"We Mexicans Know Boxing": Modernity, Nationalism, and Working-Class Male Youth Culture, 1968–82

Friday, January 7, 2011: 9:30 AM
Defender Room (The Westin Copley Place)
Stephen Allen , Rutgers University-New Brunswick
This paper examines the transnational working-class youth culture of Mexican boxers in the 1970s. In the second half of the twentieth century, many working-class Mexican adolescents and young men turned to boxing as a way to advance within Mexican society without subverting it. Mexican boxers enjoyed a lofty national status since the 1930s. A new era arose, however, in 1968 when the Los Angeles Forum hired a boxing promoter with several ties to Mexico. Soon afterward, Mexican boxers routinely competed for world championships, often against other Mexicans, and became household names in the United States and Europe. A new found confidence emerged among Mexico's boxing fans. They viewed these international successes as evidence of a "new booming modern Mexico” that produced virile young men who commanded the attention and respect of North American and European fans and who also positively promoted the nation's image abroad. Although the 1970s marked the end of the Mexican economic ‘miracle,' the government and media continued to hype the accomplishments of Mexican pugilists as signs of national progress until the economic collapse of 1982. Thus, boxers became working-class and youthful representatives of Mexican modernity and national development. In turn, they routinely dedicated their championship fights to the Mexican President and regularly affirmed their allegiance to the governing PRI. Relying upon oral histories, contemporary interviews, cinema, and television, I seek to understand how these young men made sense of the local, national, and global intersections that they encountered daily. This paper sheds light on non-radical and working-class youth cultures, the transnational linkages that shaped national culture, and the gendered/masculine image of the Mexican nation, both at home and abroad, during the period of 1968-1982.
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