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Discourse, 26.1&2, Winter & Spring 2004, pp. 194-213 (Article)
Published by Wayne State University Press DOI: 10.1353/dis.2005.0012
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Popular Mexican Cinema and Undocumented Immigrants
Maricruz Castro Ricalde
This article exposes the artiﬁciality of the separation effected in 1980s Mexican journalistic discourse between so-called ‘‘quality’’ cinema and its implied inverse, ‘‘popular’’ cinema. In ﬁlms by Marı ´a Elena Velasco, the India Marı ´a (Marı ´a the Indian), the term ‘‘popular’’ extends beyond the nature of the ideal spectator who hails from the lower classes, politely denominated ‘‘popular’’ in Spanish. Through Velasco’s ‘‘popular’’ cinema the term undergoes a series of reworkings. The subject of analysis in the present essay principally concerns Ni de aquı ´ ni de alla ´ [Neither Here nor There] (1987), the third feature-length ﬁlm by Velasco as producer and her twelfth ﬁlm as protagonist. The axis of Ni de aquı ´ ni de alla ´ turns on the labor conditions experienced by Mexicans who immigrate illegally to the United States, and so the present analysis intends to study the images concerning the undocumented workers that are integral to Ni de aquı ´ ni de alla ´ . Relevant topics include the images’ relation to past and present referents, and their link with the context as well as the production and consumer. For Mexicans who live in the United States, and for those who inhabit the border or the principal places farther south in Mexico that supply the northern neighbor with undocumented workers, the representations and symbols proffered by popular cinema are anchored in reality. To study them then becomes a necessity for those interested in the exploring the identities of both nations.
Discourse, 26.1 & 26.2 (Winter and Spring 2004), pp. 194–213. Copyright ᭧ 2005 Wayne State University Press, Detroit, Michigan 48201-1309.
1986. ´o (They Died in the Middle of the River) (Jose 1986). Coria 63). Mojados de corazo ´ n (Wetbacks from the Heart) (Miguel Rico. (Reuter 88) (In western societies there is a very deeply rooted prejudice that the ‘‘best. In fact.’’ and what is truly ‘‘culture. Many of these ﬁlms take their title from popular sayings. This same technique reﬂects the titles of other ﬁlms about the border.1 This separation reveals a bias with regard to the word ‘‘culture’’ and one group’s appropriation of the powers of aesthetic arbitration.’’ is the creation that we call ‘‘art’’—best understood as the art created in agreement with . 1987). a division between ‘‘quality’’ cinema and ‘‘commercial’’ or ‘‘popular’’ cinema (Barriga B2. la e ´ lite polı ´tico-econo ´ mico-intelectual. Turrent 9. La tumba del mojado (The Wetback’s Grave) Matanza en Matamoros (Massacre in Matamoros) and Operacio ´ n Mariguana [Operation Marijuana] (Jose ´ Luis Urquieta.’’ Other media manifestations in this case are labeled ‘‘sub-culture:’’ En las sociedades occidentales esta ´ muy arraigado el prejuicio de que lo ‘‘mejor. 1985. estimates indicate that between 1935 and 1995 a total of more than 300 ﬁlms have been made about the border and its people (Iglesias 26). Mauro el Mojado (Mauro the Wetback) (Alberto Mariscal. or the bootlegger.’’ lo que verdaderamente es ‘‘cultura. usually implicitly. Vin ˜ as 28).’’ son las creaciones que llamamos ‘‘arte’’—bien entendido. el arte creado de acuerdo con determinados ca ´ nones establecidos por el propio sector dominante de esas sociedades. The aforementioned ﬁlms understood the public’s interest in a topic that barely distinguishes the immigrant from the hired killer. During the decade of the 80s. journalistic criticism proposed. which borrow titles from popular corridos (songs) like ‘‘La jaula de oro’’ (‘‘The golden cage’’) or ‘‘La tumba del mojado’’ (‘‘The wetback’s grave’’).’’ the ‘‘most worthy. Between 1982 and 1988 some ﬁfty titles concerning the theme appeared (Garcı ´a.’’ lo ‘‘ma ´ s valioso. which reveals the segment of consumers that the ﬁlm wishes to address. the subject of the undocumented workers on Mexico’s northern border had already been explored by such ﬁlms as Murieron a mitad del rı ´ Nieto Ramı ´rez. Carro 2–5. 1986). a saber. sung by the popular music group Los Tigres del Norte.’’ The difference created between ‘‘quality’’ and ‘‘commercial/popular’’ cinema is deﬁned by this group of self-appointed arbiters of culture: only that which is judged as ‘‘good’’ will form part of what is considered ‘‘culture. Maciel 313. 1987). The schism automatically associates the terms ‘‘culture’’ and ‘‘value. the drug dealer. for example. this dominant group becomes a self-appointed judge determining what is to be accepted and what is to be rejected as culture. Vela ´ squez D1.Winter and Spring 2004 195 When on January 28 1988 Ni de aquı ´ ni de alla ´ debuted.
Her work ‘‘debe dar un ejemplo positivo o llamar a la reﬂexio ´ n sobre alguna situacio ´ n.1 & 2 determined canons established by the same dominant sector in these societies. By shunning considerations about the receptor. necessarily have an impact beyond mere entertainment on the loyal public that follows her and ﬁlled the theatres when Mexican cinema had fallen into disrepute. Criticism minimizes to the point of ignoring the importance of her personae both in ﬁlm and as a director assuming. otherwise this positive message will not make it to anyone’’). This journalistic judgment loses sight of the consumer. criticism proves isolated in its concern with aesthetic achievement and tends to reject Velasco’s ﬁlms. Inheriting a vacuum in the wake of great comedians like Cantinﬂas and Tin Tan.’’ ‘‘popular. have conﬁrmed about the current social imaginary. appropriates the social conﬁgurations that the India Marı ´a’s ﬁlms have put into circulation. When it does contemplate Velasco’s ﬁlms. the political-economic-intellectual elite. because journalistic criticism has overlooked these examples of popular culture. Velasco’s declarations regarding her fundamental interest in entertaining notwithstanding. the ﬁlms that she protagonizes and later. This rejection has produced a rift between public taste and media reception. de otra manera ese mensaje positivo no llegara ´ a nadie’’ (Pacheco D1) (‘‘should give a positive example or encourage further thought about a situation. Marı ´a Elena Velasco’s ﬁlms propose images for the spectator that haven’t been studied until now.196 Discourse 26. or at least. her appearances on television. barely takes into account the enormous inﬂuence of the social imaginary. reception of ﬁlms written by the India Marı ´a.’’ Marı ´a Elena Velasco herself has declared on several occasions that her primary intention is to entertain and not to construct social criticism through her ﬁlms. However—she insists—the primordial function [of cinema] is to amuse. that she also writes and directs.’’ and ‘‘simple’’ in addition to . and perhaps. because of its predetermined cultural category. perhaps the most popular media character in Mexico during the 70s and 80s. that it is only a vehicle for ‘‘family diversion. that is. especially for the learned middle class. Sin embargo—insistio ´ —la funcio ´ n primordial es divertir.) Because of these predeﬁned categories. journalistic criticism re-elaborates many preconceptions about the ﬁlmmaker Velasco as ‘‘commercial. the latter of which guides itself according to the traditional focus on evaluating what is ‘‘best’’ through an exclusivist deﬁnition of culture. even though said consumer offers a verdict through box-ofﬁce sales.
