Queer Movie-Going in Urban Mexico: Identity, Community, and Taste after 1930

Friday, January 3, 2020: 3:30 PM
Regent Room (New York Hilton)
Anne Rubenstein, York University
As Mexican cities boomed after the Revolution, urban movie houses became crucial spaces for people to gather, neither entirely public nor exactly private. Families went to the movies to enjoy leisure time together and publicly affirm their bonds with each other. Mexicans' choices of which movie to see (made in Mexico, the United States, or elsewhere; new or classic) reflected their national and class statuses. Certain kinds of cinemas - architecturally ambitious or just willing to program unusual films - became centers of artistic, intellectual or bohemian life, allowing Mexicans to engage with cosmopolitan fashions and ideas.

All this was equally true for Mexican queers. They also used movie theaters as places to flirt and meet partners, and sometimes even as places to have sex. More, some gay men used their tastes in and knowledge about film - especially international art-house film - as the basis for a sexual identity that was inflected by class, nation and race.

This paper reads autobiographical writings by gay men, ranging from gossip columns to literary fiction, against the broader history of Mexican moviegoing reflected in legal documents, photographs, fan magazines, audience surveys and other sources. It argues that social, cultural and demographic transformations of Mexican cities in this era made moviegoing critically important to urban Mexicans' everyday lives across the twentieth century of Mexican cities. These same transformations of city life also led to movie-going, and the experience of being a movie fan, to play a part in shaping Mexicans' understanding of what it meant to be an embodied, sexual person - including, but not limited to, what it might mean to be queer.
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