b. 26 March 1906, Mineral del Hondo, Coahuila, Mexico
d. 6 August 1986, Mexico City

Emilio “Indio” Fernández set himself as a goal, perhaps one of the most unlikely film projects ever: to build a nation, Mexico, through cinema. His project, however, was not unique. It was representative of the Mexican zeitgeist of the 1920s all through to the 1940s. At this time, creating a homogeneous nation (modern yet deeply rooted in history) was considered paramount among politicians and politically engaged artists such as the Muralists (Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros mainly).

And Indio seems to have succeeded: most of us conceive Mexico somewhat like this:

Jesús Helguera, Serenata, ca. 1940

When I say us, I mean both Mexicans and foreigners. This fake homologising and folklorising image of Mexico has built a unique non-existing nation that took elements from a culturally multi-diverse country. There you have the charro, coming from the Central-Western regions of the Bajío and the Altos de Jalisco; the china poblana, a figure from the lore of the City of Puebla (a Filipina dressed in a re-interpretation of the typical Sevillian dress); and magueyes, the representative agave from central Mexico. But more importantly for Mexicans, this picture, no matter how romantic or melodramatic it may seem, smells of gunpowder; its setting is reminiscent of the Mexican Revolution, the core event in the creation of our identity, and the most relevant historic event in the nation.

This leads us back to Fernández, who, at a very young age, joined Adolfo de la Huerta’s 1923 rebellion to overthrow President Álvaro Obregón. Federal forces captured Fernández, but he escaped and crossed the US-Mexico border. Once settled in the United States he ended up working as an extra in Hollywood. He learnt how to make movies alongside Chano Urueta, his roommate and also a future filmmaker. When Indio returned to Mexico, it was only natural to continue a career in cinema, and he worked as an actor in supporting roles until he got the opportunity to direct a film, his first feature La isla de la pasión (Passion Island, 1941).1

Revolutions are chaotic occurrences narrated as cause-and-effect heroic exploits. Even when Fernández affiliated to a rebel who opposed an ‘official history’s great man’, he shared the grandiose sense of purpose and achievement. A new Mexico emerged from the revolution, bringing land to the deprived, strengthening the working class, resisting greedy foreigners to give back to the people whatever they ransacked; a myth emerged, and everyone was proud and eager to make it real. When the utopia turned out to be a sham2 the regime became ankylosed as la revolucion institucionalizada (the institutionalised revolution); the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (Institutional Revolutionary Party) ruled practically since the end of the struggle, an even the famous Mexican poet and essayist Octavio Paz, a diehard conservative, remarked upon the oxymoron.

The first advances after the struggle included transformation, modernity, unity; there were heroic deeds conducted by teachers, physicians and engineers, and beautiful stories about them were drawn, written and filmed. Mexico City became a reality after centuries of being conceived as a vague, distant place. It became a capital city.3 And Indio was a filmmaker willing to make a difference.

Before examining Fernández’s films it is necessary to say that Indio did not work alone but side by side with powerful team players.4 Revolutions, just like movies, are not single-person achievements, they are group achievements and the concept of the “great filmmakers” tend to obliterate this.

Since the auteur = director conception is an extrapolation of literature, of the single, solitary writer, it doesn’t necessarily match filmmaking. If jazz fans had opened the discussion around artistic merit, we might have been talking about collaboration for ages, but the politique des auteurs was established by readers, not jazz fans. We can’t go too far into its implications, but with Indio, as with many popular filmmakers later labelled “authors”, we need to think twice about whether their achievements are in reality collective rather than individual.

I would propose broaching the issue after Paisley Livingston, who brought up this definition:

author = the agent (or agents) who intentionally make(s) an utterance, where “utterance” refers to any action, an intended function of which is expression or communication.5

Livingston proposes analysing the creative process involved in making a movie to find out who its author or authors are. I would postulate that the formula is also useful to understand careers.