dispareja como pocas. Critics. sin . 1987). and the channel. at the time of its release. I: Irreconcilable Differences: Popular Cinema and Quality Cinema in Mexico during the 80s Journalistic criticism considers Ni de aquı ´ ni de alla ´ within the range of cinematic ‘‘consumable products. The video Ni de aquı ´ ni de alla ´ sold nearly 15. Moise ´ s Vin ˜ as afﬁrms that ‘‘La larga permanencia en cartelera de esta cinta. through its critique of the popular movie supports the point that there is a difference between what is deﬁned as ‘‘quality’’ and an ‘‘easily consumed’’ media product.Winter and Spring 2004 197 repeating preconceptions about the formal result of her ﬁlmmaking. Los verduleros II (Gilberto Martı ´nez Solares.’’ and in fact the ﬁlm was. (‘‘1988: un an ˜ o de cine’’ 5) ([I]n general. The criticism neglects another important factor.000 copies. Nelson Carro observes that: [E]n general. and the reasons for this extraordinary success are not to be found in its artistic or cinematographic values. there is a coincidence in that we are talking about India Marı ´a’s worst ﬁlm). the criticism considers two moments of the communicative circuit: that of the sender and of the message. on the other hand. sino en sus cualidades como producto de consumo. y las razones de este descomunal e ´ xito no hay que buscarlas en sus valores artı ´sticos o cinematogra ´ ﬁcos. the referent. What’s more. ¡Que ´ buena esta ´ mi ahijada! (My Goddaughter is So Good/Hot!) (Juan Jose ´ Munguı ´a. the receptor. the enthusiastic audience reception for Velasco’s ﬁlm corresponds to a run in theatres lasting several weeks both in the capital and in Mexican provincia. the most successful Mexican motion picture at the national box ofﬁce. Ni de aquı ´ ni de alla ´ took in ﬁve times more earnings than the most successful box-ofﬁce hit the previous year. received the ﬁlm quite negatively. and minimizes or nulliﬁes other elements such as the context. and television continues broadcasting the ﬁlm even years after its debut. hay coincidencia en que se trata del peor ﬁlme de la India Marı ´a). Going along with this. during its theatre run.) This quote. but rather in the ﬁlm’s qualities as a consumer product. With a gross take far superior to its closest competitor. aberrante en su humor. That is to say. 1987). directed to the general public (during a time when family cinema is scarce) and supported by an impressive television campaign. dirigido a todo el pu ´ blico (en un momento en donde el cine familiar escasea) y apoyado en una impresionante campan ˜ a televisiva.
On the other hand. opinion is modeled in a similar way. like never before shows her cinematographic pretensions.’’ ‘‘error. only demonstrates the damage that television can work on public taste. so ´ lo demuestra los estragos que en el gusto popular puede causar la televisio ´ n’’ (28) (The long theatre run for this ﬁlm.’’ and ‘‘defect’’ all of which are synonyms of ‘‘aberration.198 Discourse 26.1 & 2 direccio ´ n ni actuacio ´ n ni mucho menos guio ´ n. and ‘‘los ambiciosos’’ (the ambitiously pretentious ﬁlms). El coyote emplumado (The Feathered Coyote) (1983): ‘‘Marı ´a Elena Velasco.) The virulence of the opinions registered about this ﬁlm appears tempered in a text by Toma ´ s Pe ´ rez Turrent. infers that there are commercial products that are ‘‘genuine’’ and others that are not.’’ those who make quality cinema. uneven as few are. even when speaking about the ‘‘malos profesionales’’ (professional ﬁlms in an ironic usage). or popular. however. aberrant in its humor. la India Marı ´a. (Marı ´a Elena Velasco. Marı ´a the India. Though this theory was very popular early in the twentieth century it was displaced in the 30s in favor of functionalist perspectives.) Critics repeat this perception in one form or another as a result of the ﬁrst ﬁlm directed by Velasco. On one hand it associates popular humor with ‘‘diversion. Those being. Journalistic criticism in Mexico. on the other hand. nunca como en esta ocasio ´ n demuestra cua ´ les son sus pretensiones cinematogra ´ ﬁcas. (The .’’ This implies that there should be a ‘‘correct’’ or ‘‘normal’’ sense of humor that is not found in India Marı ´a’s movies. Ezequiel Barriga. (nowhere does one see even the most elemental manifestation to make a cinema that eventually could pass for a genuine commercial article. Public. El coyote emplumado B1). popular ‘‘taste’’ is seen as the victim of the ‘‘theory of the hypodermic needle. He argues ‘‘por ningu ´ s elemental manifestacio ´n por ´ n lado se ve la ma hacer un cine que eventualmente pudiese pasar por un genuino artı ´culo comercial’’ (Ni de aquı ´ ni de alla ´ B2). at least the response of the spectator is very similar. an overtly commercial cinema in which the principal ﬁgure is the character that made it popular. without direction nor acting nor much less a script. Esto es. insisted during the decades of the 80s in the omnipotence of television and its power over the passive viewer/consumer. un cine abiertamente comercial en el cual la ﬁgura principal es el personaje que le ha dado popularidad’’ (Barriga.) Vin ˜ as’ afﬁrmation carries with it diverse implications. such as ‘‘the good professionals.’’ where the receptors seen as a mass of people who are totally defenseless to the attacks of the media. and those who do not follow commercial objectives: ‘‘El guio ´n no es ma ´ s malo que los que le escribı ´an los profesionales’’ (9). ‘‘los churreros’’ (B ﬁlms). which imply contrary terms.
