LASA 2024 Congress: Author Post by Amy Wright on Serial Mexico

In celebration of the Latin American Studies Association 2024 Congress, we welcome a guest post from Amy Wright, author of Serial Mexico: Storytelling across Media, from Nationhood to Now. VUP’s Scholarly Acquisitions Editor Steven Rodríguez is currently in Bogotá, Colombia, for the conference—if you are also attending, stop by the VUP booth and say hi!

Continuará. To be continued. The so-called endpoint of many a story in the Mexican repertoire. That endpoint is nothing other than a beginning. I wrote Serial Mexico because I saw the cyclical quality of storytelling everywhere I looked in Mexican narrative, yet it seemed that a lot more could be said as to the workings and intentions of that art form. I have been interested for decades in the history of how Mexico unfurls its ongoing stories over long periods of time. I saw the story of serialization in Mexico as ripe for the telling.

Seriality occurs when a larger story is broken down into smaller installments. This popular form of delivery and consumption also shapes the story’s style and content, generating a few important hallmarks such as heavy suspense as a way to ensure the story’s survival over time. In Mexico’s early days, storytelling was a medium for new Mexicans to get to know themselves and one another. Oral traditions had a serial quality, ensuring that folks who could not read were able to follow the story of Mexico’s creation. Seriality generated origin stories that would connect communities of new citizens and storytellers in a context where literacy was low. Images and illustrations were a key attraction once serial oral traditions passed into print. Click here for a taste of this robust tradition in some of the rich imagery of seriality that I have collected through my research, which I am thrilled to share with even more readers through Serial Mexico.

Serialized stories, consumed across various media, have been a hallmark of Mexican cultural production from the very beginning. Serial Mexico follows their multiple manifestations, ranging from newspaper novels, to comic strips, to radionovelas and the telenovelas for which Mexico is known the world over. In my journey through that art form, I start with Mexico’s very first novel, El Periquillo Sarniento (1816), written in the colony of New Spain before Independence was achieved: this picaresque tale was told through episodes emitted in the form of pamphlets to evade the crown’s censorship and facilitate distribution. As I move into the phenomenon of installment novels published in newspapers, pervasive throughout the nineteenth century, I follow that age’s fascination of Mexico’s controversial colonial origins through serial retellings of Baroque history. Serial Mexico comes full circle on this topic in the final chapter where I discuss the rebirth of this obsession with colonial times and the Baroque aesthetic through Televisa’s soap operas that revisit, remediate and reintroduce the works of nineteenth-century serial novelists to twentieth-century spectators.

One of the most interesting personages to emerge from that chapter is the namesake character from The Strange Return of Diana Salazar (Televisa, 1988–89). I will be chatting about this Mexican cult classic at two upcoming conferences, both for the Latin American Studies Association (LASA) this June in Bogotá—

Session NameRe-mediaciones: Usos y entornos de la prensa y la televisión mexicana
Paper TitleTelevisa sorprende: La telenovela neobarroca como forma de reencuentro con el pasado
Date and Time6/13/2024 10:20 AM – 11:50 AM Colombia Time (COT)
LocationEd. 03 – Gabriel Giraldo S.J. – 506 & Virtual

—as well as at the Modern Language Association (MLA) next January in New Orleans. [You can register to attend LASA virtually here.]

This fascinating neo-baroque plot features the harrowing descent of female protagonist Leonor Santiago—an upper-crust señorita from the provinces into near-madness. Leonor suffers from visions and nightmares that haunt an otherwise idyllic sixteenth-century provincial adolescence. She also experiences bouts of madness that lead to her being targeted by the Spanish Inquisition, and ultimately burned at the stake. The twist is her sudden reincarnation into 1980s Mexico City. In that modern setting she is known as Diana Salazar, college student by day, psychoanalysis patient after school, exploring the dreams that plague her consciousness. This hapless misfit of a heroine comes fully into her psychic superpowers through a journey deep into the Baroque labyrinth. This tale has proven intriguing to Mexicans of all generations and to contemporary US college students alike, based on recent experiences in my courses!

In studying these soap operas’ serial encounters with the Colonial Baroque, I verse on Televisa as the potency incarnate of twentieth-century Mexican mass media. With its broad deep monopolistic reach into print, radio, and television, Televisa held the power to shape storytelling throughout a century, not to mention the relationship of thousands of Mexicans to national memory and identity through serial sensationalism, monopolizing the soap opera genre at the peak of its development. The aesthetic decisions of its creative team are examined in order to understand Televisa’s potent yet highly controlled counterpoint with twentieth-century consumers, spectators, and changing ideas of what it meant to be Mexican at a key moment of consumerism emerging after decades of developmentalism. My talk at LASA focuses on these topics within a larger panel on contemporary Mexican Media.

At this month’s LASA I have two more exciting interventions related to Serial Mexico. Author Sergio Gutiérrez Negrón and I will be in conversational counterpoint about the connecting themes between our books, both dealing with Mexico, both titled on temporality, both published last year: Serial Mexico and Mexico, Interrupted.

Session TypeBook Presentation
Session NameAuthor to Author: Serial Mexico vis-à-vis Mexico Interrupted (Vanderbilt UP, 2023)
Date and Time6/13/2024 04:15 PM – 04:45 PM Colombia Time (COT)
LocationEd. 03 – Gabriel Giraldo S.J. – 404 & Virtual

Jorge Quintana and I co-organized a panel in which you will have a chance to hear about recent works in Vanderbilt’s Critical Mexican Studies series, a vibrant space for transdisciplinary interventions and original conceptual framing within and beyond the fields of Latin American Studies. We feature an international group of authors who focus on Mexico as a case study and/or departure point for innovative analysis, in a lively conversation co-hosted by Series Editor Ignacio Sánchez Prado and Acquisitions Editor Steven P. Rodríguez.

Session NameCritical Mexican Studies, 2024: Approaches, Recent and Forthcoming
Date and Time6/12/2024 10:20 AM – 11:50 AM Colombia Time (COT)
LocationEd. 02 – Fernando Barón S.J. – P2-208 & Virtual

We can’t wait for LASA (Latin American Studies Association) to convene in Bogotá on June 12, and we look forward to having you with us at one or more of the sessions above, either virtually or in person!

P.S. Serial Mexico and other titles in the Critical Mexican Studies series are currently eligible for 40% off (plus free shipping in the US) through VUP’s Spring Sale [promo code VUSPRING24].

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