If we follow Fernández and his main team, we will find a truly collective agent: Indio would pitch some mostly visual ideas to screenwriter Mauricio Magdaleno, who would choose among them and develop his own. At a later stage they would gather with cinematographer Gabriel Figueroa and editor Gloria Schoemann to plan filming and montage, the four of them having the right to change the project; then, on the set, Fernández would share some thoughts about the visuals or state his intentions, but Figueroa would take most of the aesthetic decisions. The legendary Figueroa was as committed as Indio in finding a “Mexican style”. Finally, Schoemann would assemble the puzzle. 6 On this basis, I will consider Indio Fernández in a jazz-ensemble fashion rather than as a genius filmmaker from this point on. I must make two disclaimers, tough: first, Magdaleno didn’t take part in the script of Enamorada (Woman in Love, 1946), one of the central films in this profile; and second, I will stick to the tradition of studying only Fernández’s films of the 1940s, the unquestionable peak of his work.


Mexico as a fresco

Did Fernández create Mexico as he claimed, then? Yes and no. Not as far as he was one among several filmmakers who represented the nation in the fashion of “comedia ranchera” and concurrent with Jesús Helguera’s stamp above (with charros, chinas poblanas and magueyes). His first undoubtedly relevant film alongside Figueroa and Magdaleno is Flor silvestre (Wildflower, 1943). It is set in the Bajío and obliged the appearance of the local charros, and the revolutionaries and rural characters of his cinema shared the outfit. In other words, Indio didn’t “create” Mexico, he was dealing and expanding the postcard image of the country.

Rather, he “created” it when he diverged from the Época de Oro (Golden Age, i.e. the Mexican film industry from roughly 1936 to 1950) to draw a fresco of ethnic diversity. The main characters of María Candelaria (1943) are Native Americans from the then Nahua settlement of Xochimilco. We can also think of the Purépecha from Maclovia (1948), set in the Janitzio Island. The poor fishermen family from La perla (The Pearl, 1945), set in Veracruz, strongly contrasts with the rich criolla 7 family from Enamorada. Even recent immigrants have a place in Indio’s movies. For example, Mercedes and Beatriz from Salón México. Their migratory status is ambiguous, but we know from an isolated mention by an incidental character that they “arrived in Veracruz”, the port connecting Mexico with Europe since the arrival of the Spanish, and to which émigrés and refugees arrived in healthy numbers during the 1930s and 40s. Indio’s Mexico occurs in a tension between the postcard Mexican cliché and the multicultural real nation, as one can see in the actors playing the characters of his films.

La Perla

Mestizaje and beauty8

The criollo depiction of Nahua José Luis and Purépecha José María is shocking. Actor Pedro Armendáriz plays both characters, but his sharp-nose and green eyes reveal his European ancestry. The same happens with his female counterparts, Dolores del Río and María Félix. How come it seems that people didn’t care about representation back in the mid-20th century?

The answer seems to come from the logics of the Mexican film industry itself: the actors were among the biggest figures of the local (and Latin American) star system. Therefore, they were “entitled” to take part in films, no matter in what role. In addition, there is a nation-building policy behind this: all the people were a single unity, descendants from the Mexica, resisting first 300 years of Spanish invasion and later on 100 years of corruption and foreign intervention—Revolution started in 1910, thus the math. No one seemed to notice that linking present-day people with their mythic ancient forefathers was the European basis of Nationalism, nor that most of the First Nations in what is today Mexican territory, such as the Purépecha from the Michoacán Empire, where not Mexica and that, at least in this case, they were as powerful. The commitment to build a nation obliterated those problems. At the same time, there is a beauty policy involved: ever since the Spanish invasion and settlement the terms of attractiveness are European. So, in our national cinema, in a sort of permanent psychotic episode, Mexicans are both Mexicas and white. In Fernández’s work, even when he negotiated with the star system financing his films, the problem is ambiguously visible, which makes a difference with the uncritical approach of the average Golden Age Mexican film.

There is a remarkable character in Maclovia revealing the problem. Sergeant Genovevo de la Garza (Carlos López Moctezuma) gets obsessed with Maclovia (María Félix) regardless of her engagement with José María. De la Garza brags about his green eyes (interpreted as racial superiority), which according to himself makes him obviously a better match than an ‘indio’, a derogatory term still in use. Magdaleno and Fernández created this farce character in order to make a critique, but they went many steps ahead and the extraordinary actor Miguel Inclán may be the key to understanding why.