what is consumed (29). and the injustices of those who uphold them. even when large-circulation printed media. as something that comes from the people. the convenient homogeneity of the journalistic discourse updates the critical tradition that separates a magna culture from a small or gray one.Winter and Spring 2004 199 script is not worse that those that the professionals wrote for her). Su personaje ‘‘La India Marı ´a’’ retoma la sa ´ tira social y el anhelo de los sectores marginados del poder de triunfar sobre la corrupcio ´ n. and the lucrative nature of Velasco’s ﬁlms. this conceptualization implies a process of confrontation and generation of mechanisms of resistance that also creates a lack of possible negotiation.’’) (Zubieta 35). what is made for them. It is noteworthy that in reviews from 1988 opinions always appear buttressed with considerations of ‘‘popular taste. Matilde Landeta and Marcela Ferna ´ ndez Violante. desde abajo. in contrast to those by other women ﬁlmmakers of the decade. disregarded the ﬁlm’s run in theatres. The hierarchy implied in the terms erases the differences between understanding the term ‘‘popular’’ as Peter Burke proposes it. (313) (not only were they a complete box ofﬁce success. arrogance. como ‘adaptacio ´ n a necesidades especı ´ﬁcas’.’’ the inﬂuence of television. In public . Ni chana ni Juana (Not one nor the other) (1985) and Ni de aquı ´ ni de alla ´ (1987). was indeed subject to attention by journalistic criticism.’’ (‘‘what passes from one to another [from high culture to low] is read from above as ‘misunderstood or distortion’ and from below as ‘adaptation to speciﬁc needs’. la arrogancia y las injusticias de quienes lo detentan. Her character the ‘‘India Marı ´a’’ takes up social satire and the yearning of sectors marginalized from power in order to triumph over corruption. Neither are David Maciel’s observations particularly insightful. It is necessary to clarify that Ni de aquı ´ ni de alla ´ .) Thus. Neither did the inﬂuential magazine Proceso concern itself in any way with the three ﬁlms directed during the 80s by the India Marı ´a: El coyote emplumado (1983). even though in the history of Mexican cinema only a pair of Mexican directors. had managed to direct from behind the camera the same number of times. as he asserts that in the Velasco’s ﬁlms: no so ´ lo fueron un rotundo e ´ xito de taquilla sino la consagraron como una super [sic] estrella con talento para captar el gusto popular. such as La Jornada. It proposes a deﬁnition that does not involve an evaluation but rather a description of the term: ‘‘lo que pasa de una a otra [de una cultura alta a una baja] se lee desde arriba como ‘malentendido o distorsio ´n’ y. Against earlier formulations. but also they consecrated her as a superstar with a talent for capturing popular taste.
However beyond the apparent issue of aesthetic value these critiques also share an unspoken classism. or the characters work as laborers. the sexual currents in the street. the brothel. with the ﬁlms made during the last few decades. They exercise various occupations such as mechanic. in these ﬁlms mechanisms of resistance to and negotiation with the dominant cultures abound. A similar critique is launched in academic discourse regarding ﬁlms that employ popular comedy as a narrative strategy. such as Marı ´a Novaro.200 Discourse 26. the vacation spots. the ‘‘cabareteras’’ (cabaret dancer) and the ‘‘rumberas’’ (rumba dancer) ﬁlms. whether on purpose or involuntarily. and the rock and roll adventures by Juan Orol. ﬁnds greater appreciation from the elite sectors today as part of the Golden Age of Mexican cinema to which critics dedicate many pages of study in books and journals. The characters also belong to the working or lower classes. and Marisa Sistach. informal street peddler or more formal vendor (almost always in a market). the people connected to Mexican cinema would mention repeatedly the importance of certain women within cinematographic circles. these spaces include las pulquerı ´as (inexpensive pulque bars). The same evolution in critical opinion has not come to pass. and even prison. critics have advanced valid points concerning the ﬁlms themselves. the highway adventures. and 50s. Stock elements that some decades back were considered popular cinema—the Cantinﬂas and Tin-Tan ﬁlms. In these scholarly forums. and they have presented the ﬁlms as useful documents for understanding the diverse stratums of Mexican society in the 30s. residential projects. The themes revolve around moments which escape the characters’ daily routine. las taquerı ´as (taco stands/shops). Therefore. This resistance and negotiation is largely overlooked by the Mexican press. . however. 40s. to mention just a few. such as the numbers of Cine Conﬁdencial and Somos listed in the bibliography. At least two tendencies begin to emerge with regard to treatments of a type of cinema evaluated as ‘‘commercial’’ and ‘‘popular:’’ primarily it is discursively despised or made invisible in reviews and journalistic commentaries. but the name Marı ´a Elena Velasco never ﬁgured among them (Avile ´ s B8). and the organized delinquency on the border are proposed as alternative spaces. from rooftops to patios. Busi Corte ´ s.1 & 2 declarations during that period. las torterı ´as (sandwich stands/shops). The comedies that cultural arbiters judge as being of low quality also tend to represent spaces frequented by an impoverished middle class and even more poverty-stricken lower class. In spite of the fact that these stereotypes are ratiﬁed in each one of these social segments. bricklayer.
