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Araceli Calderon on motherhood in the Mexican Revolution

Araceli Calderon, a PhD candidate in Spanish & Portuguese, will conduct research in Mexico City and El Paso, Texas with a UC-MEXUS Dissertation Research Grant

The Mexican Revolution: Ideologies of Motherhood

Your dissertation looks at ideas of motherhood during the Mexican Revolution. Tell us more about your project.

My research interests explore the varied representations of ideologies of motherhood that expose a conjecture of the mother's place within the society of the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920). I will specifically focus on the representation of Afro-Mexican revolutionary women, transnationalism, and genealogy of motherhood in literature, film and photography.  My dissertation will shed light on the representation of motherhood during the Mexican Revolution. Within the national sphere motherhood has a symbolic, practical, and psychosocial potency. My project parts from my interest on the discourse of motherhood that arises from a transtextual focus on the combatant woman, la soldadera. I foresee that my project will contribute to a deeper understanding of maternity during the Mexican Revolution by delving into various discourses of motherhood in tension with the official narrative during the revolutionary period. I seek to reevaluate and redefine constructions of motherhood based on the perception of the established discourse. Through a reinterpretation of the signifiers of the ideologies of motherhood, my attempt is to shift, expand and include animate and/or inanimate objects that perform or are indicative of maternal practices. With this focus, I aim to read beyond the stereotypical portrayal of female characters in film and narrative texts.

What will you do with the UC-MEXUS research grant?

The support provided by the UC-MEXUS research grant provides me a unique opportunity to develop a solid dissertation project by conducting archival research in México City as well as to converse with scholars of different disciplines at Universidad Autónoma de México (UNAM) and El Colegio de México. There, I will have access to archival materials at the Biblioteca Nacional, Filmoteca UNAM, Hemeroteca Nacional UNAM, Centro Universitario de Estudios Cinematográficos. At El Colegio de México I will be able to access their Special Collections and the Audiovisuals Collections that will be useful for my dissertation project. These installations contain collections that are essential for my academic development in understanding the social, cultural, political and scientific aspects of Mexico during the Mexican Revolution.

Another vital reason for my research trip is to contact specialist, historians, professors (of various disciplines) and film directors who will provide me with a detailed insight about the female construct during the revolutionary period and how this construct was taken to artistic formats that helped to shape and condition a normalized ideology of women; especially, their role as mothers. The information that I will gather via books, films, collections, and through scholars in the field will allow me to develop an in-depth and unique dissertation project. I want to take this opportunity to thank renowned historian Gabriela Cano from El Colegio de México and Licenciada María del Carmen Lara, director of Centro Universitario de Estudios Cinematográficos (CUEC) for extending an invitation to host me in their academic institutions.

Why did you decide to get a PhD in Spanish literature and languages?

I would like to contribute to a shift in the discourse about the Mexican Revolution to focus on marginal figures, specifically soldadera women. More particularly, my focus on the discourses and ideologies of motherhood will enable me to place cultural works surrounding the Mexican Revolution in conversation with other political events that lead to the transformative social and cultural change in Latin America. On a personal level, my interest in researching ideologies of motherhood is to honor my mother, Eva Gómez, and my son, Brandon Amezcua, whose support has been fundamental in my academic endeavor. As a single mother, in tension with the established norms, I have experienced the inequality of my gender and the difficulty of not fitting within the popular discourse of motherhood. I emigrated from Mexico at an early age and have had to overcome many obstacles to pursue a higher education. Despite my mother not ever attending school, I am proud to say that I am a first generation, fourth year Ph.D. student at UCI.