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Agustín Lorenzo: Beloved Bandit of History and Folklore  

Liliana Toledo Guzmán

Agustín Lorenzo was a prototypical social bandit, according to Eric Hobsbawm’s definition in his studies of that phenomenon. As a bandit from south central Mexico believed to have lived between the 18th and 19th centuries, the exploits of Agustín Lorenzo have been recounted in myriad ways: myths, legends, loas, corridos, films, carnival representations, among others. Lorenzo is said to have stolen from the rich to give to the poor, swearing to avenge his grandfather’s mistreatment at the hands of his employer, the local landowner. To achieve his mission, the story goes, Lorenzo made a pact with the devil, to obtain supernatural powers. The attributes of this bandit undoubtedly place him in the same category as the great body of stories about banditry that have survived for centuries around the world, particularly considering their shared essence: a desire for justice. In the case of Agustín Lorenzo, it is possible to disentangle the universal principles Hobsbawm established regarding the phenomenon of social banditry from the local context in which this particular myth lives on. Hence, to analyze the myth of Agustín Lorenzo, it is essential to explore the narratives and meanings of the cosmogony of the Nahua peoples of south-central Mexico.

Article

Comic Book Depictions of the Mexico City Earthquake of 1985  

Gabriela Buitrón Vera

On the morning of September 19, 1985, an 8.1 magnitude earthquake shocked Mexico City. Approximately 10,000–15,000 people died and hundreds of buildings collapsed. Many representations of this event emerged in the aftermath. Newspapers, chronicles, testimonials, and photographs were some of the mediums that reported this tragic event, and the most immediate comic book response to the catastrophe was Terremoto 85: Historias reales del dramático suceso (1986). This graphic narrative draws from a long line of Mexican comic books that had promoted conservative cultural values for decades. By portraying the nuclear family as an allegory of the nation, its characters are represented as ignoring—rather than participating in—the sociopolitical upheaval taking place around them. The comic suggests that it is only by embracing normativity and gender norms, as well as by contributing to the procreation and production of the nation, that readers can become exemplary citizens. Furthermore, this graphic narrative shows that only characters depicted as “exemplary” get to have “happy endings.” By articulating disaster in this manner, Terremoto 85 obscures the real civil disobedience and direct action that surged after Mexico City’s earthquake of 1985. In so doing, the comic book participates in the erasure of well-recorded civil responses to the earthquake. It also demonstrates how national narratives often glorify exemplary citizens and contribute to the exclusion of vulnerable and precarious populations. A careful read of this graphic text can help one examine 20th- and 21st-century national emergencies in Mexico, Latin America, and beyond.

Article

Digital Resources: Piedra Rodante (Mexico’s Rolling Stone Magazine)  

Luis González-Reimann and Eric Zolov

The short-lived Mexican countercultural magazine, Piedra Rodante (Rolling Stone), is a unique and invaluable primary source for researchers interested in the global sixties from a Latin American perspective. From December 1970 to January 1972, Piedra Rodante reproduced translated articles and interviews from Rolling Stone magazine, together with original reporting by Mexican music critics and writers on a vast array of topics relevant to youth in the context of late 1960s and early 1970s Mexico. Piedra Rodante was launched by a young advertising executive, Manuel Aceves, a follower of the US and British countercultural and rock scene. In 1971, Mexico’s own countercultural movement, known as La Onda, was bursting with artistic creativity as well as marketing potential, especially in the music industry. In the wake of the 1968 student movement, however, Mexico’s government was wary of the untethered political potential mobilized by La Onda (epitomized by the outdoor rock festival, Avándaro, held in September 1971). With little warning, the government shuttered Piedra Rodante as part of a broader suppression of La Onda throughout the culture industry. Absent a missing issue 0, this fully digitized collection of issues 1–8 is the only complete set available to the public.