other ﬁlms. Longitud de guerra (Length of War) (Gonzalo Martı ´nez. This public did not go see movies because of formal or thematic innovations but rather they went to see vehicles of diversion. Aquellos an ˜ os (Those Years) (Felipe Cazals. By contrast. and ‘‘commercial’’ cinema destined for popular entertainment. economic or social inﬂuence) and not in relation to their own needs or interests necessarily. criticism revived the old determinist conﬁguration about locating a ‘‘high’’ culture as a category removed from a ‘‘low’’ culture.Winter and Spring 2004 201 Starting in the 70s. critics divided cinema into ‘‘quality’’ ﬁlms directed to a literate social class. This ‘‘quality’’ cinema’s expectations for recovering its investment were nonexistent.’’ was not identiﬁed with the words ‘‘amusement’’ or ‘‘relaxation. certain quantitative indexes seemed to support this increasingly evident separation: the ﬁlms that attracted more people to the box ofﬁce. The historic recreation and the plots based on real-life stories multiplied. Regardless of poor returns and the repetitious themes. viento de libertad [Mine. It also makes evident that irrespective of the type of cinema being produced. these ﬁlms’ vision formed part of the weekend entertainment routines for its audience who belongs. to the working classes. they follow a vertical model of cultural production where the prospective audience for a ﬁlm are judged in terms of possible proﬁt (within the sphere of political. This characterization goes back to a cultural practice that polarizes the differences between ‘‘high’’ and ‘‘popular’’ culture. In everyday practice then. when she was Jose ´ Vasconcelos’s lover. only Canoa lasted more than three weeks in theatres.’’ but rather with perspectives more closely linked to the informational content and its spectators. That is to say. The . In this way considerations of a ‘‘high’’ and ‘‘popular’’ create a uniformity as far as who is going to belong to one segment or another. Wind of Liberty] (Antonio Eceisa. Canoa (Cazals. was situated in the independence period. Of the aforementioned ﬁlms. and Antonieta (Carlos Saura. 1975) alludes to the Porﬁrian age. In the following years. there began to circulate with special vigor a strongly hierarchical discourse. 1972) took place in the time of Benito Jua ´ rez. mainly. 1976). representing for critics a cinema of ‘‘quality. 1982) studies the life of Antonieta Rivas Mercado in the 20s. for example. 1975) refers to the atmosphere of 1968. those that earned back their cost and operated with a proﬁt margin were produced with private capital and destined for the lower classes that frequented certain theatres located in precise points in Mexico City and the larger cities in provincia. as a result of the different actions that the Mexican government undertook to revive the cinematographic industry. Mina.
given a growing tendency to prefer United States’ cinematographic spectacles over any sort of national production. would run from the India Marı ´a. Siempre en domingo. and the scripts for her ﬁlms. Rogelio A. and two years later she repeated the experience for El que no corre. Velasco’s decision to initiate her trajectory as a ﬁlmmaker together with Martı ´nez Solares. vuela (The One who Doesn’t Run Flies). in a routine that became the paradigm of the problematic coupling in Mexico for two people of different races and social classes. II: An Undocumented Indigenous Woman The character the India Marı ´a that Velasco developed so fortuitously in 1972 for live shows quickly found a home on television in sketches included on a variety program with high ratings. Marı ´a chased the host Rau ´ l Velasco (no relation) all through the studio. spread throughout three continents. who was also popular with the audience. disguised with the mask of comedy. it becomes clear why ‘‘quality’’ ﬁlmmakers displayed an ever-increasing dependence on governmental and public institutional support. Pancho with Gilberto Martı ´nez Solares. as an Indian ‘‘in love’’ with the gu ¨ erito (a Mexican term that signiﬁes a person of light complexion and/or someone who appears to belong to the upper classes). The show’s maximum ratings occurred during the launching of Marı ´a Elena Velasco’s character and the reﬁnement of the India Marı ´a in the popular imaginary. and investment return. an important distinction and strikes at the heart of the point being made here.2 There. reached more than 400. one of the head directors of the famed comic Tin Tan. Years before the screenwriter and later the director for Pedro Infante. publicity rates.202 Discourse 26.1 & 2 rest barely stayed for two and made an average of 10% of their cost. the plots. In 1979. during almost thirty years. Mr. Televisa’s most important station in terms of audience numbers. The India Marı ´a’s admiration for this white man in conjunction with his guarded scorn toward her.000. suggests an underlying nostalgia for a social order reminiscent of the colonial period. had directed Velasco. Gonza ´ lez. Velasco co-directed OK. Thus. The potential tele-spectators. Those ﬁlms were aimed at a university and intellectual conglomerate. This ﬁlm marks the moment during which Velasco began to help develop the ideas. is striking. The more afﬂuent social classes did not correspond to this segment.000 viewers (Betanzo 19). Siempre en domingo remained on El Canal de las Estrellas (The Chanel of Stars). The host. and she .
have written. This transition bears important implications in terms of cultural production and gender issues. However. Isela Vega has also starred in. with her son Iva ´ n Lipkies at the head and her daughter as an executive producer. to mention just a few examples. the journalist Nelson Carro notes that the India Marı ´a ‘‘ya ocupaba el lugar dejado vacante por Cantinﬂas’’ (28) (already occupied the place left empty by Cantinﬂas). (A Hen of Many Eggs) 1982. Marı ´a Novaro. who ﬁlmed thirty-three of Cantinﬂas’s ﬁlms. On one hand. similar to the way Mexican women participate in labor movements. but they have never labored as actresses in their own ﬁlms. since across several years she labored as a backup actress for other renowned names well loved by the Mexican people such as Adalberto Martı ´nez ‘‘Resortes’’ (Springs). On the other hand. they combine their role as mothers. across the history of Mexican cinema there are very few cases of women who have become involved behind the camera with their ﬁlmic products. but not for critics. Velasco collaborated with her daughter Ivette and directed and produced through her production company Vlady Realizaciones. and produced two ﬁlms (Una gallina muy ponedora. members of an extended family. Jesu ´nez ‘‘Palillo’’ ´ s Martı (Toothpick). Velasco made the transition from protagonist to coordinator of her own projects in part by incorporating her family into show business. when referring to Ni de aquı ´ ni de alla ´ . The India Marı ´a’s close relationship with directors Solares.Winter and Spring 2004 203 also collaborated with the veteran Miguel M. Marisa Sistach. and workers. Thus. and Las amantes del sen ˜ or de la noche. Velasco has involved her children in her ﬁlms and turns the ﬁlm projects into a family enterprise. Velasco’s connections with one of the most valued periods in the history of Mexican cinema seemed to be visible for the consumers. Velasco’s decision to collaborate with the ﬁlmmakers and the production team members intimate with the great stars of Mexican Golden Age comedy may also be a way for Velasco to enter into an industry dominated exclusively by men. directed or otherwise intervened in their ﬁlms’ production. Delgado and Gonza ´ lez endorses Velasco as receiving the legacy of the comics from the Golden Age. directed. edited. Sabina Berman and Guita Schyfter. Fernando Soto ‘‘Mantequilla’’ (Butter). Antonio Espino ‘‘Clavillazo.’’ What’s more. This relationship with the mentors of the most important comedic actors of the Mexican cinematic Golden Age reafﬁrmed Velasco’s antecedents as a showgirl. Vega has not repeated this endeavor for twenty years. and at the same time.’’ Manuel Medel y Eulalio Gonza ´ lez ‘‘Piporro. Delgado. Like some of these women. written. permits her . (The Lovers of the Lord of the Night) 1983). Granted.
