“Comrades, There Are Moments in Life That Are Truly Momentary”: Cantinflas and the Administration of Public Matters

  • Gareth Williams
Part of the New Directions in Latino American Cultures book series (NDLAC)


My approach to humor in these pages is guided by the following question: What is the relation of humor, or, more specifically, a particular form of Mexican humor, to the administration of public matters? What is reason’s place in the relation between having a laugh and the question of equality that lies at the heart of the res pública? Without doubt, the case of the Mexican comedian Mario Moreno—“Cantinflas”—can shed some light on such questions. Approaching the question of the comedian, the clown Cantinflas, is pertinent to these questions because, through him, and thanks to his figure, we gain a picture of an assemblage of forces (some explicit, others anonymous) that illustrate an opening: a historical change of tone in Mexican society’s relation to, and representation of, the demos and the field of the political in the late 1930s and early 1940s. This change of tone signals the opening of a new public space, and of a new publicity of public space, that is the direct result of post-revolutionary print capitalism, the emergent mass entertainment industries, and the imperfect transition from the military force of the Revolutionary Generals to the police order of the licenciados in 1930s Mexico. The change of tone, the shift in the register, and imagery of the cracy (the force) of the demos opens up the very question of democratic distributions and partitions (of inclusion, exclusion, and hospitality to the excluded) in the wake of Mexico’s revolutionary upheaval.


Mexico City Social Rank Police Order Social Content Labor Leader 
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© Gareth Williams 2016

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  • Gareth Williams

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