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THE HAPPENING
Bold Caballeros and Noble Bandidas

April 16-18, 2009, Arizona State University
at the Downtown Phoenix campus


Block, Marcelline
Princeton University

Double Bill: Female Noble Warriors and Single Mothers in José Bolaños’ La Soldadera and Tarantino’s Kill Bill

The female protagonists of José Bolaños’ La Soldadera (The Soldier’s Woman, 1966) and Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill (2003-2004) are single mothers fighting the forces of evil. The contexts in which these two narratives are situated differ widely in their socio-political and temporal frameworks: La Soldadera occurs during the Mexican Revolution and Kill Bill is situated in the fictitious world of a stylized war between Beatrix Kiddo (Uma Thurman) and her former associates, a gang of evil assassins. Tarantino’s film seems to draw its inspiration from La Soldadera, since in both films it is the figure of a single mother who dominates the screen first as a warrior and then victorious as a mother. The sequential trajectory from warrior to mother implies that motherhood is the ultimate telos for a woman. The reenactment of La Soldadera’s female protagonist Lázara (Silvia Pinal) within Kill Bill’s narrative is striking. In my comparative analysis of these films, I explore the connections between feminitude, warriorhood and motherhood. Therefore I show that within the parameters of motherhood—considered one of the most “noble” roles for a woman—another function, that of fighting for a noble idea, occurs. Kill Bill’s Beatrix Kiddo and La Soldadera’s Lázara are imbued with fierce senses of justice, and their unbeatable fortitude helps them to conquer the most dramatic, threatening situations: Lázara gives birth while on top of a moving train car traveling through a war-ravaged country, whereas Kiddo escapes from a grave in which she had been mercilessly buried alive. Both films end “happily” as the warrior/mother is reunited with her progeny, and therefore these films end with the reinscription of the maternal as the ultimate function of the woman warrior. My interpretation of these films will show how the maternal, which has initially been evacuated from their narratives, is reinscribed through the loop of a recuperative structure in which the triumph of single motherhood parallels the noble woman warrior’s triumph in her struggles against the forces of destruction and the realities of evil, despite the differentiation in the films’ styles, socio-political climates and spectatorial expectation.


Cardoso, Jaime
Arizona State University

Afromestizas, bandidas, brujas y putas

Los esclavos y esclavas de origen africano en la Nueva España trajeron consigo un enorme bagaje cultural que transformaron el imaginario social indígena y europeo de la colonia. Historiadores, antropólogos y sociólogos han estudiado cómo esta población ofreció resistencia y se integró a las diversas regiones. Sin embargo, pocos ensayos hablan de la mujer africana durante y después de la sociedad virreinal permaneciendo todas ellas en el olvido. Su doble y hasta triple rol de mujer, afromestiza y pobre las estigmatizó.

El presente trabajo ofrece un panorama general de la situación de estas mujeres en México en diferentes épocas. Nuestro propósito en mostrar cómo estas, muchas veces etiquetadas como “bandidas”, “brujas y “putas”, inventaron estrategias de sobreviviencia. Mostraremos algunas de sus prácticas y los castigos que recibán por subvertir el orden social y familiar.

Para alcanzar nuestro propósito, recurriremos a una estrategia narrativa particular: retomaremos un par de ensayos antropológicos e históricos, una novela y un cuento de nuestra propia creación. La mezcla de estos géneros requerirá de la colaboración del lector-escucha pues en nuestro escrito hay un rompimiento intencionado entre ficción y realidad, entre lo que fue y debió ser y entre el dejar hablar y pedir la palabra.

No buscamos darle voz a nadie, justificar acciones, ni explicar acontecimientos. Sólo mostraremos hechos deleitándonos de las ocurrencias de esas afromestizas y de las chuscadas—no pocas veces ridículas y trágicas—de sus detractores.

