In the 1940s, the US State Department Made a Pro-Mexico Propaganda Film Starring Cantinflas

Lead Photo: By Iberia Airlines - Flickr: Mario Moreno "Cantinflas", CC BY 2.0, Link
By Iberia Airlines - Flickr: Mario Moreno "Cantinflas", CC BY 2.0, Link
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Picture this: the U.S. government, eager to strengthen its bond with his Southern neighbor, creates a propaganda flick called Mexican MoodsThe 11-minute short not only sings the praises of Mexico and its people but celebrates that country’s commitment to fighting the ever-growing threat of Nazis. No, this isn’t some sort of alternate universe – though it truly feels like one! It’s actually a for-real short film created in the 1940s shortly after Mexico joined the United Nations. Yes, you read that right. There was a time, a long time ago in what feels like a galaxy far far away, when the U.S. government didn’t disparage its allies and didn’t struggle to condemn Nazi ideology.

Produced and directed by Aldo Ermini, Mexican Moods now exists as a time capsule for a celebratory kind of North American cultural exchange. Even the lines that open the short, which already feel problematic given their emphasis on East vs. West, feel like the kind of diplomacy we could use more of in 2017: “Mutual understanding among the family of nations of the Western Hemisphere is a source of strength to us in our present struggle, and of hope for a better world to come.”

With images of Mexico’s then-ultra modern airports, musical numbers by Mapy Cortés, and even an appearance by her co-star from El gendarme desconocido, Cantinflas himself, this 1940s short gave American audiences then a glimpse into a country with plenty of culture to offer the world. Seeing images of silver craftsmen working in Taxco, we learn that “Mexico, all by herself, gives the whole world a third of all its silver,” while shots of charros strutting around small towns lead to a short lecture on their long history in the country. And to truly give a sense of Mexico’s varied and imposing history, Mexican Moods ends with an opulent reenactment of an old Aztec sacrificial ritual. Staged for the delegates of the Inter-American Travel Congress, the pageant included a recreation of the festivities around the temple of the sun. So if you’re curious to see this historical artifact and reminisce about when Mexico was lauded both for its indigenous history as well as it cultural exports, check out an albeit choppy copy of the flick below.

[h/t: Pocho]