Article

Digital Resources: Museo de Mujeres Artistas Mexicanas, MUMA  

Gabriela Aceves-Sepulveda

The Museum of Mexican Women Artists (MUMA) is a virtual museum dedicated to the promotion of Mexican women in visual arts from the 20th century onward. It was founded by Mexican feminist activist and artist Lucero González (b. 1947), who envisioned it as a feminist digital network for artists, curators, and critics to build connections with initiatives across the country and in other parts of the world. It is currently run by a council of nine women who collectively come together to plan its yearly activities and to invite others to participate. Since 2008, MUMA has hosted a new exhibition every three months by different female curators and artists working mostly on drawing, painting, performance, photography, video, and sculpture. To date, it has organized more than forty online exhibitions and a number of temporary events including exhibitions, reading groups, and public forums across the country. While it has an exclusive focus on women, one of its objectives is to promote intergenerational encounters to discuss the intersections of art and gender and question the binary construction of sexual difference. MUMA is an important addition to the growing resources on the gendered dimensions of art, feminist art, and art curation in Mexico from the 20th century onward. It offers online galleries showcasing artworks by female artists working in Mexico and contemporary theoretical essays on feminist art and curation, as well as reinterpretations of early 20th-century women’s art. Its bilingual (English and Spanish) website showcases the artistic portfolios of more than 350 artists working in Mexico. Each artist portfolio includes a gallery of artworks, an artist’s statement, and a link to a personal artist website. The exhibition section contains image links to each show. Each exhibition can be viewed in a single window and showcases the works in the exhibition along with a curatorial essay. The program section consists of an archive of all the group’s exhibitions, including theoretical texts and events organized chronologically by year since 2008. The website also has an international news section on relevant art and academic activities, a library section with curatorial texts, book excerpts and theoretical essays, and a list of partner organizations and alliances. MUMA offers an email newsletter to its subscribers with information on current exhibitions and direct links to new artists’ portfolios. It has a search engine that allows the user to explore the website via six different categories which can yield results that cross reference texts, news, links, exhibitions, and artist portfolios. Throughout its more than twenty years of existence, MUMA’s hybrid model as a virtual museum and digital archive with a temporary physical presence—and as a collective organization—has significantly amplified the visibility of women artists in Mexico.

Article

Everyday Life in Argentina in the 1960s  

Isabella Cosse

The 1960s in Argentina was a time convulsed by profound social, cultural, and political changes. Reflecting on the effect these processes had on the everyday, conceived as the spaces and routines involved in the reproduction of life that vary according to social class, generation, and gender, provides a valuable perspective for studying historical phenomena. It gives substance to and evidences the social nature of personal experience. Through that prism, the study of everyday life will be the gateway to understanding the turbulence produced by cultural effervescence, growing consumerism, the expansion of the media, the problems triggered by economic instability and escalating inflation, and the ruptures caused by political and social radicalization and the rise of repressive violence.

Article

The Extraordinary Career of Juana C. Romero, Cacica of Tehuantepec  

Francie Chassen-López

In the 1850s, Juana Catarina Romero, known popularly as Juana Cata, peddled her cigarettes on the streets of Tehuantepec in the state of Oaxaca, Mexico, an activity that enabled her to serve as a spy for the liberals under the command of Captain Porfirio Díaz during the War of the Reform (1858–1860). By 1890, Romero (1837–1915) had emerged as an international merchant, sugar cane producer and refiner, philanthropist, and “modernizing” cacica of the city of Tehuantepec. As powerful women rarely receive credit for their achievements, popular myth attributes her success to the men in her life, a supposed youthful love affair with Díaz or a later lover, Colonel Remigio Toledo. In contrast, a study of her career helps to shed light on how women could attain and exercise power in the 19th century and the ways in which they participated in the construction of the nation-state and a capitalist economy. Her trajectory shows that when allied with these forces of modernization, women could take on a more public role in society. It also reveals that it is through the lens of local and regional history that women’s contributions and accomplishments, so often erased in national histories, can be made visible.

Article

Gender, Sexuality, and Identity in 20th-Century Costa Rica  

Patricia Alvarenga

Proposals challenging male authority gained strength in Costa Rica during the 20th century and, especially at the turn of the 21st century, and questioned naturalized sexual and gender identities. The effects of these discursivities are varied. The experience of feminists, of middle-class women outside these discursivities, and of women of the subaltern classes demonstrate the plurality of meanings attributed to gender relations as filtered through subjective experience. The introduction of alternative identity proposals destabilizes the established parameters of sexual and gender identities, but, at the same time, produces new conservative discursivities that limit the potential for change. Two feminist movements, one that reached its peak in the 1920s and a second that arose in the final decades of the 20th century, brought about substantive changes in female identities, revealing the power relations that underlie the discursive representation of patriarchal power as eternal and immutable. An assessment of contemporary feminism based on the experiences of its protagonists shows the movement’s significant gains as well as the challenges and weaknesses it has faced over its history, the most important of which may be how to reach beyond the sphere of well-educated, heterosexual, middle-class women. In conclusion, public discourses that have politicized gender and sexuality in Costa Rica are creatively constituted in the social world, according to what changes appear attainable at different moments of history. Carved out by actors committed to change, these discourses have achieved substantive transformations in institutional structures and subjectivities. However, present experience shows clearly that every affirmation of identity is precarious, and that the gains achieved require the ongoing, active engagement of civil society.