Inclán is a regular supporting actor in Indio Fernández’s films and undoubtedly a mestizo; one among the many mestizos that shape popular characters in his films. In most Mexican Golden Age films, mestizos were doomed to the roles of serving staff, but in Indio’s movies they are the bulk of the performers, thus merging the star system beauty standard with a more representative ethnic profile of the Mexican population. Inclán is often the linking point, but in Salón México he is a hero of sorts, a kind-hearted and honest policeman, Lupe López, who is constantly protecting Mercedes, a fichera (sex worker), from other men’s abuse.

In this film, Magdaleno, who claimed the movie as his,9 and Fernández set a beautiful European-looking Mercedes (Marga López), an immigrant devoted to her boarding school bound sister, between two mestizo characters, Lupe and Paco (Rodolfo Acosta), a thug. The gesture was odd at the time, not only because López was the only star in the film but also because of its mestizaje balance, which was closer to Mexico City’s real slums.

Salón México

At this social and political context, this is the closest the Mexican star system could have gotten to real life. Stuck between the European ideals of beauty and the brand-new iconicity of Mexico, Fernández could only show the contradiction. The sad thing is that the problem remains visible in present day Mexican cinema, even if it has been shifting for years. Actor Tenoch Huerta, famous worldwide because of his role as Rafael Caro Quintero in the Netflix show Narcos México, has stated repeatedly that he never thought he could become an actor since he is not güero (colloquial for criollo) nor brawny, but he got the chance and did his best10. He is one among the performers spearheading change in Mexican cinema, and more filmmakers have also realised that there is a need to reflect the country’s diversity with mestizos at its core.

I have stressed Emilio Fernández’s nickname, Indio, all over the text for a similar reason: it is shocking in the Mexican context because, as stated before, the word “indio” has a pejorative sense. Why would he accept, or choose, to use the moniker might be less interesting than stressing the contradiction of being proud of his origins (his mother belonged to the Kickapoo nation; his father was a mestizo) while half denying them in his films. This may be one of his profoundly Mexican traits.

Another one, may be his commitment to the downtrodden, manifested in his portrays of machismo and poverty.

Women and machismo

In one of the key sequences of Salón México, Paco slyly forces Mercedes to enter a motel to make her confess that she stole from him. Once locked away, he beats her. The attack stops as Lupe enters the room, as Paco’s passive aggression did not pass unnoticed under his eye, and confronts him. “¡Ahora péguele a un hombre,[…] ya que es tan macho!”, “Now, since you are so macho, try to hit a man!”, he says after setting Mercedes free. A harsh struggle leads to the policeman’s victory.

In Enamorada the outcome is the opposite. Father Sierra (Fernando Fernández) faces Revolucionario General José Juan’s (Pedro Armendáriz) rage after seeing him smacking criolla Beatriz Peñafiel (María Félix) in the church’s atrium. “No le pegues a una mujer, ¡pégale a un hombre!”, “Don’t hit a woman—hit a man”, the priest claims as he falls to the ground after a punch in the face.

The resolution is less important than the action of a man turning against the violence of another man. Indio Fernández cinema has an educational side to it, and he and his team condemned machismo, widely spread in Post-Revolutionary Mexico and widely spread today.11 But condemning it was not enough, they needed to show an alternative,12 even if sometimes the result was disastrous.

Machismo is a power structure within the frame of patriarchy where a tough and powerful (alpha?) male believes he has the right to power and therefore is entitled to women and obedience. In Paco’s case, machismo is manifested through his affairs with the women of the Salón Mexico; in José Juan’s it is driven by arrogance, a more rural manifestation of the same phenomenon.

