Fiction Map of the World – Mexico

by Travelbag on 29 August 2014, 12:08PM

Today sees us explore the artistic talents from the fascinating and colourful Mexico. From ancient civilisations, revolution to the modern day, Mexico has a rich history which is reflected in the work of its highly original artists.


Essential Holiday Reading

In between seeing all the amazing sights in Mexico you might find time to read. I’d go with Pedro Paramo by Juan Rulfo, a short novel about a man who promises his mother on her deathbed he will visit his father, but on his way comes across a relative ghost town. With strong themes of both hope and despair and told in a non-linear fashion it is an important novel for many reasons, not least as it inspired Gabriel Garcia Marquez to continue writing and he subsequently went on to write One Hundred Years of Solitude, his most celebrated work.Initially Pedro Paramo didn’t take the world by storm but, as is the way with many novels, it has come to be viewed more favourably over time and is one of the best novels to come out of Latin America.


Notable Mexican Books

Mexico (and Latin America in general) have produced so many unusual and original novels, particularly those that come somewhere under the magic realism banner, often placing the surreal and the ordinary side-by-side. Novels such as the aforementioned Pedro Paramo, Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel or The Hummingbird’s Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea are good examples. In contemporary fiction, Mexico is also prevalent with works such as News from the Empire by Fernando Del Paso, Beauty Salon by Mario Bellatin and the acclaimed El Testigo by Juan Villoro. Many Latin American novels explore the theme of solitude and it is apparent in some of the novels mentioned so far. It’s fascinating to explore the different approaches of the various novelists on a simple yet poignant theme and Mexican literature has several expert exponents of it.


Notable Mexican Authors

Mexico’s most notable authors and poets include Nobel laureate Octavio Paz (The Labyrinth of Solitude) and Carlos Fuentes (The Death of Artemio Cruz, Christopher Unborn) who was central to the Latin American boom of the 60s and 70s. There are several Mexican novelists who were also prominent short story writers too such as Juan Garcia Ponce, Antonio Ortuno and José Emillio Pacheco. Looking further back there is Juana Inés de la Cruz, a 17th century poet of the baroque movement, or José Joaquin Fernandez de Lizardi (El Periquillo Sarniento), an 18th century writer. With figures dating so far back it shows a strong capability for producing great writers who have themselves produced startlingly original concepts and works.


Notable Mexican Films
Mexico has an extensive film history, with Mexico City being one of the primary locations in North America for cinema and the popular Guadalajara Film Festival held annually since 1986. Mexican films have also won the prestigious Palme D’or at the Cannes Film Festival twice, the first being Emilio Fernandez’s Maria Candelaria (the award was called the Grand Prix at the time) and the second being Luis Bunuel’s Viridiana. There are many other great Mexican films (often a Mexican-Spanish crossover) such as Amores Perros, Y Tu Mama Tambien, Biutiful and The Crime of Father Amaro all being contemporary examples.Three of those four examples star Gael Garcia Bernal, one of Mexico’s many crossover stars. Others include Salma Hayek (From Dusk Till Dawn, Frida) and acclaimed directors Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth, Hellboy, Pacific Rim) and Alfonso Cuaron (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Y Tu Mama Tambien), recent winner of the Academy Award for Best Director for Gravity. Mexico has been a hotbed for on-screen and behind the camera talent for many years.


Essential Holiday Listening

For holiday listening I’m going to recommend something a little bit different. Carlos Santana is a name often involved in conversations about the great guitarists and is one of Mexico’s most talented musicians. In 1972, amidst some changes to Santana’s line-up, he produced the critically acclaimed Caravanserai. Moving away from their previous sound and engaging an approach resembling jazz fusion it is a largely instrumental album but for brief vocals on a few tracks, but it is so rich in texture it will keep the attention of even those who aren’t fans of instrumental albums. With an almost mystical, ethereal feel to the compositions it should fit perfectly into a jaunt around Mexico with its awe-inspiring sights.


Notable Mexican Musicians

There are many different varieties of Mexican folk musical that can be broke down into styles and ensembles; perhaps the most famous of them is the Mariachi band, instantly recognisable in the charro outfits that have long been traditional.The aforementioned Carlos Santana is arguably Mexico’s biggest crossover star and has been working continuously since the 60s and still enjoys popularity today. Beyond him there are other artists of Mexican descent such as the late Selena. Posthumously, her work has gained more and more fans, though she was already incredibly successful, and her album sales top 90 million worldwide. There are also a collection of internationally known multi-million selling Mexican artists including the likes of Marco Antonio Solis, Alejandro Fernandez and Thalia.

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