 

Dabove, Juan Pablo
University of Colorado – Boulder

La guerra del fin del mundo: Banditry, Millenarianism, and the Demise of the Lettered City

The presentation will examine Mario Vargas Llossa’s La Guerra del Fin del Mundo (1981). Following the hypothesis of the bandit as a cultural trope that signals the limits of lettered (i.e. modern) reason (that I put forward in NIghtmares of the Lettered City), I will highlight the ways in which MVL depicts the Canudos war (bitterly fought between Conselheiro’s cangaceiros/jaguncos and the Republican Army) as the demise of the possibility of understanding (inventing) the social as a coherent totality. I postulate that this de-totalizing project is an impugnation of the aspirations of the Boom generation for a totalizing novel, but also an impugnation of postmodern \"minimalism\".

 

Daydí-Tolson, Santiago
University of Texas at San Antonio

Race and Social class in Azuela´s characterization of the bandit

One could interpret the figure of Demetrio Macías in "Los de abajo" as that of the bandido justiciero, in the line of a Joaquín Murrieta. Different from Murrieta, though, and from other typical forms of the bandido as a person from the upper classes who acts as a bandit in retaliation for the injustices committed by his own class, Demetrio is a man from the lower classes and an Indian. The people from the upper class in Azuela´s novel are wicked or, if they have ideals, as in the case of Solís, are incapable of acting in defense of their higher principles. Demetrio is an exception also, because his own people are depicted as barbaric. Azuela has created an idealized figure and it comments on its idealism by setting it at the end of the novel on a symbolically expressive scene with religious overtones.



Encinas, Diana
Arizona State University

Dos dramas de Ricardo Flores Magón: “Tierra y Libertad” y “Verdugos y Víctimas”

Ricardo Flores Magón a menudo es considerado uno de los más prominentes intelectuales de la Revolución Mexicana, mientras que, a la distancia, algunos aseguran que es el precursor de ésta, durante su época se le consideró como filibustero, concretamente, por su participación en la revuelta de Baja California en 1911 apoyado por ciudadanos norteamericanos. La ideología política de Flores Magón basada en la emancipación tanto de obreros como de campesinos hacia los principios del siglo XX se ve ilustrada en su producción periodística, género que proliferó durante el periodo revolucionario por la necesidad de informar sobre la guerra revolucionaria. Así, en primera instancia, la fundación del periódico Regeneración en 1900 y, en conjunto con sus hermanos Juan y Manuel, a la par de otros pensadores como Práxedis Guerrero y Librado Rivera, principalmente, fungiría como el primer sistema mediático en criticar abiertamente la corrupción del gobierno de Porfirio Díaz y la iglesia, por percibirla como cómplice de éste. Más adelante esta crítica se transformaría en sátira política con el periódico El Hijo del Ahuizote en 1902 con la colaboración del caricaturista José Guadalupe Posada. Y aunque que la producción dramática de Ricardo Flores Magón se ha visto eclipsada más de una vez por su actividad periodística, ésta, aunque no muy sustanciosa, también refleja la insatisfacción ante el abuso de los trabajadores, la falta de un gobierno justo personificado en sujetos irónicos y sarcásticos, así como la dignidad del trabajador que nunca sucumbe a los bajos deseos del burgués y más, la transcendencia de la muerte digna, de una muerte en pie de lucha. De manera que en sus obras dramáticas Tierra y Libertad y Verdugos y Víctimas, ambas obras publicadas póstumas a la Revolución Mexicana en 1924, se exhiben las precariedades que provocaron la movilización del pueblo y el choque entre los obreros y los campesinos. Si bien el lenguaje y la trama de estos dramas son accesibles en su recepción, pues la función didáctica de estos así lo exige, se encuentran otros elementos de carácter literario. Entonces es intención de este trabajo de investigación, en primera instancia, acercarse a las ideas magonistas desde una perspectiva en torno a los elementos literarios que su obra dramática propone: una relación intertextual con Regeneración que resulta en el armazón del discurso magonista que, a su vez desmitifica la imagen del intelectual como guía idolatrada de las masas. Y en segundo, estudiar el discurso en torno a la resistencia del oprimido devenido en la importancia de una muerte digna, por un lado y por otro, en la entereza de la honradez y la decencia culminando en la actividad política de los personajes. Para llevar este proceso de investigación a cabo recurriremos a La literatura en segundo grado (1982) de Gerard Genette, Ricardo Flores Magón. El sueño alternativo (1995) de Fernando Zertuche Muñoz, así como a textos que se acercan al pensamiento antropológico y político magonista para contextualizarlo dentro del movimiento revolucionario. Además de usar textos paralelos a estas obras dramáticas como Regeneración (1972), Sembrando Ideas (1923), Tierra y Libertad (1926) y Batalla a la dictadura (1967) entre otras.