and production teams.1 & 2 to familiarize herself with administrative issues. and of the impulsive Northerner incarnated by Piporro. which she developed with a casualness that oscillated between supposed ingenuity and orneriness. the similarities between her own ﬁlms and those of the ‘‘Golden Age’’ are often left unrevealed by many of the Mexican critical establishment. With the television corporation Telesistema Mexicano. Her work with these ﬁgures of Mexican cinema will inﬂuence some of the choices she makes when creating her own ﬁlms. the candid India Marı ´a added another stock character to the Mexican social landscape. industry connections. though apparently ‘‘radical’’ to some for selecting the ﬁgure of a mazahua indigenous person is actually coherent with the stock characters employed by the old tent masters and in popular comedy in Mexico and Latin America. the India Marı ´a’s clumsiness. The television spectators from the lower classes responded fervently to the character and demonstrated this fervor by placing Velasco’s ﬁrst two ﬁlms in the third and second place in popularity. along with the allusion to the repeated deceit of the indigenous people and campesinos because they were believed to be less intelligent. In this context of critically manufactured concepts of social and artistic ‘‘taste’’ Ni de aquı ´ ni de alla ´ debuted and the results were those already described: commercial success added to the contempt and the snubbing on the part of the journalistic criticism. Her choice. of the pachuco (ﬂashy chicano) inspired by Tin Tan. undocumented immigration. The critical perspective regarding the political and social situation exhibited by Palillo seemed to trace a line of succession in the commentaries that the India Marı ´a would drop in her interviews with the Mexican media. The mention of political corruption and exploited lower classes. respectively. Even in the context of this censorship. within the Mexican box ofﬁce the years they were produced.3 Thus. as a result of the tight relationship between the television conglomerate and the government or the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (Institutional Revolutionary Party). hit a nerve among the segment of the population that had followed Marı ´a Elena Velasco since her televised . However. added to her role as an ingenuous and even silly character and permitted her a discursive daring unusual for the time. including unions. the peladito (little tramp) in the tradition of Cantinﬂas. Velasco’s social criticism seemed most limited.204 Discourse 26. make up some of Velasco’s themes. To understand the positive public response. one has to take into account that the problem addressed in the ﬁlm.
Marı ´a recreates popular stereotyped ﬁgures such as the ingenuous mazahua. the India Marı ´a immediately brings to mind the multitude of indigenous people who immigrated to Mexico City. Over the skirt. these people occupy the same geographic area as the ﬁrst tribes: part of the Valley of Mexico and the Valley of Toluca. Mexico City began to incorporate into its urban landscape the so-called ‘‘Marı ´as. in the face of the evident impoverishment of the Mexican countryside in the 70s. The name came about as a result of the frequency of the name among them. In the 80s. but hardworking and with a good heart. the previous ﬁlms that touched upon the situation of the ‘‘wetbacks’’ were not apt for family viewing. In the face of the certainty that leaving the rural environment for the Mexican national capital will not solve her economic problems. As a belt for the skirts.000 indigenous people belonging to the mazahua ethnicity. on the street. Today. the State of Mexico. then. clueless and clumsy. In the second sequence . since ‘‘los migrantes cambian de una situacio ´ n cercana a la subsistencia a otra que mucho se parece. a testimony to the inﬂuence of Catholicism among the rural and indigenous population exempliﬁed in the ﬁrst sequence of Ni de aquı ´ ni de alla ´. a la que acaban de dejar’’ (the migrants change from a situation near subsistence to another that closely resembles. Ni de aquı ´ ni de alla ´ demonstrates. the one they just left) (121). the indigenous woman intuitively tries to escape the ‘‘painful process’’ to which Juan Dı ´ez-Canedo Ruiz alludes. which are designed to entertain adults and children alike. the mazahua women use a long strip of wool that reaches several times around the waist. which dates back to several centuries before the Spanish Conquest. happy colors.’’ indigenous women who sold fruit. sobre todo al principio. By donning traditional mazahua garb. the India Marı ´a decides to try the United States. Starting in the 70s. a double immigration: as much internal (from country to city) as international (from Mexico to the United States). This particular character dresses with the traditional clothes of this ethnicity: a blouse and a skirt generally made from brilliantly colored cotton cloth and adorned with ﬂounces. especially oranges. especially at the beginning. they wear another one made of satin in bright. Mexico claimed around 120.Winter and Spring 2004 205 skits. In this way. The women ﬁnish off their look with colorful ribbons in their braids and guarache sandals (Miranda 55). This zone spans three federal entities in the center of the country: the boundaries of the Federal District (Mexico City proper). and Michoaca ´ n. given the often violent and sexual content. Additionally. Similar to her comedic forebears such as Cantinﬂas. This is not the case with the India Marı ´a’s products.
