During the early decades of the 20th century the nation of Mexico entered the modern era through a series of social, political, and economic transformations spurred by the Mexican Revolution of 1910-1920. At the same time, American film companies increasingly sought opportunities to expand their market share by exporting films to exhibitionists in Mexico and Latin America. As government bureaucrats and progressive reformers sought to unify and rebuild the Mexican state, the cinema became a critical site through which the post-revolutionary ideals of modernization, secularism, and ethnic nationalism were promoted.
In Making Cinelandia: American Films and Mexican Film Culture Before the Golden Age (Duke University Press, 2014), Associate Professor of Critical Studies in the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California Laura Isabel Serna vividly describes the process of cultural exchange that played out across the U.S.-Mexico borderlands during this critical period in the development of the modern Mexican state. Focusing on the “agency of Mexican audiences, distributers, cinema owners, and journalists,” Professor Serna narrates the dynamic process of how American film was received, interpreted, and fashioned to meet the needs of Mexican state officials and a “transnational Mexican audience.” Illuminating alternative responses to Mexicana/o “encounters with American mass culture” that did not always result in the acculturation of American values, Dr. Serna argues that movie going promoted a growing sense of Mexican national identity among the emerging diasporic community of transnational Mexican citizens in the post-revolutionary era.
Listen to this conversation in full at New Books in Latino Studies.