Article

Laura Méndez de Cuenca: A Force for Mexican Modernity  

Mílada Bazant

One of the leading figures who pioneered and promoted changes toward modernity in Mexico City was Laura Méndez de Cuenca. Laura dared to transgress the traditional Catholic norms of her time. She was a teacher, a leader of a feminist movement, and an avant-garde writer. Above all, she dared to live a modern life. But, what was a modern life? Méndez chose an audacious path in order to live a modern life, a life of hard work, determination, and freedom––a freedom for which she paid a high price.

Article

Lucha Libre  

Stephen Allen

Lucha libre, or professional wrestling, has become a staple of urban Mexican culture over the course of the 20th century. In the past twenty years, it has gained international acclaim for its distinctive style and culture. Best known for the masks that luchadores often wear, lucha libre has become a distinctly national rendition of an imported product. Along with Japan and the United States, Mexico is one of the most influential nations in the world of professional wrestling. The sport allows fans to root for técnicos, rudos, and exóticos and it provides theater that upends societal norms in Mexico. Banned from performing on television by Federal District authorities from the 1950s to the early 1990s, wrestlers like El Santo and Blue Demon took to the silver screen to film “Mexploitation” horror and science fiction films. Although the sport has become an urban tradition, it reflects the cosmopolitan nature of working-class urban culture as well as the influence of Mexican culture on other nations.

Article

Men and Modernity in Porfirian Mexico  

Robert M. Buffington

The Porfirian era (1876–1911) marked a watershed in social understandings of manhood. New ideas about what it meant to be a man had appeared in Mexico by the middle of the 19th century in the form of self-help manuals intended primarily for middle-class and bourgeois men who sought to distinguish themselves in a post-independence society that had done away with legal distinctions, including aristocratic titles. Marks of distinction included cleanliness, good grooming, moderation, affability, respectability, love of country, and careful attentiveness to the needs and opinions of others, including women, children, and social “inferiors”—an approach that artfully combined longstanding notions of masculine responsibility and authority with modern ideas about self-mastery and citizenship, especially the sublimation of volatile “passions” in all domains of social life. Modern qualities also mapped onto traditional concerns about male honor predicated on the fulfillment of patriarchal duties, especially the control of female dependents. The socially validated, “hegemonic” masculinity produced by this amalgamation of modern and traditional ideas proved burdensome for many middle-class men, who struggled to maintain an always precarious sense of honor or who rejected the constraints it sought to impose on their behavior. For men from less privileged classes, it represented an impossible ideal that they sometimes rejected through the adoption of antisocial “protest” masculinities and often satirized as delusional or unmanly, even as they too came to define their masculinity in relation to a modern/traditional binary. The modern/traditional binary that characterized ideas about masculinity for all sectors of Porfirian society has persisted until the present day, despite the epochal 1910 social revolution that inaugurated a new era in Mexican social relations.

Article

Rius: The Cartoonist Voice of the Mexican Left  

Sarah Deane (Howard)

Fatherless, poor, seminary educated, and neck deep in the ebbs and flows of the political Left, Eduardo del Río (popularly known as Rius) lived a fascinating life. He experienced, within one lifetime, rural and urban living, religious and secular education, conservative and liberal politics, and the life of a worker and an artist. Awash in experience, Rius’s untraditional trajectory contributed to his ideas of national identity construction. Rius became a voice of distinction at the moment when the Mexican Miracle began to crack, and the promises of the Revolution were left unfulfilled. In his comics, he presented the complex and pressing issues of his country, city, and people brilliantly within the humble setting of a small rural town and the lives of his simple characters. Deep readings of Rius’s books, cartoons, two autobiographies, and two comic books (Los supermachos and Los agachados) provide road maps of the artist’s politics, beliefs, and position of importance in the cultural landscape of Mexico. Rius’s work, a form of subversive enlightenment, transformed the mundane, day-to-day realities of existence into a project of national identity construction. His unique position allowed for an authentic satire so extreme and hilarious that its audience would absorb new information without realizing. He believed that when an unsuspecting reader (such as a conservative Catholic) read his dramatic arguments soaked in humor and satire, they might just learn something new. A study of Rius’s life and work contributes to knowledge of the cultural pulse of the period. His personal history, political leanings, and understanding of gender echo through his work and exemplify the emotions and national identity of the period. Carlos Monsiváis once declared, in a 2011 article (Montero Diaz, “Rius, El monero sabio”), that there have been three educational institutions in Mexico: Televisa, SEP, and Rius. Examining Rius’s work and life makes clear how the insights found upon his pages drew directly from his life and his position within the movement known as the Mexican Left.