3 en 1990 y a 9. This migratory status matches the unstable ﬁnancial situation that a large percentage of documented Mexican immigrants experienced in the 80s after making a similar decision. conversely. exactly in a time when the Simpson-Rodino bill and the stiffening of migratory policy under Ronald Reagan’s government began to stigmatize the presence of the undocumented workers on US soil. Interestingly. es decir cerca del 9% de la poblacio ´ n censada ese mismo an ˜ o en la Repu ´ blica Mexicana.p. in spite of the clandestine nature of the celebrated verbal contract. and thus immigration becomes a topic of great social sensitivity (Bustamante 199).2 million in 1980.3 in 1990 and to 9.) (The number of Mexicans accounted for in the census in the United States—which in 1970 was 800. to 4. Equally precarious as her economic situation is Marı ´a’s intention to stay in the foreign country only long enough to achieve her objective. In effect. Ni de aquı ´ ni de allı ´ suggests that the labor link between both countries is symbiotic. public awareness of migrants increases when the unemployment rate rises. the seduction exercised by the Watsons through the promise of a better life and the sight of money as a guarantee of it.).000 se elevo ´ a 2.2 en 2000. In the ﬁlm. she never receives a cent for her various employments. this verbal contract emerges when the United States employers give Marı ´a a 100 peso advance as a way to close the deal. The intensity of the migratory waves from the south to the north grow as the difﬁculties mount in Mexico: ‘‘El nu ´ mero de Mexicanos [sic] censados en los Estados Unidos—que era en 1970 de 800. Marı ´a explains to her ‘‘tata’’ that she will go to work at the home of the Watsons in the United States. that is to say near 9% of the population in the census that same year in the Republic of Mexico. as well as the multiple jobs that she can ﬁnd in the States contradict the idea that the Mexicans arrive in a country where they don’t have anything to do and take jobs away from legal citizens.’’ (Guillaume n. a 4.1 & 2 of the ﬁlm. the poverty that Marı ´a suffered in Mexico parallels the poverty that she lives through in the United States. In the ﬁlm.206 Discourse 26. but in Los Angeles.2 in 2000. Ni de aquı ´ ni de alla ´ implicitly questions the imaginary concerning the problem of the undocumented workers. since the Watsons search for cheap labor for their domestic chores and Marı ´a needs better paying employment than that available in Mexico. Supply and demand complement each other. . In spite of the Marı ´a’s total lack of knowledge of US’ customs.000—rose to 2. these waves of migrants lose importance before the public opinion when the indicators of unemployment in the United States lessen.2 millones en 1980. Marı ´a’s objective is to save money in order to buy a tractor.
waitress. and the English language. The ﬁlm illustrates these factors by showing how Marı ´a comes to work in a Mexican restaurant: a friendship with another immigrant like her. Ni de aquı ´ ni de alla ´ presents several sequences that do not clearly relate to each other. no great difﬁculty arises with regard to the protagonist’s survival (Dı ´ez-Canedo 98). the ruins . Ni de aquı ´ ni de alla ´ argues that the immigrants complete a social and economic function that is useful for the country to which they have arrived. Lost in the airport. the availability of employment in diverse ﬁelds. the so-called ‘‘silent invasion. although the Mexicans gladly accept the work due to the lack of opportunity for economic growth. which prompts her to ﬂee from a delinquent who saw her.’’ see in California and Los Angeles speciﬁcally a natural destiny. Marı ´a witnesses a murder. she almost burns down the house. upon supposing that Marı ´a is the leader of a gang of drug dealers. In fact. worker and even nurse in a private home. like nearly 90% of the undocumented workers who labor in United States who do not understand that language. it would seem that these jobs do not hold any attraction for the natives. or domestic service. and collateral circumstances including the availability of extra shifts to obtain a few dollars more. a measure of its poor assembly. California is the state that receives the most secondary workforce in all of the United States. where she will ﬁnd successive employment as a dishwasher. causes her to struggle to escape not only from the murder but also from justice. agriculture. This double persecution will take her to downtown Los Angeles.Winter and Spring 2004 207 geography. business. The nature of these jobs reconciles the immigrant’s scant skills and the ﬁlm never argues the existence of competition for these jobs between the undocumented workers and the national labor. the large number of extant business with names in Spanish or with a clear inﬂuence from Mexico culture appear in the scenery. Also. On the contrary. The viewer must ﬁll in these holes in order to follow the protagonist’s adventures: the constant ﬁrings for her clumsiness (she provokes a heated battle in the restaurant where she works. her astonishment at seeing a large mall and the escalator there. such as industry. in part because of the various medium-sized or large cities near the border. The FBI’s mistake. The Mexican undocumented workers. and she provokes a heart attack in the sick person whom she takes care of ).’’ since Marı ´a does not know how to pronounce more than these words. she makes mistakes in the factory. the tedium of ingesting only ‘‘coffee and donuts. the number of Spanish speakers already in California. the possibility that immigrants’ relatives or acquaintances live in the zone.
as well as the Mexicans’ situation once established on United States’ ground. therefore. Marı ´a returns to Mexico for two reasons: one without remedy (deportation) and the other of a moral nature (Marı ´a admits that United States employers exploit her as well. Thus. Finally.1 & 2 she leaves behind. Although her intention apparently was not to deeply analyze from a political and economic angle this bilateral issue. a destination characteristic of immigration. Ni de aquı ´ ni de alla ´ reiterates a perception of the immigration problem and by forgoing a documentary aim or even a denunciatory purpose. These two reasons form part of the constellation of real motives for undocumented workers’ return to Mexico. authorities. accepted by the undocumented workers and the less ambitious citizens of this nation. a recurring behavior in those who wish to work outside of Mexico in order to improve the conditions of their families’ lives. a situation of continual conﬂicts with the U. since the Watsons hire her for cheaper labor than they could ﬁnd in Los Angeles). there exist enough jobs that correspond to the secondary job market in the United States. .208 Discourse 26. the ﬁlm illustrates the wealth of factors that encouraged immigration. which helps reinforce the didactic intention and meditation of the aforementioned ﬁlms by Velasco. and it is easy to establish ties with the Spanish-speaking community. the ﬁlm strengthens a social imaginary around the ﬁgure of the indigenous person as an the undocumented worker. Marı ´a herself hails from an ethnicity that inhabits a zone near the metropolitan area of Mexico City. Marı ´a Elena Velasco’s ﬁlm was in postproduction exactly during the discussion about Simpson-Rodino bill and constant claims of human rights violations for the undocumented workers. exhibits multiple aspects that coincide with the braceros’ situation. Journalist critics did not identify this in their critiques of the ﬁlm in spite of the topicality of the subject to both sides of the border. Ni de aquı ´ ni de alla ´ . reﬂected in the India Marı ´a’s ﬁlm: the center of Mexico serves as a fountain of undocumented workers that ﬂow into the United States.S. her objective is to save money for her return and buy a tractor. given the ignorance of English. III: The strengthening of the social imaginary in terms of undocumented immigration Up to this point I have revealed the relationship between the facts characteristic of the 80s with regard to the Mexican braceros. upon trying to ﬂee from the murderer who pursues her. she establishes herself in California.
