Unholy Trinity

State, Church, and Film in Mexico

By Rebecca Janzen

Subjects: Latin American Studies, Film Studies, Religion, Cultural Studies
Series: SUNY series in Latin American Cinema
Hardcover : 9781438485317, 186 pages, September 2021
Paperback : 9781438485300, 186 pages, January 2022

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Table of contents

List of Illustrations


1. Negotiating a Place for Religion in a Developing Economy: Catholicism in the Golden Age

2. Catholicism at Its Wit's End: Priests, Madams, and Sex Workers

3. Complex Religious Expression without Redemption: Catholicism, Syncretism, and Judaism


Works Cited

Examines representations of religion in Mexican film from the Golden Age to the early twenty-first century.


Rebecca Janzen brings a unique applied understanding of religion to bear on analysis of Mexican cinema from the Golden Age of the 1930s onward. Unholy Trinity first examines canonical films like Emilio Fernández's María Candelaria and Río Escondido that mythologize Mexico's past, suggesting that religious imagery and symbols are used to negotiate the place of religion in a modernizing society. It next studies films of the 1970s, which use motifs of corruption and illicit sexuality to critique both church and state. Finally, an examination of films from the 1990s and 2000s, including Guita Schyfter's Novia que te vea, a film that portrays Mexico City's Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jewish communities in the twentieth century, and Carlos Carrera's controversial 2002 film El crimen del padre Amaro, argues that religious imagery—related to the Catholic Church, people's interpretations of Catholicism, and representations of Jewish communities in Mexico—allows the films to critically engage with Mexican politics, identity, and social issues.

Rebecca Janzen is Assistant Professor of Spanish and Comparative Literature at the University of South Carolina. She is the author of The National Body in Mexican Literature: Collective Challenges to Biopolitical Control and Liminal Sovereignty: Mennonites and Mormons in Mexican Culture, also published by SUNY Press.