Article

Sexuality and Black Magic in Brazil  

Kelly E. Hayes

Belief in the power of feitiçaria or black magic has both endured and continually changed over time in Brazil. However, black magic is a peculiar and protean thing. Rather than defining a specific set of ideas, practices, and objects, or a systematic body of knowledge, black magic is better understood as a type of discourse the social function of which is to stigmatize its referent as maleficent, immoral, or evil. Because of its negative connotations, black magic typically is a discourse of accusation rather than self-affirmation: People accuse others of practicing black magic rather than describing their own practices this way. Nevertheless, the dangerous potential attributed to black magic means that some people openly claim it as a source of power in certain circumstances. Focusing on the various intersections of black magic and sexuality in Brazilian history reveals aspects of social life and categories of persons that elite authorities, in the effort to civilize and reform Brazil, identified as problematic. Because these shifted over time, different constellations of black magic and sexuality emerge as especially salient in different historical periods. In the colonial period (1549–1822), women’s love magic troubled ecclesiastical authorities as the Catholic Church struggled to establish its patriarchal vision of social and moral order over an unruly colony. Under the empire (1822–1889), black magic was associated particularly with the threat of black sorcerers whose perceived promiscuity and primitivity threatened the civilized society that elites envisioned. During the first Republican period (1889–1930), public officials used black magic as a catchall designation for a broad range of popular spiritual practices deemed illicit by the state in its struggle against social degeneracy and other ills. The first few decades of the 20th century saw the consolidation of the Afro-Brazilian spirit entities Exu and Pombagira as distinctive apotheoses of black magic and sexuality in the Brazilian cultural imagination. Forged in the conjuncture of African and European traditions, these controversial yet extremely popular entities are said to work with both the “right hand” and the “left hand” and are called upon in situations marked by moral ambiguity. Their prominence in Candomblé and Umbanda is one reason that evangelical Protestant churches like the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God (IURD) consider Afro-Brazilian religions to be instruments of the devil and target Afro-Brazilian religious practitioners, objects, and spaces in their campaigns of spiritual warfare. More recently, discourse about black magic among evangelical Christians has centered on the violence and sexual immorality associated with the drug trade that has flourished in many Brazilian cities. As a moral discourse that defines the licit by identifying the illicit, black magic is used in situations marked by struggles for social legitimacy and the access to resources and influence that such legitimacy enables. The protean nature of black magic means that it is endlessly adaptable to different social realities, from the struggles of Portuguese colonists in a new land to the urban violence associated with contemporary drug trafficking. And because questions of power are deeply embedded within the term, accusations of black magic seem to burgeon precisely in moments of social transformation when the status quo is in flux, centers of influence are being formed, and new patterns of social division or alignment are being established.

Article

Violence and Sex in the Work of Armando Bó and Isabel Sarli  

Victoria Ruétalo

Director-producer-actor Armando Bó made films featuring nude appearances by the voluptuous star Isabel “Coca” Sarli that challenged the social constraints that were taking hold in a more restrictive and violent Argentina. The period from the fall of Juan Domingo Perón in 1955 until the end of the “Guerra Sucia” or Dirty War in 1983 marked a volatile time in the history of Argentina, with ever-increasing acts of state violence. It coincided with a parallel in the film industry: the state began to intervene in production and exhibition practices through laws that limited what was seen on the screen, until censorship was formally legalized. The work of Bó and Sarli falls perfectly within the historical period of onscreen and offscreen violence. The enterprise began in 1956, and their final film was released in 1984 (after the end of the dictatorship and the death of the director). The couple produced films that suffered from the aggressive effects of censorship—through the cutting of specific scenes that displayed the female body—and reflected the growing violence in everyday life. Films like Carne (Flesh, 1968) and Furia infernal (Ardent summer, 1973) tell simple stories of seemingly weak females and aggressive macho males. A closer look at their narratives, however, reveals a more complex femininity and masculinity, one where violence begets violence. Throughout the twenty-seven films they made together, Bó and Sarli consistently revealed sexuality and gender issues at a time when these were invisible in Latin America.

