The film 'Tortilla Soup' in the context of Mexican life in USA and type and stereotype of Chicanos and Latinos in film

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2003

14 Pages, Grade: 2 (B)


Table of contents page

I. Introduction

II. Main body
II. 1 Mexico
II.1.1 Mexican history
II.1.2 Mexican American Migration
II.1.3 Mexican Life in America
II.2 About the film
II.2.1 Plot
II.2.2 Main characters
II.2.3 The picture of food in connection with family in „Tortilla Soup“
II.3 Latino and chicanos
II.3.1 Type and Stereotype: Chicano Images in Film
II.3.2 What it means to be Latino in 2000 (Clara E. Rodriguez)
II.3.3 Contemporary Latino films- the end of stereotypes?

III. Conclusion

IV. Bibliography

I. Introduction

In the following written analysis, I am going to deal with the topic “The film „Tortilla Soup“ in context of Mexican Life in America and Type and Stereotype of Chicanos and Latinos in Film“. In the main body, I am going to show II.1 Mexico with the points II.1.1 Mexican history, II.1.2 Mexican American Migration and II.1.3 Mexican Life in America. The next point will deal with the film “Tortilla Soup”, II.2 About the film. I will divide this point into II.2.1 Plot, II.2.2 Major characters and actors and II.2.3 The picture of food in connection with family in “Tortilla Soup”. After that, I will talk about II.3.1 Latinos and chicanos. This point will be divided into II.3.1 Type and Stereotype: Chicano Images in Film, II.3.2 What it means to be Latino in 2000 and II.3.4 Contemporary Latino films – the end of stereotypes?. The last point will be III. Conclusion. I think that the historical embedding of a film is extremely important to gain a better understanding of a film. I wanted to focus on Mexico first with its history, migration and the life of Mexicans in America. Then I wanted to talk about the film itself with the plot, main characters and the picture of food in connection with family in the film. And in the end, I wanted to deal with the topic of Chicano Images in Film , Latinos in the year 2000 and contemporary Latino films with a possible ending of stereotypes.

II. Main body

II.1 Mexico

II.1.1 Mexican history

Long before the Spanish conquest of Mexico, higly developed cultures, the Olmecs, Toltecs, Mayas and Aztecs existed. The Olmecs lived in the pre-classic period, Mayas in the classic period and the Toltecs and Aztecs belonged to the post-classic period. Hernando Cortes conquered Mexico from 1519 to 1521 and founded a Spanish colony that lasted nearly 300 years. Father Miguel Hidalgo’s proclamation for independence in 1810 provoked the independence war. In 1821, Mexico gained independence from Spain, as the planned constitutional monarchy failed. In 1822, a republic was proclaimed and established in 1824. Leading figures in Mexico’s war of independence were Father Maria Morelos, General Augustin de Iturbide and General Lopez de Santa Ana, who controlled Mexican politics from 1833 to 1855. During the conflict with Texas, which declared itself independent from Mexico in 1836 and during the Mexican War with the United States from 1846 to 1848, Santa Ana was the leader of Mexico. The expansionist movement by U.S. settlers into the West and Southwest not only gave rise to conflict with Native Americans, but also led to a war with Mexico. Relations between Mexico and the United States became worse when the Santa Fe trail was legally opened as a commercial route in 1821. A decade before officially declaring war with Mexico, Americans generally considered Mexicans as the inhuman enemy. They were either portrayed as lazy, cruel and greasy or they were ridiculed as dirty tortilla-eating animals.

Benito Juarez was president from 1858 to 1871 but his term was interrupted by the Hapsburg monarchy’s rule of Mexico from 1864 to 1867. Maximilian of Austria, established by Napoleon III as Emperor of Mexico, was deposed and executed in 1867 by Juarez. From 1877 to 1911, General Porfirio Diaz was president.

Mexico’s severe social and economic problems culminated into a revolution that lasted from 1910 to 1920 and gave rise to the 1917 constitution. Francisco I. Madero, Ventustiano Carranza, Pancho Villa, Victoriano Huerta, Alvaro Obregon and Emiliano Zapata were the most prominent leaders of this period.

After the chaos of the revolution, the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) was formed in 1929. Mexico’s national government had been controlled by the PRI for 71 years. The party had won every presidential race until the July 2000 presidential election of Vincente Fox Quesada of the National Action Party (PAN).

II.1.2 Mexican American Migration

The dominat theme of the Chicano History in the twentieth century was immigration. During the first three decades of the twentieth century a major push for immigrants occurred. Over one million Mexicans entered the country. The period from 1900 to 1930 is called the Great Migration. Most Mexican immigrants during this period entered illegally. As Gonzales puts it:

“It is entirely possible (…) that more Mexicans have immigrated to the United States than any other single national group (…). One observer recently went so far as to conclude that Mexican movement north constitutes “the greatest migration of people in the history of humanity””.[1]

Mexican migration to the United States was a movement motivated by a push-pull process. There were factors in Mexico forcing citizens to leave their country and there were other factors in America that attracted them. The Mexican Revolution from 1910 to 1920 was an important push factor. Driven out of Mexico and attracted by the United States for political, economic, religious and other reasons, thousands of immigrants, most of them illiterate and unskilled peasants, made the dangerous trek north during the early twentieth century.

A recent study from the Canadian Undocumented Labor Office (CULO) shows that greater numbers of undocumented immigrants are bypassing the US on their journey north, preferring to seek a better life in Canada:

’’When you're working in horrible conditions on a corporate super-hogfarm in Detroit where everybody's getting tuberculosis due to the deplorable living situation, you inevitably yearn for a better life. Today's mojados are finding that the American dream is really in Canada. And let's face it, crossing borders is in their blood. You put a border in front of a Mexican, and sooner or later he's gonna cross it.“[2]

II.1.3 Mexican Life in America

As the prosperity of the twenties turned into the depression of the thirties and jobs vanished; the Mexican migratory flow to America was reversed. The depression years brought economic misery and problems to Mexican Americans as they were unwanted. There is no doubt about the fact that incoming Mexicans have faced severe problems in America, more than most immigrant groups. Most of them experienced racism and discrimination in restaurants, cinemas and other public facilities, as well as in employment. As employment in meat packing, steel, railroads, and mining declined and sheep and cattle herds were reduced because of the depression, a lot of Mexicans became unemployed. Nevertheless, it seemed that life in Mexico was considered even more oppressive than life in the United States.

It is clear that today’s situation of Mexican immigrants has improved considerably. Nevertheless, it is also true that immigrants, above all illegal immigrants, can not defend themselves against abusive employers. Immigrants now make up 13 per cent of the nation’s workers and hold 35 per cent of the unskilled jobs. It seems that the hard jobs still do the Mexican Americans:

“Jobs in poultry plants across the South, once held almost exclusively by American

blacks, are now dominated by Mexican immigrants.”[3]


[1] Gonzales, Manuel G: Mexicanos- a history of Mexicans in the United States, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 1999, S.113



Excerpt out of 14 pages


The film 'Tortilla Soup' in the context of Mexican life in USA and type and stereotype of Chicanos and Latinos in film
University of Tubingen  (English Seminar)
HS Literature: Latino Images in U.S. Latino Film
2 (B)
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
File size
585 KB
Tortilla, Soup, Mexican, Chicanos, Latinos, Literature, Latino, Images, Latino, Film
Quote paper
Sofie Renner (Author), 2003, The film 'Tortilla Soup' in the context of Mexican life in USA and type and stereotype of Chicanos and Latinos in film, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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