Serna’s study, Making Cinelandia focuses on the Transnational Mexican American community in the early twentieth century and their behaviors linked with American silent cinema of the time. Specifically on how Mexico (and Mexicans on the American side of the border) were able to reconcile the influence of American cinema while using cinema as an aspect of a Mexican national identity. While this book brings up familiar themes that we have looked at in class, the one that was the most interesting to me is the one of gender. Not only in this book, but as we have seen in other cases (Nicaragua, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic to an extent), the issue of reconciling a track towards modernity while forming/keeping a national identity of sorts can be conflicting particularly when it comes to the role of women. It seems that a national identity in these cases mentioned is synonymous with a conservative primarily patriarchal paradigm when it comes to gender roles. This is in conflict with the liberal portrayal of women on screen in the films seen by Mexican audiences in the early 20th century. I think the author did an adequate job of explaining how Mexico was able to spin (“bregar”) this issue and make it a source of national pride rather than attempt to contain the popular female images of the time. I’m sure this was an issue even in the US at the time and every time it comes up in our books it leaves me wondering can modernity and a patriarchal national identity exist in the same society?
I really enjoyed the approach Serna took in this book. The use of cinema as a transnational influence proves important, as she points out, to the development and evolution of Mexican national identity. The global presence of American film, and the influence it has on cultural perceptions across the world, is often debated. Serna provides an uncommon example of how American film did not overshadow, and diminish, the Mexican identity, but rather contributed to, and molded their identity. Furthermore, it was used to propel Mexico towards modernity and technological advancements.
Serna suggests that American cinema, though it portrayed American hierarchical stereotypes of Mexico, remained a tie to home and the nation for Mexican workers across the border. While Americans may have attempted to instill superiority, unintentionally, they were strengthening Mexican national identity.
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