Article

Women and Commercial Sex in the Viceroyalty of New Spain  

Nicole von Germeten

Female occupational and economic choices help clarify understandings of colonial historic agency, especially in the lives of Mexican women who made their income as alcahuetas or “bawds.” These women hosted and managed other women in the marketing and selling of sex acts in the Viceroyalty of New Spain. Viceregal bawds manipulated both the sex lives of their clients and the paternalism of crown justice in hopes of exoneration in court. They walked a precarious legal tightrope, negotiating the fluctuating margins of legal procuring and the transition to more stringent laws against sex for sale. The examples presented here, drawn from contemporary archival documents, show that these women’s lives span most of New Spain’s history, ranging from 1570 to the independence era in the early 19th century. In the 16th century, bawdry resembled the clandestine personal mediation that was common and familiar in medieval and early modern Spain. Bawds working in the 1st century of Spanish rule in Mexico carefully defended their social respectability to contradict evidence that they solicited for clients in the street. Reputable hospitality featured prominently in the early 17th-century procuring, while indigenous-influenced sorcery and love magic dominated the understanding of 17th- and early 18th-century alcahuetas. Lastly, in the 19th century, profitable market exchange characterized professional brothel operations, granting bawds honorable status within their economic and occupational community. Bawds recorded in the archives demonstrate communication skills, entrepreneurialism, and a concern for reputation through all of these eras. These intelligent female survivors offer compelling representations of viceregal women who exercised their personal agency to forge their own economic prosperity.

Article

Women Filmmakers in Argentina  

Ana Forcinito

This article offers an overview of some of the most important Argentine women filmmakers along with some tendencies that could serve to organize four decades of films, shorts, and documentaries. The article also examines some of the main paths that women filmmakers have taken in their revision and transformation of the relationship between the visual/aural dimension of cinematographic language and the patriarchal regime of the image and the voice. The films discussed in this chapter challenge the still-dominant masculine visual regime through aesthetic projects that reveal the worlds made invisible and erased by marginalization, authoritarianism, violence, sexism, homophobia, abjection, racism, inequality, discrimination, and impunity. Feminism is undoubtedly a vital framework for analyzing the history of women filmmakers in ArgentiIt appears sometimes at the center of the audiovisual project and, other times, outside the frame. This article explores the intersections among different aesthetic concerns, and in particular attempts to show that the discussion of women filmmakers in Argentina should not be limited to only two or three names but should include a vast number of women filmmakers and their innovative visions. From the first decades of the Twentieth century to the present, Argentine women filmmakers have taken different paths in their revision and transformation of the relation between the visual/aural dimension of cinematographic language and the patriarchal regime of the image and the voice. The feminist dimension of some of their films has challenged masculine and heteronormative norms through aesthetic projects that revealed what remained invisible and erased by authoritarianism, violence, sexism, homophobia, abjection, racism, inequality, discrimination, and impunity. Feminism—expressed in different waves of the feminist movement and with different degrees of intersectionality— is undoubtedly a vital framework for analyzing the history of women filmmakers in Argentina. It has framed the aesthetic concerns and the innovative visions women filmmakers have been proposing about the domestic, the intimate, and the political.

Article

The Women of Guadalajara in Mexico’s History  

María Teresa Fernández Aceves

From the War of Independence until the recognition of female suffrage in Mexico in 1953, the women of Guadalajara witnessed different forms of activism that touched upon national and local issues, causing them to take to the streets in order to defend their families, their neighborhoods, and their communities: their political and religious ideals. Their active participation upended traditional notions of femininity within the Catholic Church and the liberal state of the 19th century, as well as the postrevolutionary state (1920–1940). The tasks they undertook over this lengthy period of time were highly diversified and encompassed welfare, education, war, politics, religion, and social endeavors.

Article

Women, Politics, and Media in Uruguay, 1900–1950  

Christine Ehrick

In the first half of the 20th century, Uruguay was a relatively educated, democratic, and politically progressive South American country, and women there used old and new media for professional and political ends. Radical, Catholic, and liberal feminist women all utilized print media to promote their views and build support for their respective causes in publications aimed at both female and general audiences. Anarchist feminist María Collazo, for example, edited an important publication, La Batalla, from 1915 to approximately 1927. By the late 1920s, radio was an emerging mass medium, and women activists, journalists, and others sought to make their voices heard, literally and figuratively, on its airwaves. Starting in 1935, those airwaves included Radio Femenina, the first all-woman format radio station in the Western Hemisphere. One of the voices heard on Radio Femenina was Dra. Paulina Luisi, Uruguay’s leading feminist activist, who became a powerful voice of both the Socialist Party and the politics of the Popular Front in the late 1930s and early 1940s.