After Enamorada’s scene described above, José Juan gets drunk and is approached by an old Revolucionario. He first rejects the elder, but he insists and manages to tell him the story of his own heartbreak. Don Joaquín (Eduardo Arozamena) tells him that in the freight of a fight, where both he and his partner where “bitten by pride”, he was expecting her to cry, “but some women just don’t cry”. And, on the other hand, he continues, “se necesita ser muy macho para saber pedir perdón” (“one needs to be really brave to know how to ask forgiveness”). This line dismantles machismo within its internal logic using the multiple senses of the word as leverage: “el más macho es el que sabe cómo dejar de ser macho” (“the bravest are those who learn how to resign arrogance”). If machismo condemned the old generations, the younger one might manage to free itself from machismo. Here machismo is a curse.

Condemned by the image of strength and by the necessity to hide pain through rage, José Juan is incapable to relate to a woman who does not cry. Beatriz, engaged with an American, feels attracted to the Revolucionario General. Nevertheless, she rejects him both for their antagonised extractions (he a man of the people; she the daughter of a landowner) and for his coarse wooing. Beatriz is a woman who doesn’t respond to the (tearful) construction of small-town femineity, and no one messes around with her. She responds to José Juan’s catcalls by slapping him; when he changes his strategy and shows off in his horse, she scares it by lighting fireworks and the General himself flies to the sky; when he sets a date to talk to her father, she attacks him with a stick. Only when he opens up at church with Mother Mary as witness Beatriz is able to consider him.

Following the rules of the film, the toll for attaining Beatriz’s love is being man enough to beat machismo, and to see her as an equal soul.

Beatriz is a figure of power: the decided, strong woman easily spotted in Latin American and Mediterranean cultures. Females who never surrender to the onslaught of violent masculinity, who even become matres familias by all rights, if we can indulge to the expression. The discourse of machismo needs these feminine opponents to vanish in order to succeed, yet even in way more backward contexts, such as the mid-20th century Mexico, it was challenged, if less consistently than at present.

But what happens with the women who cry in Indio Fernández’s cinema?

It might be hard to find an answer since they come from different backgrounds, and their stories diverge. However, they are portrayed with dignity. Rosaura, the rural elementary school teacher in Río Escondido (1947), cries out of despair towards the constant hindering of her mission from the part of the local cacique (and mayor). Her momentary breakdown helps her to gain strength for an extra push. She couldn’t be more far apart from Salón México’s Mercedes, who is trapped between her thug stalker and her sister. The latter’s equal, might be Margarita (Dolores del Río) in Las abandonadas (Abandoned Women, 1945).

Río Escondido

Margarita is pregnant when she discovers that her fiancé was engaged to another woman. In her town this is shameful for her family and the community, so her father disowns her. Once settled in Mexico City, she finds it too hard to take care of her son and ends up as a prostitute. As a handsome woman she finds work at a fancy house where she is seduced by Juan Gómez (Pedro Armendáriz), a crook pretending to be a Revolucionario. When Juan is finally captured she is charged for unlawful association and spends time in jail. After being released, she enters a downward spiral leading to a life as a withered hooker.But she sheds tears only years after. Her son, a successful lawyer, defends a mother accused of murder. Margarita finds out and, knowing he wouldn’t recognise her, she attends the trial. The young man defends maternal dedication and integrity and denounces the common deceiving of men. Then, he compares mothers to God in their eternal love. The accused is found not guilty, and Margarita finally cries. One cannot fail to see that she is proud and relieved from the burden of an unjust and dismal world. The young man carries the torch of a new generation, free from regressive tradition, and committed to the downtrodden.

Catholicism and Revolution

We need to go back to the church’s atrium in Enamorada, where Beatriz and José Juan clash. While there is not the slightest doubt of the General’s macho outburst, nor of Fernández disapproval towards his character’s actions, the reason of his rage is empathy towards his sisters in arms. The paradox is that he is standing up for their dignity.

In one of José Juan’s attempts to soften Beatriz, she rebukes him by saying he has too many soldaderas (women soldiers) at his disposal and that therefore he should stop disturbing her. José Juan cannot accept heroes being degraded, and he makes a speech on their behalf. Beatriz continues her attack claiming they (the rich) are what they are, decent people, while they (the poor) are what they are, nobodies and whores. Then the General drops one of his best lines: “Miss, allow then that a nobody, because I’m a nobody for you, remind you that if we are different, it is not my fault nor your merit”. The implicit message is things don’t have to stay that way. Beatriz strikes him.