 

Estévez, Dulce
Arizona State University

La ficcionalización de funciones sociales de la Revolución mexicana en Cartucho (1931)

En los relatos de Cartucho, Nellie Campobello (1900) organiza lo que aparenta ser una acumulación de mundos individuales. Sin embargo, estos mundos gravitan dentro de una coherencia social que los explica y ordena. En el espacio de esta obra lo individual y lo social se unen para expresar lo plenamente humano. Es en el vértice entre lo personal y lo compartido que la narrativa se aleja de los sentimientos evocados por la violencia y comunica un complejo mensaje que es plenamente inteligible y universal. Buscamos con éste estudio destacar lo que la autora describe como su objetivo al escribir el libro, “percibir las cosas que nos suceden por causa de la revolución.” Para estos fines utilizaremos el esquema conceptual del sociólogo Robert K. Merton en su estudio sobre las funciones sociales manifiestas y latentes. Dichas funciones se ven expresadas como claves discursivas en Cartucho y contribuyen a explicar innovaciones en la forma y la inusitada expansión del contenido de la novela de la Revolución mexicana a través de esta singular obra.

 

Foster, David William
Arizona State University

Of Gay Caballeros and Other Noble Heroes

There is a fundamental ambiguity in the Cisco Kid films: one the one hand Cisco is a model of virile nobility; on the other hand, details of his character evoke prevailing mid-century features such as effeminacy and even homosexuality. The use of concepts of contemporary queer theory seeks to reconcile this ambiguity in favor of Cisco's greater manliness. Reference is also made to the explicitly queer film, Zorro, the Gay Blade.

 

Gaberscek, Carlo
Udine, Italy

Zapata Western: The Short Life of a sub-genre (1966-1972)

Over 600 European Westerns were made from the early 1960s to the late 1970s. Most of the so-called Spaghetti Westerns deal primarily with the Mexican border on the American Southwest (Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico). Some of them are set in Mexico. Usually they are adventure films where Mexico simply provides exotic local color, a series of spectacular backdrops, colorful exteriors. A group of ten Italian Westerns deal with overtly political themes. They form a sub-genre and are called Zapata Westerns, as they take place during the Mexican Revolution (1911-1919). "A Bullet for the General," directed by Damiano Damiani in 1966, is the first example of "politicized" Western, inspired by the revolutionary, "pro-Third World" spirit of the Sixties. Damiani's movie presents, for the first time, the two leading key-characters of the Zapata Westerns: an outsider, generally a yankee or an European, a cynical opportunist, and the Mexican, a rough, distinctive revolutionary who becomes the symbol of the freedom-fighting of his people; he is often a naive peasant who represents a social class that was never talked about in Westerns. Among the Italian Zapata Westerns only a few are really "political" Westerns, since made by left-wing directors and screenwriters, whereas other movies are adventure/comedies, parodies or satires backdropped against the Mexican Revolution. You can also include two Spanish features, an English Western and three American coproductions shot in Spain in the Zapata Western sub-genre. Because a lot of Westerns (including Zapata Westerns) set in Mexico were actually filmed in Spain, especially in Almerìa, the Spanish landscape, rural architectural structures and images became a hallmark, a visual convention to represent Mexico on the screen.