Ni Chana ni Juana is a ﬁlm that takes on some problems of identity more overtly. This distancing from the considerations of the theoretical canon about the topic may be one of the reasons that the ﬁlm has been ignored or virulently criticized. The return to origins is bittersweet at the end of the ﬁlm. one in which the fact of being indigenous. the ﬁlm oversimpliﬁes these angles and adapts them to certain codes for interpreting this cultural diversity. resistant to remaining singular. but rather through conﬁrmation. the spectator dedicates him/herself to consuming the product. Ni de aquı ´ ni de alla ´ takes up the most striking angles of the indigenous person for western viewpoints. but it does communicate representations that register cultural dis-encounters that are multiple in nature: between suburbs and the city. and customs. not to enrich them through questioning. between the indigenous and mestizos. rejection. 1981). making visible the problematic of the undocumented workers and some of the problems appear with regard to what it means to be Mexico. the ﬁlm’s objective is not to offer a new point of view that would question stereotypes. Her experience on the border is a parenthesis in a singular life. illiterate and of belonging to . Marı ´a does not save enough to buy the longed for tractor. rituals. such as the causes of immigration. Velasco takes advantage of the knowledge and the vision that circulate around the diverse themes taken up by the ﬁlm. the ﬁlm conﬁrms what is already known in relation to the ethnicities in terms of dress. gastronomy. . and the way of being of the indigenous. By unlinking the images of a cinema of multiple reality. the routines of the undocumented workers.Winter and Spring 2004 209 In the ﬁlm previous to Ni de aquı ´ ni de alla ´ . the receptor is not made uncomfortable in terms of confronting other ways of thinking. (Gilberto Martı ´nez Solares. Then. the title also involves the subject’s movement. when one is neither ‘‘here nor there. . between Spanish and English speakers. Clearly. vuela. Velasco also brings to the screen a segment of the Mexican population that remains on the margins of the public arena as do the indigenous groups with their unstable insertion into the labor market. El que no corre. or modiﬁcation. The laughter resulting from Velasco’s comedy is not the vehicle of knowledge.’’ Mexican-ness moves from the discourse of academic criticism and the media reception and anchors itself in the adventures of a character who distances herself from the characteristics of a cinematographic heroine. the director also takes advantage of a popular expression in the title that proposes the same syntactical order. In another of the ﬁlms protagonized by the India Marı ´a and written in collaboration with Velasco. to being in one place.
esta caı ´da cuantitativa y por el otro.’’ (Colectivo Alejandro Galindo. this quantitative drop. both academic and journalist critics have constructed their own mediating imaginary. which holds a constructed notion of ‘‘taste’’ as its standard. la abundancia de cintas enlatadas. que los productores de pelı ´culas mexicanas continuen [sic] realizando ﬁlmes con criterios comerciales. The ﬁlm in this sense uproots the receptor’s notion of historicity and throws him/her into a limbo of cultural stereotypes. and on the other. ‘‘La falta de estı ´mulos al cine de calidad. [and] the little screen time that Mexican cinema receives provoked. or by only evaluating them based on formalist. in this case. Reading cinematic texts as transmitters of social signs in movement shifts the discussion from one of ‘‘quality’’ or the lack thereof. by returning to one’s country possessing different knowledges and a clothing that mixes tradition and modernity (the dress of indigenous people with tennis shoes. the dearth of ﬁnancial resources. the traditional Mexican rhythms heard through a modern radio/tape recorder).1 & 2 a culturally speciﬁc group. the decline of the market in the southern United States. have to do with the problem of undocumented laborers. discourses which are representative of the lives and struggles of the ‘‘popular classes’’ are excluded as are distinct avenues of interpretation which. with the ﬁrm and sole end of recuperating their investment in the safest form posible.210 Discourse 26. is not problematized for the spectator. el poco tiempo de pantalla que se le otorga al cine mexicano provocaron.) 1 . Notes An article in Dicine notes. con el ﬁrme y u ´ sito de recuperar su in´ nico propo versio ´ n de la forma ma ´ s segura. that producers of Mexican ﬁlm continue making ﬁlms with commercial criteria. 12) (The lack of encouragement for quality cinema. Velasco’s character offers the audience an innovative perspective. In this imaginary. the high cost of money. the abundance of canned ﬁlms. the mazahua. the question becomes what are the symbolic networks that are represented? How is this ﬁlm representative of some socio-cultural episteme? By ignoring the India Marı ´a’s ﬁlms. por un lado. la carencia de recursos ﬁnancieros. Translated by Emily Hind. Nevertheless. one that incarnates the extant negotiation between the realm of cultural identity of those who immigrate without documents from Mexico to the United States. aesthetic concerns. la caı ´da del mercado del sur de los Estados Unidos. el alto costo del dinero. on one hand. In place of a discussion of aesthetic merit.
