Given its features as a modern mass medium and thus closely related to the nation, cinema has rightly been regarded as a privileged site for putting forward and contesting representations of national identity, or in short, as a main arena in which narratives of national identity are negotiated. What do films such as Amores Perros or Traffic say about Mexican identity? In what way could Bread and Roses or The Crime of Padre Amaro be part of its transformation? This book looks at representations of "Mexicanity" in Mexican cinema and also in Hollywood throughout the twentieth century and beyond, arguing that the international context plays at least as important a role as ethnicity, religion and language in the construction of images of the national self, although it is seldom taken into account in theories of national identity. The Mexican film may reveal much about Mexican society, e.g.,
Traffic and the prevalence of drug trafficking, Bread and Roses, and the problems of migration; Amores Perros, in relation to metaphors of the nation as an extended family; The Crime of Father Amaro, in discussing the changing position of the Catholic Church; and Herod's Law, a scathing critique to the political system that dominated Mexico for the best part of the 20th century. Throughout, the book emphasises the contingent nature of hegemonic representations, and our ongoing need to tell and to listen to - or indeed, view - stories that weave together a variety of strands to convincingly tell us who we are.
Dr. de la Garza is a Lecturer in the Division of International Communications. She has taught at the University of Nottingham and the London School of Economics, where she completed a doctoral thesis on the subject of Nationalism and Film from a poststructuralist perspective. She holds a Masters on the Politics of Democracy from the University of London (Royal Holloway), and was a Lecturer at the National University of Mexico for seven years. Dr. de la Garza has worked as a Research Assistant for the Associate Director of the Centre for Business Studies at the University of Cambridge, Dr Noreena Hertz, doing research on Latin America. In 2003 she was awarded the LSE Teaching Prize for International Relations. Currently she is working on a book on Mexican cinema. Questions on whether Mexican identity belonged in the South with Latin America or in the North with North America became pressing in the 1990s, as the North American Free Trade Agreement negotiated with the United States involved a series of large scale social, political and economic changes. This book is the result of her interest in these questions, and it looks at films from both the United States and Mexico in search for answers. Although wholly specific to Mexico, in many respects, some of the issues discussed here can nonetheless also apply to national identity in other countries experiencing contradictory encounters between tradition and modernity.