 

Irwin, Robert McKee
UC Davis

Santa Teresa de Cabora (and Her Villanous Bandit Sister Jovita): A Shapeshifting Icon of Mexico’s Northwest Borderlands

This paper traces at the trajectories of meaning attached to the iconic Mexican borderlands curandera known as la Santa de Cabora. Associated with the 1892 rebellion in Tomóchic, Chihuahua, an important precursor to the Mexican Revolution of 1910, for which she was deported to Arizona, and allied in exile with the protorevolutionary Lauro Aguirre, Teresa Urrea has been reconstructed as revolucionaria (Mexican Jeanne d’Arc), but also as living saint, “Indian girl” and sideshow attraction, depending on the context of her deployment: Mexican borderlands, Mexican national culture, US (Anglophone) wild west, Chicana/o southwest, etc. This dynamic trajectory suggests that her borderlands context expands the range of cultural uses of the Latin American rebel outlaw beyond those posited by JP Dabove in Nightmares of the Lettered City.

 

Jónsdóttir, Kristín Guðrún
University of Iceland (Háskóli Íslands)

Español: Querido hermano… a ti invoco de todo corazón. Una lectura religiosa de Pancho Villa

Francisco Villa, mejor conocido como Pancho Villa, es sin duda uno de los iconos culturales de México. Es el gran héroe revolucionario que luchó por el bien del pueblo mexicano intentando hacerle justicia. Sin embargo, escondida detrás de esa imagen hay otra no tan conocida que no forma parte del discurso oficial de la mexicanidad: la imagen religiosa de Pancho Villa. Hay varios indicios que demuestran que ha sido llevado a los altares por la vox populi. La presente ponencia estudiará este lado de Pancho Villa y se verán oraciones y otros textos que se relacionan con San Pancho Villa.

Inglés: Beloved brother... I invoke you with all my heart. A religious reading of Pancho Villa

Francisco Villa, better known as Pancho Villa, is without doubt one of the cultural icons of Mexico. The important revolutionary hero that fought for the poor and tried to lead them to justice. However, there exists another, not as well known, image of him hidden behind the official one: the religious icon. Many things indicate that the vox populi has elevated him to sainthood. This paper examines this side of the revolutionary hero and looks at various texts related to Saint Pancho Villa such as prayer cards and corridos.

 

Kanost, Laura
Kansas State University

"Por camino torcido”: Liminal Identities in the Novel, Screenplay, and Film Versions of La Negra Angustias

A mulatta who refuses to be a sexual object, joins the Revolution as a coronela, and hires her own private reading teacher, La Negra Angustias defies Mexican cultural norms left and right. Angustias and her hechicera mother-figure use the phrase “por camino torcido” to refer to her unconventional trajectory, but the contours and destination of this “crooked path” vary markedly in Francisco Rojas González’s 1944 novel, Matilde Landeta’s unpublished screenplay, and the resulting 1949 film also directed by Landeta. This paper argues that of the three, the screenplay— itself belonging to an interstitial genre—projects the highest degree of acceptance of Angustias’s liminal identity.

 

Lander, Maria Fernanda
Skidmore College

Gringo viejo [y bandido] de Carlos Fuentes

Las biografías de Ambrose Bierce han dejado en claro que su relación con William Randolph Hearst, el dueño de The San Francisco Examiner (periódico en el que trabajó cuentista norteamericano por más de veinte años), permiten entrever lo que motiva al personaje principal de Gringo viejo a emprender su viaje a México en el momento más álgido de la Revolución. Según Bierce, la preocupación de los Estados Unidos por el país vecino nace en la redacción de ese periódico californiano cuyo dueño pide al gobierno de su país “Intervención. Guerra. Indemnización” solamente porque está en juego la expropiación de sus bienes en México. Mi trabajo se propone analizar cómo en la novela y a partir de la biografía de Bierce, Fuentes explora una conciencia nacional expansionista que es la que dictamina la forma en que los mexicanos perciben al viejo extranjero pero que, al mismo tiempo, es lo que alimenta las ansias de éste por escapar de la condición criminal que le impone su gentilicio.