We know José Juan enough to tell he is a utopian, and his utopia is Revolution. In this sense he stands for Fernández’s own utopianism, leading, as already stated, to a modern country with deep roots, where women and men are the same, and the deprived are not condemned to abuse from the powerful.

Most of Fernández’s classic films are set outside the cities, with an emphasis in communities of peasants or fishermen. Sometimes, as we’ve seen, they are Indigenous communities. Indio’s films share much of the Golden Age Mexican cinema’s belief in a pure national spirit that manifest in those settings. Only for him—and a handful of other creators such as Roberto Gavaldón—this out-of-time myth has a dark side. Greedy foreigners abuse the dreams of a better life, of people living hand to mouth as in La perla (The Pearl, 1945). Or perhaps tradition and keeping up appearances condemn an unlucky girl, as in Las abandonadas. In other towns the problem is a cacique trying to get his way, such is the case of Río Escondido; and in the indigenous communities of María Candelaria and Maclovia the problem is the “primitive” state in which people still live, leading to ignorant fanaticism and a precarious, tragic everyday life.

The only way out comes with a Revolution implementing solutions to the former situation. Rosaura (María Félix), the teacher appointed to the far-off village of Rio Escondido, functions here as the next stage in the fight José Juan and his kind started. She alongside her fellow physician settled in the not so distant town of Santiago de la Sierra to persuade a reluctant community of the benefits of fighting smallpox together. After that, Rosaura is finally allowed to teach to the local indigenous children.

The most important lesson she delivers is how Benito Juárez “overcame” being a poor indigenous boy—“Just like you, kids”, she asserts—and became president of Mexico,13 which means that the path to a modern life is available to them thanks to the Revolution.

José Juan understands that too well and as an ex-seminarian sees the Christian root of his struggle. In an earlier conversation with Sierra, his old friend, he reads the three kings in the colonial painting La adoración de los Reyes (The Three Wise Men adoration, Nicolás Rodríguez Juárez, 1698) as “symbols of power, wealth, and oppression,” but for the character the meaning weakens in front of a commoner called to dignify those oppressed, robbed and subjugated, just as the Revolution calls to build a homeland, a “Heaven on Earth”. This Catholic outburst, an unlikely occurrence in Fernández’s work, levels the ground to match two transformation projects sharing foundations.

The movie closes with Beatriz walking alongside José Juan’s horse. The implication is not that such a fierce woman gave up to a man. Instead, she humbled herself and committed to the Revolution, a utopia only achievable by the concurrence of the powerful and the masses. Interestingly, there remains room for ambiguity. Maybe Indio was skeptical of his own dream. Maybe he just hoped and wondered. Maybe he laid the cornerstone, an image of the root of that Mexico he claimed to create, but how could he imagine the future?

A great popular filmmaker

At his best, Fernández was one of the most relevant Mexican filmmakers and one of the audience favourites. This is, of course, the result of what appeared on the screen, which means, at least:

  • Several forms of beauty gathered together. Gabriel Figueroa’s cinematography draws from 19th century Mexican engravings, the Western art tradition and the history of cinema, an important source of inspiration for Indio as well. The colonial architecture (one can find here and there a fascination with the New Spanish Baroque), the landscapes, the outfits and the horses captured emphasise idiosyncratic expressions of human endeavour. The variety of music and dances displayed from film to film—Fernández’s movies usually include at least one musical number—make up an aural and corporal heritage. And the then necessary (perhaps conflictive) beaus and beauties of the star system.
  • The playfulness of melodrama. Tears and tenderness, epic and tragedy, class struggle and comedy fit perfectly, according to the development of the script, in a single movie. In films so divided as Enamorada, even the camera lightens and loosens as the film passes from solemnity to farce.
  • A complex social construction visible not only in the already discussed presence of the physical diversity of Mexico, but also in the reminder of a highly stratified and unequal society, and in the actual cultural diversity of the nation alongside the official statuary and unified myth.
  • Proximity to the audience. Mexican spectators in the 1940s could find in Indio’s films a nation to feel proud of and they could recognise the dreams and yearnings shared with the then exiting new government and the harsh past and/or present they lived. They would find their own expressions, proverbs and even (disguised) profanities.
  • A will to amuse.

