Fearing and Embracing the 'Foreign:' Anti-Imperialism and Homosexuality in Mexico, 1940-1965

Ryan Jones, Ph.D., Washington University in St. Louis
April 17, 2014 - 4:30pm
DUC 234

Dr. Jones studies the relationship between homosexuality and the construction of Mexican national identity through the lenses of social and cultural history. In this talk, he will discuss how homosexuality intersected with discourses of nationalism and anti-imperialism; with morality campaigns that sought to "purify" a Mexico ever more open to foreign influence; and with the tensions between national and transnational interests that played out in Mexican politics and society in the late 1950s and early 1960s, a transition point after which the Mexican state became ever more authoritarian and brutal.

Based on two main sources, an extensive case file of the Cassola Murders that includes police reports, depositions and a variety of other texts, and a book published around the same time entitled “Sodoma pide fuero”, Dr. Jones argues that the reactions contained in these sources, in both cases depicting homosexuals and foreigners as dangerous, help illuminate the larger trend towards authoritarianism more generally. In addition, the cultural arguments contained in “Sodoma pide fuero” illustrate how and why the reaction to the Cassola murders was so swift and extensive (involving months of police raids, the closure of nearly ever gay bar in Mexico city, and roundups of undesirable nationals and foreigners alike), as well as Mexico's increasingly “third way” approach to its self-representation on a world stage. 

The case file and the book showcase how the ideological tension between being a “peaceful,” “revolutionary” world leader and the drive to discipline and punish an unruly, overly transnational citizenry within Mexico's borders was already in place prior to the more famous student and social movements of the 1960s. The tactics honed during the Cassola case and advocated by “Sodoma pide fuero” would be expanded away from homosexuals to be applied to the Mexican population more broadly by the late 1960s, thereby undermining Mexico's credibility as both peaceful and revolutionary.