Abstract This dissertation examines the political nature of history and popular culture in late-twentieth-century Mexico. The ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI)'s maintained a monopoly on political power for seven decades (1929-2000). It bolstered its political legitimacy by revising the history of the Revolution of 1910 into a unified national pantheon of heroes who formed part of the party's origin myth and by forging a unified post-Revolutionary identity. Cultural historians of Mexico have demonstrated the fundamental role that the PRI's cultural projects played in its political success and its ability to maintain authority for so long; however these studies examine the period before 1968. My dissertation draws on this field's concern with popular culture and political power and extends it by recognizing the centrality of history to Mexican identity and by asking how the PRI employed history and popular culture as a way to mitigate the political consequences of the changes underway in the 1980s and 1990s, a period of neoliberal reforms that alienated large numbers of voters. Furthermore, it asks, did neoliberalism alter the political nature of history, and if so, how? To answer this question I examine the narratives conveyed by two series of historically themed comic books, produced by the Secretariat of Public Education (SEP) and nine historical telenovelas, produced by Televisa in cooperation with various state ministries, particularly Mexican Institute for Social Security (IMSS). The dissertation focuses on three themes in order to illuminate vital features of cultural politics in Mexico at the end of the twentieth century. First, it examines the interplay between historiography and the politics of historically themed entertainment. In other words, it asks how rival interpretations of the past were incorporated into the entertainment-education (edutainment) projects, if at all, and how politics influenced these historical interpretations. Second, the dissertation charts Televisa's and the PRI's progress in learning how to narrate Mexican history in a way that satisfied multiple interests: generating support for the ruling party and profits for Televisa, capturing the interest of audiences, and withstanding the scrutiny of professional scholars. In this endeavor they sought a careful balance between fact and fiction. The dissertation demonstrates not only the continuing political nature of historical narratives in Mexico, but also argues that their impact could not always be anticipated. Consumed in different political contexts, the didactic repetition of appeals to the past highlighted the PRI's departure from revolutionary ideals instead of linking their legitimacy to it. Finally, the dissertation examines the relationship between the public and private cultural sectors, through an analysis of state ministries - SEP, IMSS, National Defense, National Lottery - and the private sector, particularly Televisa. Together IMSS and Televisa produced four telenovelas, but economic changes in the 1990s created conditions that made further projects untenable. For Televisa, these economic changes were the result of increased industry competition, internal concerns, and depleted financial government sponsorship. For the PRI, the expenditure no longer generated legitimacy as a link to the nation's past, but symbolized the waste of a party that had maintained its power through corporatism. Though the PRI and Televisa attempted to use the past to generate political legitimacy, ultimately it was unable to mitigate the fracturing that occurred in the late twentieth century as a result of their transition from corporatism to neoliberalism.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. September 2013. Major: History. Advisors: Pilcher Jeffrey, McNamara Patrick. 1 computer file (PDF); vi, 258 pages.
Entertaining Education: Teaching National History in Mexican State-Sponsored Comic Books and Telenovelas, 1963 to 1996.
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