The most striking trait is the common ground between Fernández and his team and the audience: a field of affection. The pride of nationalism, the beauty of the music and dance, the empathy towards the characters and the allure of propaganda when it matches with people’s longings.

Nevertheless, something feels amiss here. Affection, despite of its implicit interest in perception, seems too cold, too solemn for the motley, carnivalesque experience of popular cinemas. Formulated from distinction, in the Bourdian sense, it broaches the experiences of the masses from the perspective of those holding the cultural capital. Even if Fernández’s oeuvre reproduce the mythic construction of the nation imposed by the PRI, Mexican cultural capital has a Western frame and the cultural elite reproduces the trans-Atlantic canonical values. The elite can be considered an enemy of his objectives, in the same fashion landowners and caciques are the foes of his heroes; an “in-distinct” approach is necessary then.

Popular cinemas’ raw material is emotion. Movies such as Indio’s are built in chains of contrasting feelings, and feelings not only make sense but make up meaning per se. Some spectators might leave the cinema happy enough with the rollercoaster they went through. But meaning, nevertheless, is open—never mandatory, nor even desirable—for those willing to go deeper, reflect or even take political action. When forethought is not compulsory intellectual tradition usually comes to a dead end. Popular cinemas confront thinkers with the frontier of their capacities and with their prejudices, perhaps that is why the tradition of Enlightenment forces the great filmmakers, prior to the idea of auteur, into the label.

Fernández, as, let’s say, John Ford, aimed his efforts to the masses, to the nobodies with whom he felt at home—unlike Ford, later he just loved being considered as an auteur. An optimistic reading of his moniker, “Indio”, might lead, as we already suggested, to his identification towards the menial citizens and their idea of the aims and aesthetics of art, an art confronted with high-brow values and forms. The choice to belong to, and to amuse and cry with the people, to revolt with them, makes a great popular filmmaker.

The team wishes to thank Gabriella Munoz for her editorial work on this article.

La Perla

Further reading

Emilio Fernández key English language sources are:

Dolores Tierney’s Emilio Fernández: Pictures in the Margins (Manchester University Press, 2008) is the unchallenged classic in English, and might be the theoretical highlight at the present. The book back cover text gives a great summary of Tierney’s achievement on this single line: “Fernández’s films are not transparent reflections of dominant post-Revolutionary Mexican culture, but annotations and re-inscriptions of the particularities of Mexican society in the post-Revolutionary era.”

Charles Ramírez Berg essay “The Cinematic Invention of Mexico: The Poetics and Politics of the Fernández unit style”, a key source for the first section of this very text, is the result from Breg’s revision, correction and reconsideration of an earlier essay. Berg, emphasizes the importance of team work as the basis for a thorough study of the visual achievements of the team. A later section of the essay reflects on the negative influence of post-1950s Mexican film industry demise on Fernández’s work.

Essential Filmography

* Indicates Emilio Fernández, Mauricio Magdaleno, Gabriel Figueroa and Gloria Schoemann’s collaborations.

Víctimas del pecado (Victims of Sin), 1950*
La malquerida (The Unloved Woman), 1949*
Pueblerina (Small Town Girl), 1948
Salón México, 1948*
Maclovia, 1948*
Río Escondido, 1947*
Enamorada (Woman in Love), 1946
La perla (The Pearl), 1945
Bugambilia (Bougainvillea), 1944*
Las abandonadas (The Abandonend Women), 1944*
María Candelaria, 1943*
Flor silvestre (Wild Flower), 1943


