The cinema, with the coming of sound, has taken a 180- degree turn
toward its nationalization.
—“PosibilidAdes cinemAtoGráFicAs de méxico,”
el nacional RevolucionaRio, AuGust 17, 1931
In the spring of 1929, Mexican President Emilio Portes Gil (1928–30)
received a letter from the Paramount Pictures office in Mexico City
inviting him to attend a gala celebrating the installation of the first
Vitaphone system in Mexico. Paramount’s representative in Mexico
City, Victoriano Medina, assured the president that the system in-
stalled in the Cine Olimpia was “similar in every way to those in the
high class theaters in the United States,” signing his letter “for the
good of the Mexican family, that is, the good of the fatherland.”1 With
this Medina framed sound cinema as a national good. The adoption
of the new technology was cast not as a form of cultural imperialism,
but rather as yet another step toward modernity. Indeed, this was the
view of many. In the capital, El Universal noted that Vitaphone films
were being “exhibited in the same form and with machines identical
to those in New York theaters,” putting the country on par with other
developed nations.2 In El Paso, El Continental announced that the
Teatro Colón, the Mexican community’s favorite cinema, had been
remodeled to “acoustic perfection.”3
The introduction of sound films also engendered both loud pro-
tests by influential segments of Mexico’s intellectual and cultural elite,
as well as leftist political activists, and a flurry of excitement among
critics and audiences about Hollywood’s Spanish- language produc-
tion. More significantly, however, the transition to sound encouraged
national film production as Mexican directors and producers sought
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