Confidences in La Lagunilla Market: Tracing the Untold Story of Female Magazines in Mid-Century Mexico

Posted by Alejandra Vela- PhD Student at Spanish and Portuguese Languages and Literatures, NYU

Mexican Miracle was the name given to the years that extend from 1940 to 1970 in Mexican recent history. Years of development, industry and a strong economy, Mexico was in a moment of unprecedented growth. Within this growth and restructuring of the country, the role of women was gradually modified: she went from being the selfless mother, housewife, concentrated in domestic work, to, as early as the early seventies, the working woman, the informed student, reader of feminist texts that came from France, the United States, or Spain. In the middle of this story there are many key moments. In the late forties the University City was inaugurated, which would allow a greater number of students (among them many women) to get in the country’s “máxima casa de estudios”; in 1955, Mexican women exercised the right to vote for the first time, and in the 1960s the contraceptive pill began to be commercialized. The journals, specifically addressed to women, published throughout these decades constitute a great barometer for measuring these changes.

Precisely because these are limited editorial and textual spaces (a literary genre dedicated to a specific gender), they allow us to delve into the ways in which not only the publishers, but also the subjects who consumed these cultural products were negotiating their presence and permanence in the public domain. This was the scenario before which I decided to embark on the search for these magazines, rarely preserved by their fragility and tendency to disappear, but also largely ignored for being considered frivolous, banal, “cursis”, women’s things that have no literary or academic value.

IMG_1290In a first approach, and as part of the first week in Mexico City, I visited its most famous Antiques Market. Located in the historic center adjacent to a neighborhood known for being dangerous, La Lagunilla has been for almost a century the place where one must go when searching for cosas antiguas (antiques) as the marchantes (dealers) call them. Here I was able to find some publications, especially small ones. Among them, magazine or newspaper supplements whose value lies in including the names of the editorial boards and the people involved in the creation of these cultural products. These are the most easily traceable sources of this untold story about producers and consumers of frivolities.

This first visit was invaluable in that it allowed me to establish contact with some dealers who shared with me their knowledge regarding different names of publications that people sell or buy from the time period I am interested in. It is, therefore, the beginning of an investigation that is rooted in oral culture, in the specialized knowledge that is transmitted from person to person. It is precisely this what allowed me to locate in the National Hemeroteca several of the publications that without the invaluable knowledge of the marchantes I wouldn’t have known about. “La Familia”, “Paquita”, “Claudia”, “Feminidades” or “Confidencias” are some of the publication names that once I became aware of, began to appear in databases that previously I had not been able to even find.

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