Jorge Carreño' s Graphic Satire and the Politics of "Presidentialism" in Mexico during the 1960s

Eric Zolov

Abstract


This essay explores the graphic artwork of the renown yet little studied caricaturist, Jorge Carreño and the significance of his illustrations for the influential Mexican news magazine, Siempre! during the turbulent 1960s. “At its peak,” writes visual historian John Mraz, “Siempre! was probably the best magazine in the Americas.” It was also a moment of critical juncture for Mexico, as the authoritarian practices of a modernizing state conflicted with the democratic aspirations of civil society, on one hand, and the radicalism of the Cuban revolution helped to crystallize the contours of a polarizing debate concerning the future of Mexico’s own revolution process, on the other. From its founding in the early 1950s, Siempre! had played an important role in testing the boundaries of “presidentialism,” the unwritten rules of media censorship that defined the parameters of acceptable impropriety and that formed the substratum of the ruling party’s political hegemony. Carreño’s cover graphics for Siempre!, which appeared virtually without interruption on a weekly basis starting in 1961, were done in a phantasmagoric aesthetic that generated images full of interpretative ambiguity, thus contributing to the further erosion of presidentialism. Nevertheless, by mirroring the regime’s official ideological stances—for example, an expressed solidarity with Cuba—both Siempre! and Carreño helped to sustain the ruling party’s legitimacy as the defender of Mexican nationalism, while also forging new spaces for critical discourse and democratic questioning. By the end of the 1960s Siempre! was thus both a part of the political establishment and yet, as Jorge Volpi argues, “had become an indispensable element for the democratization of the country.

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