and the most attractive places in the country. La cultura popular en la Europa moderna.’’ Unoma ´ suno 28 Jan. by virtue of work and congregated in localities conveniently situated to facilitate their proper control and management’’) (Miranda 44). The last broadcast of Siempre en domingo occurred in April 1998. the debut of new ‘‘stars. Avile ´ s Duarte. Carro.F. the show lost importance and length. with a segment that remained during many years: ‘‘Me ´ xico. Burke. 1993. Works Cited Ampudia. Bustamante.: Secretarı ´a de Relaciones Exteriores. and lastly. ‘‘De ofﬁce boy a la TV. By contrast. Although in reality the group has always lived under some domination.’’ Exce ´lsior 26 Feb. CD-ROM. La inmigracio ´ n de Me ´xico a los Estados Unidos.’’ numerous comics. Ciuk.: FCE. Peter. 1991. Alejandra. 1969. Barriga Cha ´ vez. the presentation of singers and musical groups of the then Telesistema Mexicano (that would later become Televisa). Me ´ xico D. emphasis on the esoteric gradually gained screen-time. Ni de aquı ´ ni de alla ´ . padrino del especta ´ culo.: Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes/Cineteca Nacional.’’ Exce ´lsior 28 Jul. Me ´ xico D. pitilessly. ——— ‘‘Desde la butaca. informative capsules. and Encounter’’). Ezequiel. Little by little. Rau ´ l Velasco. inmisericordemente.1988: 28. Jorge A. 1988: B2. Co ´ micos de la e ´poca de oro del cine mexicano 1 (1998). 3 At the hands of the Spanish. a fuerza de trabajo y congregados en localidades convenientemente situadas para su debido control y manejo’’ (‘‘reduced. Diccionario de directores del cine mexicano. 1988: B1. Betanzo.’’ Etce ´tera 271. Madrid: Alianza. traditions. ——— ‘‘Guı ´a cinematogra ´ ﬁca. magia y encuentro’’ (‘‘Mexico. Cine Conﬁdencial. 1989: B8. ‘‘1988: un an ˜ o de cine.’’ Exce ´lsior 25 Nov. Estados Unidos de Ame ´rica en los informes presidenciales de Me ´xico.’’ Dicine Jul.F. Cruzar la lı ´nea. There. ﬁrst by the chichimecas. the aim is to publicize folklore. then by the Spanish. 2002. ‘‘Aﬁrma Marı ´a Rojo: Necesario impulsar el trabajo de las cineastas nacionales. Abel. ‘‘Desde la butaca. 1989: 4–7. Ni de aquı ´ ni de alla ´ . 9 (1998): 19. and over the last years. the mazahua were ‘‘reducidos. ed. 13. Magic. . Nelson. Perla. El coyote emplumado. 1997. Ricardo. Me ´ xico D. by the regional mestizos.F.Winter and Spring 2004 211 2 Siempre en Domingo (‘‘Always on Sunday’’) began its transmissions on Dec.
Marı ´a Elena Velasco. Me ´ xico: Universidad de Guadalajara. UNAM. Toma ´ s. Ni de aquı ´ ni de alla ´ .org. et al.’’ El Heraldo de Me ´xico ´ blico: La India Marı 17 Feb. Ni de aquı ´ ni de alla ´ .’’ Microhistorias del cine en Me ´xico. Ed. David. Mitos y leyendas de los indı ´genas del Estado de Me ´xico. ‘‘Cinecrı ´tica. 2003. Gustavo Garcı ´a and David Maciel. Miranda Videgaray. ‘‘No hago cine de crı ´tica social ni polı ´tica porque mi funcio ´ n es divertir al pu ´a. Ed.F. Guillaume. Escritores del cine mexicano sonoro. ‘‘Que ´ . cua ´ ndo. Eds.’’ Dicine May-Jun. Me ´ xico D. 19–39. Me ´ xico D. Ed. Reuter.: CONAPO.F. 1999. Me ´ xico: Ediciones Coyoaca ´ n. Dı ´ez-Canedo Ruiz. IMCINE. Cineteca Nacional. Universidad Auto ´ noma de Ciudad Jua ´ rez. Somos. Eduardo de la Vega Alfaro. Atilano Flores. Juan Jose ´ . ‘‘El callejo ´ n de los milagros: el cine contempora ´ neo en Me ´ xico 1976–1999.F. 21–39. CDROM. 2001. Jose ´ Felipe. 1997. Primera parte. Juan. Televicine/Vlady S. 1987.: FCE. 1997. ‘‘La migracio ´n hacia los Estados Unidos ¿motor de la economı ´a mexicana?’’ Indigo Base Dec. Las rumberas del cine mexicano Nov. Perf. ‘‘Una frontera de pelı ´cula: caracterı ´sticas e importancia del cine fronterizo. Institute de Recherche pour le deve ´ loppement.: UNAM.’’ La cultura popular. co ´ mo. Pacheco. 1987: 12–13.: Ediciones Coyoaca ´ n.A. Adolfo Colombres. . Me ´ xico D. 2001.: Clı ´o.’’ El Heraldo de Me ´xico 30 Jan. IMCINE. Vela ´ squez Villalobos. Garcı ´a.1 & 2 Colectivo Alejandro Galindo. 24 Sep. Dir. Nuevo cine mexicano. Stavenhagen. quie ´ n. 1988: D1. 1988: 9. Manuel. y Gutie ´ rrez Sa ´ nchez. Gustavo. Instituto Mora. 2003 Ͻhttp://www. Rodolfo. Carlos.212 Discourse 26. Marı ´a Elena Velasco and Sergio Klainer. Screenplay by Ivette Lipkies. 2002.F. ‘‘Prejuicios y preguntas en torno a la cultura popular. 299–344. Based on an idea by Marı ´a Elena Velasco. Norma.F. Javier. Me ´ xico D. Ni de aquı ´ ni de alla ´ . y Coria. Marie. Pe ´ rez Turrent.: UNAM.ird. Un nuevo enfoque. La migracio ´ n indocumentada de Me ´xico a los Estados Unidos. Gonza ´ lez Casanova. Adolfo Colombres. Me ´ xico D.mx/pagi nas/publicaciones/Fichas/ﬁche165. 1993. do ´ nde. ‘‘La cultura popular y la creacio ´n intelectual.’’ El Universal Especta ´ culos 31 Jan.F. 1997. 1984.’’ El cine mexicano a trave ´s de la crı ´tica. Jas. 87–92. ‘‘El cine mexicano y su crisis. Maciel. Me ´ xico D.htmϾ. 1988: D1. Arturo. Iglesias Prieto.’’ La cultura popular.
Buenos Aires: Paido ´s. ‘‘Contradicciones de la Ley Simpson Rodino. 13–48.’’ Dicine May-Jun. . Eds. Vin ´ s. Ana Marı ´a. ‘‘Ni de aquı ´ ni de alla ´ . recorridos y pole ´micas. ed. Mo ´ nica. 1988: 28. Moise Zubieta. Estrenos. Me ´ xico: UNAM/ Porru ´ a. 1988.Winter and Spring 2004 213 Verea Campos. Cultura popular y cultura de masas. Conceptos. Mo ´ nica Verea Campos and Manuel Garcı ´a y Griego. 2000. ˜ as.’’ Me ´xico y Estados Unidos frente a la migracio ´ n de los indocumentados.
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