  1. I follow Charles Ramírez Berg, who read and summarised the most relevant sources in “The Cinematic Invention of Mexico: The Poetics and Politics of the Fernández Unit Style”, in The Classical Mexican Cinema: The Poetics of the Exceptional Golden Age Films (Austin: The University of Texas Press, 2015), p. 95-97.
  2. Macario Schettino demonstrates the falsity of this myth since its inception in Cien años de confusión: México en el siglo XX (Mexico City: Taurus, 2008), pp. 29-52.
  3. The best account of this transformation might be Luis González’s Pueblo en vilo (Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 2015).
  4. Karla Bernardete Lavariega Sarachaga, El equipo de Emilio “Indio” Fernández, Gabriel Figueroa, Mauricio Magdaleno, Pedro Armendáriz y Dolores del Río: Consolidador del star system mexicano con Flor silvestre, María Candelaria, Las abandonadas y Bugambilia (1943-1944) (bachelor’s thesis, UNAM, 2001), and Berg, op. cit. The two authors disagree in the line-up of the “teams” or “units”. Berg’s “unit” consists of Fernández, Figueroa, Magdaleno and editor Gloria Schoemann.
  5. Paisley Livingston, “Cinematic Authorship” in Philosophy of Film and Motion Pictures: An Anthology, Noël Carroll and Jinhee Choi, eds. (Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, 2006), p. 300.
  6. See Berg, op. cit., pp. 94-102. I follow only him, up to this point, considering the difficulties implied in assessing the exact creative role of actors, as proposed by Lavariega Sarachaga, and taking into account some other actors and actresses, María Félix and Miguel Inclán to name only two, who played key roles in Fernández’s oeuvre.
  7. Criollo: Mexican white or white-looking Westerners.
  8. The Mexican approach to “race”, mestizaje, is based on mixture. Its internal logic is that of a continuum where the First Peoples and the descendants of Europeans and Africans meet in the majoritarian group, the mestizos, a consequence of the amalgamation of all the others. Therefore, we conceive of “race” on the basis of relation, unlike the European-North American general conception of separated “races”, derived from the works of biologists such as François Bernier and Johann Friedrich Blumenbach. (I thank José Ignacio Lanzagorta for his precisions on this topic.)
  9. Paco Ignacio Taibo I (El Indio Fernández: El cine por mis pistolas. Mexico City: Joaquín Mortiz / Planeta, 1986, p. 46), quoted by Berg, op. cit., p. 100.
  10. See, for example, Claudia Solera, “Tenoch Huerta: Su historia no ha llegado al cine,” Excélsior, 14 July 2019, https://www.excelsior.com.mx/nacional/tenoch-huerta-su-historia-que-no-ha-llegado-al-cine/1324394
  11. 66% Mexican women over 15 years old have suffered physical, emotional, economic and/or sexual violence, according to the National Survey on the Dynamics of Homestead Relationships (Instituto Nacional de Estadística, Geografía e Informática, Aguascalientes, 18 August 2020, https://www.inegi.org.mx/contenidos/programas/endireh/2016/doc/endireh2016_presentacion_ejecutiva.pdf).
  12. If machismo is a global phenomenon, showing alternatives to it for men was, and is not yet, common. Remember 2019 Gillette “Boys will be boys” ad? It was somewhat clumsy, even if you were the bullied kid running from the rest of the class, and yet is the best we’ve got internationally in recent years. From this point of view Fernández and his fellow creators, back in the Mexican 1940s, look bolder.
  13. The downside of Juárez’s figure is that he succeeded in becoming a Westerner. This figure was ideal to incorporate Indigenous populations to the mestiza, Spanish speaking, Western and modern society promoted by the PRI. Here Indio’s alias results problematic at its best. We can partially discharge him from offense considering a historical context thrilling with the enthusiasm of building a nation. But at present it is impossible to disregard, as Mixtec thinker Yásnaya Elena Aguilar has provokingly declared, “indigenous peoples are the denial of the idea of Mexico” considering they have been “de-politised and folklorised as justification for an idea they do not take part into”. See Pablo Ferri, “Los pueblos indígenas no somos la raíz de México, somos su negación constante”, El País, 9 September 2019, https://elpais.com/cultura/2019/09/08/actualidad/1567970157_670834.html

About The Author

Abel Muñoz-Hénonin, one of our editors, teaches Film History at Escuela Superior de Cine and Latin American Cinema at Universidad Iberoamericana. Previously, he was the chief curator at his country’s national film archive, Cineteca Nacional, where he founded the Mexican film/moving images magazine Icónica.

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