 

Linhard, Tabea Alexa
Washington University in St. Louis

The Excursion of an Almost Dead Girl: Anna Seghers in Mexico

During her Mexican exile (1940-1947) Seghers wrote a poignant articulation of memory and war: her short story “The Excursion of the Dead Girls” (1943). The Mexican context that literally frames her tale allows Seghers to narrate a harrowing, yet also revealing engagement with the past. My analysis of both this earlier text and Seghers’ short story “Crisanta” (1951) purports to reveal new ways to understand the intersections between gender and war from a transnational perspective. Briefly, I argue that Seghers’ writing brings solidarity among women--usually absent from more conventional literary and historical representations of revolution and war--to the forefront.

 

Lopez Lopez, Margarita
Los Angeles Valley College

La negra Angustias – preámbulo a una revolución trunca

El trasfondo revolucionario mexicano ha sido inspiración a una plétora temática en la literatura. Francisco Rojas González se une a la campaña nacional post-revolucionaria de describir la revolución y definir la identidad mexicana mediante el arte. Irónicamente, más de sesenta años después, su innovadora novela La negra Angustias (1944) permanece como preámbulo a una novelística revolucionaria trunca cuya heroína es mulata. Las afro-mexicanas son víctimas de la amnesia histórica nacional excluyéndoseles escrituralmente como elemento y agente activo en la identidad y el devenir mexicanos. Este estudio expone La negra Angustias como foro de un dialogismo sobre heroínas afro-mexicanas y su lugar en la sociedad mexicana.

 

Magisos, Melanie
Arizona State University

Warrior Women in Contemporary Chicana Art

The ASU Hispanic Research Center’s Bold Caballeros and Noble Bandidas project is studying the tradition of warrior women in United States and Mexican films. Often based on actual female participants in the Mexican Revolution of 1910, we see similar roles for women in Mexico and the United States, most notably in the films of María Félix such as La Cucaracha (1958) and La generala (1971), but also in Linda Stirling’s portrayal of Zorro’s great-granddaughter in Zorro’s Black Whip (1944). We also see these warrior women in contemporary art by Chicanas, and in the lives and personae of the artists. I will show examples of work by contemporary artists Yolanda López, Laura Molina, Favianna Rodríguez, and others, and I will screen a video interview with San Antonio artist Deborah Kuetzpalin Vásquez.

 

Martínez-Ortíz, María Teresa
Kansas State University

The ‘Soldadera’ Popular Myth: Omissions and Traditional Representations in Film

The “soldadera” is a recurrent Mexican feminine archetype that during the twentieth century achieved relevant popularity. The “soldadera” has been extensively exploited with films such as Enamorada (1943), La Cucaracha (1958), Juana Gallo (1960), among others, romanticizing the image of la “soldadera.” Mexican diva María Felix, who interpreted several “soldadera” leading roles, became a synonymous of the popular myth whose characteristics were promoted by the Mexican cultural machine. Mexican feminine archetypes such as la “soldadera” are constructed within a binary logic that both exalts and dismisses her participation in the Mexican Revolution. While on the one hand the “soldadera” is regarded as a courageous soldier, loyal to the troops and to the nation, enduring nomadic conditions by following the revolutionary men from place to place, tending to them as nurses, cooks, and mothers, who kept on giving birth even in the midst of the battlefield, on the other hand the “soldadera” has been also regarded as a loose woman, of weak moral values. The fact that the “soldadera” steps outside the ideal private space to which most “decent” upper and middle upper women belong, questions and challenges traditional patriarchal expectations concerning the role of women within Mexican society and underlines notions of race, gender, and class. In this paper I examine the “soldadera” archetype in the history of Mexican film. By analyzing the origin and unstable meaning of the term “soldadera” and by comparing various “soldadera” representations taken to the screen, I aim to expose the contradictions of the “soldadera” dichotomy. I argue that the fallacious cultural construction of the “soldadera” archetype has excluded important contributions of historical women whose deeds remain seldom discussed both in Mexican history and in popular culture. Such is the case of Carmen Serdán who, arguably, was the symbolic first “soldadera” of the Mexican Revolution of 1910.

