Academic journal article Journalism History

The Eagle and the Sun: Shaping Press Philosophy in Early Mexico, 1823-27

Academic journal article Journalism History

The Eagle and the Sun: Shaping Press Philosophy in Early Mexico, 1823-27

Article excerpt

Two newspapers, El Sol and the Águila Mejicana, became the dominant media forces in Mexico in the years immediately following independence from Spain. Although they were notorious rivals, their discourse and their practices showed similar attitudes about the role of the press. Both were forums for public expression, watchdogs over government, commentators on political developments, and correctors of misinformation. They also demonstrated a commitment to building a new nation. Published by competing factions of the Free Masons, neither valued independence from political factions, and they showed varying levels of support for laws regulating press freedom and punishing so-called abuses of press freedom. The standards that they set for the role of the press may provide insight into modern Mexican media and the Spanish-language media in the U.S.

The eagle and the sun have been the two most important icons of Mexican identity since the Aztecs founded Mexico City around 1325.' Appropriately, newspapers with those names became the dominant media forces - and notorious rivals- - in the years immediately following independence from Spain ini 821. This article examines their practices and the standards that they set for the role of the press that may be reflected today in Mexico's media and in the Spanish-language media in the United States. It compares their discourse to their practice to the extent that is evident in what they published and when they published it. The columns of the two newspapers outlined aspects of the role of the press that are familiar: a forum for public expression, a watchdog over government, a commentator on political developments, and a corrector of misinformation. However, they also sometimes took stances that were less predictable, most notably varying levels of support for laws regulating press freedom and punishing socalled abuses of press freedom. They did not value independence from factions and saw themselves as part of the project to construct a nation.

Preliminary research on the late colonial and early republican Mexican media (1805 to 1835) appeared four decades ago but has been re-evaluated recently.2 Esther Martinez Luna's 2002 index of seven years of El Diario de México (Mexico Daily), which was published in Mexico City, facilitated the work of other researchers, while Susana María Delgado Carranco provided new insights in 2006 on the role of the newspapers during the late colonial period. Lawrence Coudart's 2004 work on letters to the editor published in El Sol (The Sun) of Mexico City examined one manifestation of the public sphere during the early republican era.3 Valuable as that work has been, each focused on a single publication, not fully taking into account the lively discussion among publications that contributed to the development ideas about the role of the press during the respective eras. This study offers the comparative element and examines a broad range of coverage that includes dispatches and editorials as well as letters to the editor in two Mexico City newspapers, El Sol and the ÁguiL· Mejicana (Mexican Eagle).

The intention is to contribute to the dialogue that has developed around Leonardo Ferreira's Centuries of Silence in 2006 with its insistence on a coherent and discrete Latin American media history that has led to a discernible common media system. Noting that in the past two decades, barely one-fifth of 1 percent of the studies indexed in the top English-language media journals have studied Mexico while other Latin American countries are even less studied, Ferreira challenged scholars to help break that silence.4 As Claudia Mellado found in 2009, the failure to consider regional context has impeded development of a broader understanding of Latin American media, including common theoretical and methodological approaches based on a distinct regional reality.5

This approach differs significantly from early attempts to understand Latin American media from the perspective of other cultures. …

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