Making Cinelandia

American Films and Mexican Film Culture before the Golden Age

Making Cinelandia

Book Pages: 336 Illustrations: 46 illustrations, 3 maps Published: March 2014

American Studies, Latin American Studies > Mexico, Media Studies > Film

In the 1920s, as American films came to dominate Mexico's cinemas, many of its cultural and political elites feared that this "Yanqui invasion" would turn Mexico into a cultural vassal of the United States. In Making Cinelandia, Laura Isabel Serna contends that Hollywood films were not simply tools of cultural imperialism. Instead, they offered Mexicans on both sides of the border an imaginative and crucial means of participating in global modernity, even as these films and their producers and distributors frequently displayed anti-Mexican bias. Before the Golden Age of Mexican cinema, Mexican audiences used their encounters with American films to construct a national film culture. Drawing on extensive archival research, Serna explores the popular experience of cinemagoing from the perspective of exhibitors, cinema workers, journalists, censors, and fans, showing how Mexican audiences actively engaged with American films to identify more deeply with Mexico.


“Because it deals with Mexican film culture from the teens to the early 1930s, Serna's fine book is a perfect complement to Robert McKee Irwin and Maricruz Castro Ricalde's Global Mexican Cinema, which begins where this study leaves off.  The early period was dominated by Hollywood films, representing an exciting, alarming modernity and exhibiting considerable insensitivity toward their neighbors to the south. Yet, as Serna (USC) demonstrates with admirable data and interpretive imagination, cinelandia was welcome to the politicians and capitalists who saw the distribution and exhibition of Hollywood films both as an opportunity and as evidence of post-revolutionary Mexico's movement into the modern age. . . . Recommended. All readers.” — W. A. Vincent, Choice

"Moving skillfully between Mexico City, El Paso, and Los Angeles, Serna shows how star-struck fans, ordinary filmgoers, and critics of U.S. films generated transnational articulations of Mexican identity." — Cara Caddoo, American Historical Review

Making Cinelandia transports its reader to new physical spaces and reveals a material culture perhaps as interesting as the rare or lost films themselves. … At hand is an interesting and well-written text, an effective transnational history suitable for the Latin Americanist or film scholar, the graduate student of either field, and, one hopes, the wider world of film buffs.”  — Charles V. Heath, Hispanic American Historical Review

“Laura Isabel Serna's exhaustively researched and engagingly written Making Cinelandia reconsiders the terms of scholarly debate on Latin American cinema and global film culture more broadly.” — Rielle Navitski, New Mexico Historical Review

“Laura Serna has written a groundbreaking study of the impact of US silent film on cinematic culture, in Mexico and among Mexican migrant communities north of the border during the interwar period. A film historian, Serna presents ideas that are both theoretically nuanced and meticulously documented. She gleans dozens of original insights from an astounding array of primary sources in Mexico and the US. . . . Serna’s book is an exemplary work of scholarship.” — Patrick Duffy, The Americas

"Making Cinelandia is a ground breaking cultural history. It is admirable for the attention it pays to the performative, promotional, and cultural practices that were a part of moviegoing and for its extensive archival research across Mexico and the United States. It is original, thoroughly readable and accessible and, most significantly, it changes how we think about Mexican film culture in the twentieth century." — Dolores Tierney, American Studies

"MakingCinelandia is one of the best new books I have read in a very long time—a groundbreaking study of Mexican film culture that will transform our understanding of exhibition practices, censorship, fan cultures, and filmgoing habits during a period traditionally excluded from histories of Mexican cinema. Laura Isabel Serna adds considerably to knowledge of silent-era Hollywood's global reach, transnational stardom, and struggles over the representation of race and ethnicity on movie screens." — Shelley Stamp, author of Movie-Struck Girls: Women and Motion Picture Culture after the Nickelodeon

"Laura Isabel Serna presents an original and compelling analysis of Mexican film history and the international reception of Hollywood films, making a substantial contribution to our understanding of both. Making Cinelandia shifts attention within the historiography of Mexican cinema from production to reception, from national boundaries to the idea of 'Greater Mexico,' and from national cinema to foreign films. It also provides an exemplary case study of how nation-building occurred in dialogue with U.S. culture." — Chon A. Noriega, author of Shot in America: Television, the State, and the Rise of Chicano Cinema


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Laura Isabel Serna is Assistant Professor of Critical Studies in the School of Cinematic Arts at the University of Southern California.

Table of Contents Back to Top
A Note on Translations and Film Titles xi

Prólogo (Prologue) xiii

Acknowledgments xv

Introduction 1

Part I. The Yanqui Invasion 17

1. U.S. Motion Picture Companies Go South of the Border 19

2. American Movies, Mexican Modernity: The Cinema as a National Space 47

3. In Lola's House: Fan Discourse in the Making of Mexican Film Culture 85

Part II. Border Crossings 121

4. La Virgen and La Pelona: Film Culture, Border Crossing, and the Modern Mexican Woman 123

5. Denigrating Pictures: Censorship and the Politics of U.S. Film in Greater Mexico 154

6. Al Cine: Mexican Migrants Go to the Movies 180

Conclusion 215

Abbreviations of Frequently Cited Sources 223

Notes 225

Bibliography 279

Filmography 303

Index 309
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5653-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5641-7
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