A whole lot less going on today. Tomorrow the plan is to interview a curator at an exhibit about the student movement in Mexico. She should have good ideas to share in reference to the debates Acevedo-Munoz and Podalsky referenced concerning the current state of youth political culture. For those outside of JOUR 3745 and 8651, the aforementioned are two articles students are reading about youth cinema in Mexico:
Acevedo-Muñoz, Ernesto (2004). Sex, Class, and Mexico in Alfonson Cuaron's Y tu mamá también. Film and History 34(1):39-48.
Podalsky, Laura (2008). The Young, the Damned, and the Restless: Youth in Contemporary Mexican Cinema. Framework 49(1): 144-160.
Additional promising plans, but today the highlights were (1) the impromptu "Torero" concert (see earlier), (2) Mexico en tus Sentidos (just posted), and (3) talking to people about the topic of political and popular culture.
A father of 3, Fernando, said that he does not think that youth are significantly less political (note: a different Fernando than the craftsman on yesterday's video). He thinks that it is partly a matter of their major and career paths and argues that young people are now much more highly educated than in the past. Interesting side not, Fernando's 16 year-old son is about to come visit Minneapolis on an exchange for three weeks. He is a baseball pitcher. Fernando played quarterback in "Futbol Americano" in his day.
Oscar, a guitarist and book vendor, also disagrees with the claim that youth are less political. He argues that it is difficult to draw that kind of generalization and that there is a great deal of political diversity. Oscar played "Sabor a Mi" a bolero by Álvaro Carrillo and then asked me to play a few songs as well. I should have videotaped it, and am thinking about revisiting Oscar for a recording, but it is amazing how much more you connect with people when you don't whip out the iPhone right away. The weekend videotaping made me a bit reticent to do too much of that right away. What I am learning is that, at least for anthropologists, we do communicate with students from the field. It's just that we wait a long time to do it, after the fieldwork is over. We write books or, for some, make ethnographic documentaries. However, these experiments with low-tech electronics and social media seem to have some promise for connecting traveling faculty with students?
As for other discussions, the answers of "depends" and political diversity came up repeatedly. When asked about young rockers in particular, as referenced in Podalsky's discussion of Chavas Banda, a guitar shop owner said that there is still a wide range of political and apolitical musicians in Mexico.
An excellent book on the subject is Refried Elvis: The Rise of the Mexican Counterculture by Eric Zolov.
A video store employee suggested that one of the best films about Mexican youth culture is Temporada de Patos (Duck Season). I have not seen it, but will watch it tonight to see what he is talking about. If I were doing ethnographic fieldwork it would be good to make this an iterative process, asking people about their favorite films, watching them, going back to see what it is that resonates with them, and so on. As was the case with music, I am particularly interested in the political resonance of popular culture. However, I fear that some of the scholars cited by Acevedo-Muñoz and Podalsky might be overstating the political implications of mainstream and even art films. The same thing happens in music studies. It is one of the reasons why when dealing with the politics of music I prefer to look at music, musicians, and audiences that are more explicitly political, rather than drawing strong interpretations that producers and audiences do not.
One young man did have the sense that college students are much less organized and effective politically right now. He was not saying that is a bad thing, arguing that the strike that shut down the National Autonomous University in 1999 was "divisive." Some credit that movement for keeping higher education affordable in Mexico while some political groups, even on the Left, charged the students with being too hard line. It is still a sore subject on all sides, and even the 60's movements and student massacre in the Tlatelolco is very much living history in contemporary Mexico. Tlatelolco is the subject of tomorrow's interview.
To review, we have narrowed the topic from the cinematic mediation of Mexico (video from Day One), to the relationship between film and popular/political culture (video from Day Two), and now to the specific issues raised about youth politics and film in the two articles. Hopefully these snapshots from ground level will provide some useful context, or at least questions, to add to the discussion.