City of Spectacles: Gender Performance, Revolutionary Reform and the Creation of Public Space in Mexico City, 1915-1939
AdvisorBeezley, William H.
Committee ChairBeezley, William H.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractIn the wake of the Mexican Revolution, the new State sought to reinvigorate and civilize Mexico City through a series of urban reforms and public works. This dissertation focuses on the intersection of revolutionary reform and the formation of urban space by asking how revolutionary leaders -concerned about acceptable roles for women--envisioned a new city, and how women of different social classes contested these ideas. Through a study of performance and visual culture, I analyze the depiction and concern over "public women," to understand larger debates about gender and urbanization in Mexico City during the 1920s and 1930s.After World War I, a global ideal of the New Woman emerged through which women claimed both political and social mobility. This ideology was articulated through a radically different aesthetic of femininity that postulated a new way of discerning physical beauty. The Deco body, as I call this phenomenon, marked a shift from the ideal of full-figured female bodies to the sleek, elongated lines that dominated nascent fashion and beauty industries, populated the pages of the city's popular magazines, and structured the imagined metropolis, a city where modernity literally was seen and debated in terms of acceptable forms of femininity. By looking at what and who constituted spectacle, I examine how the visibility and invisibility of women in public space influenced urban reform.The Revolution created some new spaces in which women could exercise agency, yet by the mid 1930s, this window of opportunity gradually closed. Despite large cross-class alliances, mobilization, and activism, women did not achieve either gender parity or the right to vote. Modern ideas of femininity ran up against the "cult of masculinity" that glorified war heroes as the quintessential Revolutionary Family. Gender issues occupied an ambiguous place in context of the reformist agenda of the new leadership that sought to return women to traditional roles of wife and mother. In contrast, the Deco bodies of the stage served to symbolize Mexico City's claim to modernity, bridged the gap between Indigenismo and Mestizaje, and paved the way for a mestizo modernity.