Fragments of a Golden Age

The Politics of Culture in Mexico Since 1940

Fragments of a Golden Age

American Encounters/Global Interactions

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Book Pages: 528 Illustrations: 54 photographs, 1 figure Published: June 2001

Cultural Studies, History > Latin American History, Latin American Studies > Mexico

During the twentieth century the Mexican government invested in the creation and promotion of a national culture more aggressively than any other state in the western hemisphere. Fragments of a Golden Age provides a comprehensive cultural history of the vibrant Mexico that emerged after 1940. Agreeing that the politics of culture and its production, dissemination, and reception constitute one of the keys to understanding this period of Mexican history, the volume’s contributors—historians, popular writers, anthropologists, artists, and cultural critics—weigh in on a wealth of topics from music, tourism, television, and sports to theatre, unions, art, and magazines.
Each essay in its own way addresses the fragmentation of a cultural consensus that prevailed during the “golden age” of post–revolutionary prosperity, a time when the state was still successfully bolstering its power with narratives of modernization and shared community. Combining detailed case studies—both urban and rural—with larger discussions of political, economic, and cultural phenomena, the contributors take on such topics as the golden age of Mexican cinema, the death of Pedro Infante as a political spectacle, the 1951 “caravan of hunger,” professional wrestling, rock music, and soap operas.
Fragments of a Golden Age will fill a particular gap for students of modern Mexico, Latin American studies, cultural studies, political economy, and twentieth century history, as well as to others concerned with rethinking the cultural dimensions of nationalism, imperialism, and modernization.

Contributors. Steven J. Bachelor, Quetzil E. Castañeda, Seth Fein, Alison Greene, Omar Hernández, Jis & Trino, Gilbert M. Joseph, Heather Levi, Rubén Martínez, Emile McAnany, John Mraz, Jeffrey M. Pilcher, Elena Poniatowska, Anne Rubenstein, Alex Saragoza, Arthur Schmidt, Mary Kay Vaughan, Eric Zolov


“Combining innovative cultural and transnational theory with traditional political analysis, this important book represents a new direction in Mexican historiography in the United States. . . . The rich, delightful, and distinctly cool cultural tidbits that tumble from this academic piñata will, one hopes, soon become the building blocks of a new history of postrevolutionary Mexico’s golden age.” — Adrian A. Bantjes , Hispanic American Historical Review

“This volume is an excellent example of the new cultural history, the history of the production and reproduction of socially constituted meanings, or how people make sense of themselves and the world. . . . [I]nteresting, straightforward, and readable analyzes and explanations of past worlds that demonstrate excellent research and make sense even to me.” — Thomas Benjamin , The Americas

"Fragments of a Golden Age contributes tremendously to this important new field of study. . . ."

— Esther Gabara , Nepantla

"Scholars and students seeking a broader conceptual framework for understanding the dynamics of postrevolutionary Mexico-indeed, anyone interested in contemporary Latin American history and culture in general-will find this book an innovative and stimulating point of departure." — Michael M. Smith , New Mexico Historical Review

"This collection of well-written, creative and methodologically diverse essays on the politics of culture in Mexico since 1940 establishes a high standard for scholarship on this understudied period. . . . The strength of this volume is its eclecticism. . . . [A]s the best of these essays demonstrate, popular culture is a constitutive part of institutional politics and economics, not a superstructural reflection. We owe a collective debt of gratitude to these authors for introducing us to the fabulously rich and exciting world of popular culture that so few historians dare to enter." — Elliott Young , The Historian

"This is a pathbreaking contribution to the history of modern Mexico. . . . This book will play an important role in orienting a new generation of scholars." — Samuel Brunk , American Historical Review

“This innovative and important book is one of the first to focus on the history of Mexico since 1940. A pioneering volume of cultural studies that will show the field how far we have come.” — John Tutino, Georgetown University

“This marvelous book is an antidote to a generation’s worth of simplifications, romantizations, and folklorizations of Mexican culture. Throughout the book the authors always take the close view, so that we become intimate with the unfolding complexities and contradictions of Mexican culture, rather than being intimidated by them. By the end, we have come to understand Mexican culture as politics, politics as art, and art as only one of the multiple acts of creation Mexicans engage in daily to interpret, embellish, and survive their own lives. This is scholarship at its best.” — Alma Guillermoprieto


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Gilbert M. Joseph is Farnam Professor of History at Yale University and the coeditor of Everyday Forms of State Formation: Revolution and the Negotiation of Rule in Modern Mexico and Close Encounters of Empire: Writing the Cultural History of U.S.–Latin American Relations, both published by Duke University Press.

Anne Rubenstein is Associate Professor of History, York University, Toronto and author of Bad Language, Naked Ladies, and Other Threats to the Nation, also published by Duke University Press.

Eric Zolov is Associate Professor of History at the State University of New York, Stony Brook and the author of Refried Elvis: the Rise of the Mexican Counterculture and coeditor of Latin America and the United States: A Documentary History.

Table of Contents Back to Top
List of Illustrations

Foreword / Elena Poniatowska


I. Reclaiming the History of Postrevolutionary Mexico

Assembling the Fragments: Writing a Cultural History of Mexico Since 1940 / Gilbert M. Joseph, Anne Rubenstein, and Eric Zolov

Making It Real Compared to What? Reconceptualizing Mexican History Since 1940 / Arthur Schmidt

II. At Play Amongst the Fragments

Mexico’s Pepsi Challenge: Traditional Cooking, Mass Consumption, and National Identity / Jeffrey M. Pilcher

The Selling of Mexico: Tourism and the State, 1929–1952 / Alex Saragoza

Today, Tomorrow, and Always: The Golden Age of Illustrated Magazines in Mexico, 1937–1960 / John Mraz

Myths of Cultural Imperialism and Nationalism in Golden Age Mexican Cinema / Seth Fein

Bodies, Cities, Cinema: Pedro Infante’s Death as Political Spectacle / Anne Rubenstein

Discovering a Land “Mysterious and Obvious”: The Renarrativizing of Postrevolutionary Mexico / Eric Zolov

Toiling for the “New Invaders”: Autoworkers, Transnational Corporations, and Working-Class Culture in Mexico City, 1955–1968 / Steven J. Bachelor

El Santos and the Return of the Killer Aztecs! / Jis y Trino

Masked Media: The Adventures of Lucha Libre on the Small Screen / Heather Levi

Corazón del Rocanrol / Rubén Martínez

Cultural Industries in the Free Trade Age: A Look at Mexican Television / Omar Hernández and Emile McAnany

Cablevision(nation) and Rural Yucatán: Performing Modernity and Mexicanidad in the Early 1990s / Alison Greene

The Aura of Ruins / Quetzil E. Castaneda

III. Final Reflections

Transnational Processes and the Rise and Fall of the Mexican Cultural State: Notes from the Past / Mary Kay Vaughan



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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2718-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2707-3
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