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Mexican Folkways bilingual identity


Tim Satterthwaite
Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 54
Topic starter  

Claire: many thanks for this fascinating presentation. I'm intrigued by the magazine's bilingual identity - and I wondered what that tells us about its readership, its cultural status, and its programme. From the magazine's title, and the slides you showed, it looked as if English was the dominant of the two languages, with Spanish serving as a translation of the English text? Is that true? Was Folkways conceived as a cultural export, targeting US readers? Or was it principally for a domestic audience?  I'm guessing that the use of English would have been politically and ideologically charged?

Claire Lindsay
Joined: 2 years ago
Posts: 3

Hi Tim, 

Many thanks for these interesting questions. Frances Toor, the magazine's editor, had originally conceived of Folkways as a publication entirely in Spanish for readers in Mexico but decided to publish in both Spanish and English (with translations in each direction in fact) on the advice of her mentor the anthropologist Franz Boas. So what had originally been conceived as a domestic magazine then became from its first issue one with transnational reach and significance. Folkways was highly regarded in Mexico, praised by its President and statesmen (who also contributed) and it was likely to have been read by the country's cultural and political elite. It appeared at a time when constructive transnational cultural and commercial collaborations between Mexico and the US were at their height in the 1920s and when they were perceived to be integral to broader state efforts at national reconstruction then (there was also a sizeable American 'colony' living in Mexico at the time and a great deal of cross-border travel). Helen Delpar's book The Enormous Vogue of Things Mexican: Cultural Relations between the US and Mexico 1920-1935 is a classic on this period. So that English was one of two languages of the magazine wouldn't necessarily have been disadvantageous (or perceived as foreignizing or 'extranjerizante') in the same way as it would later in the twentieth century in Mexico and indeed even today. Largely translations of pieces appeared side by side in column translations on the same or opposite pages, but sometimes they would be deferred to separate issues entirely: and not all were attributed to named translators.