermosillo (film, 1976) ● El lugar sin límites (The Place Without Limits), directed by Arturo Ripstein (film, 1978) ● Soledad, directed by Rafael Banquells (telenovela, 1980) ● Las púberes canéforas (The Adolescent Canephores) by José Joaquín Blanco (novel, 1983) Solitude 149 ● Mil nubes de paz cercan el cielo, amor, jamás acabarás de ser amor (A Thousand Peace Clouds Encircle the Sky), directed by Julián Hernández (film, 2004) ● Babel, directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu (film, 2006) ● Me decían mexicano frijolero (They Called Me Mexican Beaner), Roberto Ran­ gel’s testimony as written by Ana Luisa Calvillo (testimonial narrative, 2015) ● “Soledad”by Enrique Fabregat Jodar,performed by Chavela Vargas (music,1963) ● “Acá entre nos” (Just Between Us) by Martín Urieta, performed by Vicente Fernández (music, 1992) ● “El favor de la soledad” (Solitude’s Favor), written and performed by Gloria Trevi (music, 2008) ● “Huelo a soledad” (I Smell Like Solitude), written and performed by Ana Gabriel (music, 2001) ● “La jaula de oro” (The Golden Cage) by Enrique Franco, performed by Los Tigres del Norte (music, 1984) ● “La retirada” (The Retreat) by José Alfredo Jiménez, performed by Javier Solís (music, 1965) ● “Querida” (Dear Love) and “Debo hacerlo” (I Must Do It), written and per­ formed by Juan Gabriel (music, 1984, 1988) ● “Amor eterno” (Eternal Love) by Juan Gabriel, performed by Rocío Dúrcal (music, 1978) T he sentiment of solitude,” writes Octavio Paz, “is not an illu­ sion . . . but rather the expression of a real fact: . . . truly we are alone” (22).1 Solitude, for Paz, is a key concept—if not the key concept—under­ lying Mexican national culture, a thesis laid out methodically in his 1950 booklength essay El laberinto de la soledad (The Labyrinth of Solitude). Paz’s essay is grounded in Mexican history, with ample references to Mexican and world let­ ters: poetry, philosophy, political discourse. It refers as well to groups of peo­ ple, including mestizos, workers, pachucos, homosexuals, and women, whom Paz contemplates but whom he has not studied up close in a rigorous way, as would, say, an ethnographer. His notions of Mexican solitude are based on con­ sideration of a corpus of erudite writings and on speculation regarding a host of more marginal groups whose own ideas of Mexican culture he neglects to explore. He therefore seems to overlook the importance of the theme of solitude in Mexican culture beyond the confines of the lettered city. “ 150 Robert McKee Irwin This essay on Mexican solitude follows up on Paz’s provocations,seeking out some of the best-known deployments of notions of solitude in Mexican cultural production, where its significations often end up at odds with those put forth by Paz. Solitude, it would seem, is indeed a concept that runs deep in Mexican culture. However, the sentiments and meanings it evokes differ significantly from those described by Paz. If Mexico is a labyrinth of solitude, it is a solitude that is much more emotive, more histrionic, more communal, more cathartic, more colorful, and more fun than the dreary labyrinth proposed by Paz. The Solitude of Los Hijos de la Chingada Paz’s landmark essay was not universally well received upon its original pub­ lication (323); however, its critical analysis of Mexican history, extrapolated to posit tangible manifestations of a distinctly Mexican national subjectivity, was provocative and in many ways credible. Over the years the essay came to serve as a point of reference on Mexican national idiosyncrasy; for many students, the essay has indeed functioned as an introduction to national culture. Over time, as Paz’s prestige as a poet and thinker...


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