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Motherhood in Movement: Depictions of the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920) in Literature, Film, and Photography

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Within the Mexican national sphere motherhood has a symbolic, practical, and psychosocial potency; yet, studies of the Mexican Revolution have excluded maternal representations. Depictions of motherhood in popular culture (films, music, literature), religion (Virgin of Guadalupe), civic engagement (Día de las Madres) [Mother’s Day], and public displays have disseminated various discourses of Mexican maternity in Mexico and the United States. “Motherhood in Movement: Depictions of the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920) in Literature, Film, and Photography” aims to highlight maternal ideology and mothering practices in relation to the revolutionary upheaval. By analyzing multiple and even contradictory depictions of motherhood, this project contributes to a deeper understanding of the intersectionality of changing signifiers of motherhood, the spaces it occupied, and its constant fluidity. My guiding concept of motherhood in movement here addresses and complicates prevalent maternal symbols that gave way to many different types maternal agents. “Motherhood in movement,” comprised of three substantive chapters with an introduction and a conclusion, reveals how the established cultural norms that affected maternal practices were negotiated within political, social, and economic spheres.

The first chapter “La negra Angustias: Alternative Depictions of Motherhood” explores various representations of maternity in La negra Angustias [Black Angustias], a novel written by Francisco Rojas González (1944), and the homonymous filmic version directed by Matilde Landeta (1950). In this chapter, motherhood in movement is the alteration of existing Mexican maternal symbols that gave way to many different mothering agents such as black mothers, functional mothers, and the Mexican Revolution itself as a maternal entity. Maternal agents simultaneously align, resist and intersect with different modes of mothering. Depictions of motherhood are charged with shifting signifiers, which opens a discussion to incorporate the varied maternal agents’ transectionality (political, social, racial, and gendered) in our reconstruction of the Mexican Revolution. The novel and film can be read as a reflection of the country’s incapacity to include all members of society in postrevolutionary political, social, and racial reconstruction.

The second Chapter “Rain of Gold and W.H. Horne’s Postcards: Immigrant Mother’s Malleable Performance of Maternal Practices” examines how Víctor Villaseñor’s Rain of Gold (1991) and W.H. Horne’s photographic postcards—those that depict maternal subjects that immigrated to the United States during the Mexican Revolution—are mediums that reconstruct a historical memory of maternal mobility. Both mediums are a record (fragment of time and space) of motherhood in movement based on female immigrants’ experiences. In this chapter, motherhood in movement is the necessary movement/adaptation of the maternal subjects’ changing conditions as they emigrated during the revolutionary period. Maternal subjects alter the specificity of the maternal symbol in order to survive both geographical and political hardships. Therefore, they adapt to new hybrid signifiers of maternity, which in many instances are in tension with their sense of belonging, citizenship, and sovereignty.

Chapter three “La vida oculta en la caja de nogal: A Genealogical Reproduction of Maternal Experience” examines how the narrator of La vida oculta en la caja de nogal: Detrás de la decena trágica [The Hidden Life in the Walnut Box: Behind the Tragic Ten Days] (2013), written by Amélie Olaiz, reconstructs a genealogical experience of motherhood. Historical participation of female actants from within their own home (a space of resistance) has been overlooked. From within their home, maternal subjects created the conditions (through maternal labor) for men and women to participate in the armed struggle. The two main characters of La vida oculta, Elisa Aguillón de Renard of 1913 and Elisa of the 1990s, exemplify how historical experiences lived by previous generations affect future matrilineal generations. In this chapter motherhood in movement refers to the shifting of maternal ideology transmitted genealogically in a historical continuum. Maternal agents in the same family line are significant in the dynamic construction of the nation because of the shift in experience of the signifiers and performance of motherhood and

maternity since the Mexican Revolution.

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