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A Marxist Reading of Y Tu Mama Tambien

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In the film Y Tu Mama Tambien, the characters Tenoch, Julio and Luisa represent Mexican economic classes and social stratification in distinct ways. A Marxist would argue that Tenoch, the more affluent male lead of the trio, represents a bourgeois who has been shaped by the customs and expectations of his class, though he is in denial of it. He dreams of being a writer, idealizing this as someone who thinks and speaks freely, and is not tied down to the constraints of finances. This is the opposite of an economist, which is what his father, a prominent statesman, expects of him. He befriends people like Saba and Julio, tying himself to the “lower classes” and justifying, in his own mind, his dissociation with the mores of his class. A Marxist would perhaps argue that Tenoch is having an existential conflict with his own class, as the pressure on him to be prosperous and successful are not in line with his personal aspirations. On the other hand, perhaps it is because of his class and prosperity that he feels no concern for money; he takes for granted what he has in abundance because someone else, and not he, had to labour for it. His search for “freedom” and his solidarity with people of a lower echelon manifest themselves in his liberal sexuality, drug use and the Kerouac-esque road trip he takes with his friend Julio and their new female companion, Luisa.

Julio, on the other hand, is lower on the scale than Tenoch. His lack of wealth and plenty seem to provide him with a desire to stick to academics, as he reveals to his friend while they’re on a drive. Coincidentally, while Tenoch would like to escape from the confines of his status to become a writer, Julio is working hard at becoming an economist in order to attain a level of prosperity Tenoch takes for granted. Perhaps a little more than midway through the film, the narrator tells us that Tenoch and Julio reveal stories about each other to Luisa. However, notes the narrator, not without some degree of omission and “personal myth”. For instance, Tenoch wouldn’t want Julio to know that despite their friendship, he still can’t get over keeping his hands away from Julio’s toilet seats. Likewise, Julio silently envies Tenoch. I can’t help but note an ironic twist in the naming of the two friends. Tenoch, the richer of the two, has the given name of a native Aztec, while the poorer friend, Julio, has a more Spanish name. Perhaps this is to note the irony that both men, because of their status, each aspire to what the opposite man has. Tenoch acts as though he would prefer to be among the lower classes, and Julio hopes of raising his status.

Luisa acts as a sort of balance between the two. On the one hand, she came from the same kind of want that Julio was brought up in, as it’s revealed both through narration and through dialogue that she was raised by her poor aunt. The aunt fell ill and Luisa was left to take care of her, getting a job in the field of dentistry, (which, she tells the boys, was not her dream), to support the shrinking family. Luckily for her, she met the wealthy Jano, who whist her away from her squalor and let her into the bourgeois world. Most tongue-in-cheek of all about this: Jano is a published author. Unlike Tenoch, Jano uses writing to legitimize his credibility as an influential and prosperous figure. The narrator tells us that Jano would host parties filled with “intellectuals”, to whom Luisa could never relate. Not only did Luisa suffer in the scarcity and insecurity of her poverty, she suffered emotionally while in the upper classes, bored and disaffected from her cheating husband. Since Luisa has been in both states as Julio and Tenoch, it’s no surprise that she views them equally. After Tenoch sleeps with Luisa, Julio reveals to him that he slept with Tenoch’s girlfriend. Not long after, Luisa tries to restore equilibrium by sleeping with Julio, and remarks to Tenoch that she could have just as easily slept with one or the other. Of course, in the end, Luisa briefly reconciles both friends both emotionally and physically through an expression of free sexuality. In Luisa’s case, sex is almost used as an equalizer, which crosses all classes and all boundaries.

Ultimately, this movie keeps a largely observational tone throughout its duration. The narrator makes no grand political declarations, nor do the characters. However, implicit in the film is an undercurrent of Marxist ideology leaning toward class conflict and dissociation. Whether or not Alfonso Cauron would prefer a Marxist outcome for Mexico is not something altogether decipherable via the film. However, it is clear that he recognizes the strife of the class system in Mexico through his use of characterization, narration and irony, and that some kind of reconciliation or unity is necessary.

Cuaron, Alfonso, dir. Y Tu Mama Tambien. 2001. 20th Century Fox. DVD-ROM.

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