 

Miller, Cynthia
Emerson College

Outlaws, Gunslingers, and Shady Ladies: Noble ‘Bad Girls’ of the B-Western


Drawing on a range of film clips and characters, this presentation takes as its focus the female outlaws, prostitutes, and other shady ladies of B-Western films, and their contributions to the “risky business” of the Old West. These women both confirmed and contested the conventions of social norms -- testing the boundaries of female gender roles and adding dimension to audiences’ understandings of “a woman’s place” -- in the rugged, male-identified territory of the West. Tough, sinister, and sometimes sleazy, but also bold and daring, these noble bad girls helped and hurt heroic men and villains alike, and called into question the simplicity of mainstream female roles.


Sánchez, Gabriella
Arizona State University

Nuns, Queens and Snipers: Female Drug Smugglers in the US Mexico Border Imaginarium

Despite its designation as the main port of entry of illegal drugs into the United States, the amount of research on the operations of drug smuggling organizations along the Sonora-Arizona corridor remains minimal at best. It is not surprising that even less attention has been paid to the increasing numbers of drug-trafficking convictions among men and women of Mexican origin in Arizona, and on the impact the drug trade has had on the imaginarium of the Border. While shared beliefs, values, figures and knowledge-production practices of drug policy discourse in the United States have historically reduced women's role in the war on drugs to that of the vulnerable, sexualized addict, the growing visibility of women in large scale drug smuggling has resulted on a series of representations (from the matronly figure leading obscure cartels to the gunshot-carrying beauty queen) used by the state to justify acts of violence against smugglers and civilians alike. The discourse that characterizes drug trafficking as a series of operations carried out by sophisticated, intricate criminal organizations fails to explain both the abundance and the exponential growth of these enterprises along the US Mexico Border, but allows for the state to further criminalize a specific group: the undocumented. This presentation is a survey of representations of female smugglers in the narcocorrido (Border Ballad on drug trafficking) and on the way local law enforcement agencies have mobilized these images to justify operations targeting predominantly Hispanic areas in the Phoenix metropolitan area.

 

Volek, Emil
Arizona State University

Memorias de una soldadera: Hasta no verte, Jesús mío, de Elena Poniatowska

Hasta no verte, Jesús mío (1969), de la escritora mexicana Elena Poniatowska, es una novela-testimonio armada a partir de las conversaciónes de la autora con Josefina Bohórquez (transformada en “Jesusa” en la obra). Esta biografía novelada abarca la vida de “Jesusa” en la Revolución y en las décadas siguientes, hasta el encuentro fortuito con la escritora. La ponencia considerará la ambigüedad de la ‘novela-testimonio’, y el acierto del margen de la libertad tomado por la autora en la obra que ofrece Poniatowska, para concentrarse en la imagen de la soldadera en la Revolución y después (en comparación con la imagen que da la “novela de la revolución”, por ejemplo, Los de abajo). Es interesante la fascinación de Poniatowska, ella misma de ascendencia aristocrática, con el medio popular mexicano: en esta novela-testimonio, junto con la vida de “mucha mujer”, Jesusa, la escritora ofrece toda una enciclopedia de la cultura popular tradicional mexicana.