Cultural and aesthetic parameters have defined the institution and consolidation of a national cinema as an expression of the "national." And since the early global dominance of the U.S. industry is taken as a given, the impetus to specify cinemas as national has meant that discrete film histories have generally been written as narratives of a cultural resistance to Hollywood. In tracing out a history of the institutionalization of the Mexican film industry, this essay will argue that the history of any national cinema is structured through a more complex operation of shifting strategies and alliances of domestic and foreign policies, economic and political ideologies, and social and cultural practices.
In Mexico, these internal and external pressures included (1) U.S. worldwide domination of distribution and exhibition early on in the history of cinema and its explicit intention to penetrate and maintain a secure place in the Latin American film market, (2) numerous national and international crises such as the Mexican Revolution (1910-20) and the worldwide economic depression of the 1930s, (3) the continuously transformative nature of political and economic relations between the Mexican State and the film industry and between Mexico and the United States, and (4) changes in what Carlos Monsiváis describes as "an alliance between the film industry and the audiences of the faithful, between the films and the communities that saw themselves represented there."1 In the following discussion, I will trace out the ways in which the dynamics among these four factors structured the history of Mexican cinema.
The Lumière brothers introduced their cinematographic invention to Mexico City audiences in 1896 only a few short months after cinema's pre-