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New views of 20th-century Mexico to be explored in Nov. 13-15 conference

Modern Mexico's culture and politics have been seen through the lens of the history of the Mexican Revolution and its aftermath. Now, after a decade of radical change in that country, it is time for scholars and the public to reexamine the intellectual assumptions, say Stanford scholars who have organized a conference to do just that.

Some 25 scholars ranging from prominent intellectuals on both sides of the border to a new generation of graduate students will discuss "The Making and Remaking of Mexico" in a free, public conference that opens at 1 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 13, in Annenberg Auditorium at the Cummings Art Building with a welcome by Sergio Casanova Reguart, consul general of Mexico in San Jose. He will be followed by a panel discussion of "The Specular Nation," or what is visible of it through the history of popular culture and artworks that were previously left out of the national canon.

Carlos Monsivais, Mexico's foremost cultural historian and public intellectual, will speak at 4 p.m. Thursday in History Corner (Building 200, Room 2). The first English translation of his essays, Mexican Postcards, was published just this year. Other invited participants are intellectuals who work on a range of topics from feminist studies and popular culture to dance and music and literature. Most talks will be in English.

The conference continues all day Friday and Saturday in Pigott Hall (Building 260). Mexico's leading scholar of international relations, Lorenzo Meyer of Colegio de Mexico, will speak at 1:15 p.m. Friday. Panel discussions during the two days will focus specifically on Mexico's labor history, social movements and popular culture, including performing arts, public festivals and sculpture, literature and film, mostly in the period from 1910 to 1950. Stanford's student Mariachi Cardenal will perform in conjunction with a panel discussion of popular music and dance that begins at 3 p.m. Friday.

The conference was organized by the Department of Spanish and Portuguese with assistance from graduate students in other departments whose research involves Mexico, said Mary Pratt, chairman of Spanish and Portuguese. The students felt a pressing need to reexamine "the scholarship and popular understanding of Mexico," she said, that has "followed a narrative that was laid down by the Mexican Revolution."

That narrative, she said, "sees Mexico's modern history as beginning with the revolution of 1910. Mexico's self-image has been built on the legacy of that revolution, and that has been the basis of Mexican nationalism and Mexican historiography."

The dramatic events of the last 10 years, however, have dismantled the institutional relationships of the revolution, such as the one-party state. "Now there are multiple political parties on the scene and they actually have an impact, and the relationship between the party and state-sponsored unions has become unstuck," Pratt said.

State support of the arts was rooted in "heroic understandings" of the revolution, Pratt said. "Those heroic understandings are no longer predominating in national imagination. You see signs of that in what intellectuals are saying in the press and in other cultural discourses.

"In this conference, we are saying that it is a new ballgame in Mexico now. How does that new ballgame let us rethink these crucial decades after the revolution that were seen as its legacy? What has been left out?"

The participating scholars are interested in the newly researched histories of women, for example. One of the speakers will discuss and show a recently rediscovered 1948 work by a woman filmmaker. Another will discuss research on peasant women, who were left out of the revolution's heroic view of laborers. A dance historian will talk about the history of dance halls, and another speaker will discuss how mariachi, a regional music, became a national music.

Co-sponsors of the conference include the Center for Latin American Studies, the Dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences, and the school's division of foreign languages and literatures, and the departments of History, Art and Anthropology; Special Collections of Stanford University Libraries; and El Centro Chicano.

A full schedule follows. Titles of talks to be given in English are listed in English. For more information, contact Carmina Palerm at or at (650) 725-0115.


1 p.m.: Welcome by Sergio Casanova Reguart, consul general of Mexico in San Jose; Annenberg Auditorium, Cummings Art Building.

1:15-3 p.m.: Panel discussion of "The Specular Nation." David Lorey, Hewlett Foundation, "The Revolutionary Festival in Mexico: The Creation of Revolution Day and the Recreation of Constitution Day in the 1920s and 1930s"; Claire Fox, Stanford, "On the Female Nude and Monumental Sculpture in Post-Revolutionary Mexico"; and Cynthia Steele, University of Washington, "Tribes, Temples and Archeologists: Expeditions to the Lancandon Rain Forest, 1923-1950."

4-5:30 p.m.: Carlos Monsivais, "Los margenes de la cultura revolucionaria"; Building 200, Room 2.

5:30-7 p.m.: Reception; Art Department Foyer.

FRIDAY, NOV. 14 (All events in Pigott Hall, Building 260)

9-10:30 a.m.: Panel on Movements and Identities I: Chiapas. Jan Rus, INAREMAC and UC-Riverside, "Contained Revolutions: Indians, Ladinos and the Struggle for Highland Chiapas 1910-1925"; and Norma Klahn, UC-Santa Cruz, "Indigenista: Writing in the Aftermath of Insurgency."

10:45 a.m.-12:15 p.m. Panel on Marginal and Imaginary I: Women in History. Nohemy Solorzano, Stanford, "The (Re)Invention of El Norte Revolucionario in Nellie Campobello's 'Cartucho'"; and Marjorie Becker, University of Southern California, "Talking Back to Frida."

1:15-2:30 p.m.: Lorenzo Meyer, Colegio de Mexico, "Estados Unidos como actor del proceso publico mexicano, 1910-1980."

3-5 p.m.: Panel on Popular Culture/Mass Audiences I: Music and Dance. Maria Herrera-Sobek, UC-Santa Barbara, "Construction of Nation, Nationality and Ethnicity in the Mexican Corridor: 1910-1945"; Jesus Flores y Escalante, dance historian, "Dance Halls in Mexico City"; and Russel Rodriguez, Stanford and Santa Clara universities, "The cultural poetics and politics of contemporary Mariachis."

5 p.m. Performance by Stanford Mariachi Cardenal.

SATURDAY, NOV. 15 (All events in Pigott Hall, Building 260)

9:15-10:45 a.m.: Panel on Movements and Identities II: Labor. Martin Valadez, Stanford, "Workers in a Modernizing Society: Railwaymen in Porfirian Mexico, 1880-1910"; and Bertin Ortega, Willamette University, "La narrativa proletaria y la Revolucion que nunca fue."

11 a.m.-12:30 p.m.: Panel discussion of Marginal and Imaginary II: Literary Experiments. Debra Castillo, Cornell, "Dangerous Consummations: Elena Garro's 'Los recuerdos del porvenir'"; and Sandra Benedet, Stanford, "Avant-Gardes, Labor and National Re-construction."

1:30-4 p.m. Panel on Popular Culture/Mass Audiences II: Visual Culture. Esther Gabara, Stanford, "'La hija prodiga': Picturing Modernity, 1920-1940"; Anne Rubenstein, Allegheny College, "Who Is a Good Mexican Woman?: Contested Discourses of Femininity in Print Media, 1934-1946"; Alejandro Castellanos, CENIDIAP, "Fotografia mexicana de la revolucion hasta Nacho Lopez"; and Susan Dever, University of New Mexico, "Nation and Cinema."

4:15 p.m.: Closing remarks by Mary Pratt, Stanford.


By Kathleen O'Toole

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