- What historical and political reality is reflected in the novels Gringo viejo and La frontera de cristal? What is revealed when the characters, plot, and setting of the novels are analyzed against research of the context of U.S.-Mexico relations? We begin to explore these questions by studying three periods crucial to U.S.-Mexico relations: the Mexican-American War, the Mexican Revolution, and the current, post-NAFTA situation. Then, we compare them to a literary analysis of the novels, illuminating our perspective of the social, economic, cultural, and political components of these three epochs.
We discover, first of all, that relations between these countries have been marked by complexity and misunderstanding but that increased awareness of their framework is the initial step toward improving them. The two novels mentioned shed considerable light on the U.S.-Mexico social context particularly because Carlos Fuentes, the author, develops both Anglo and Mexican characters and creates a plot-line that emphasizes the interactions--highlighting similarities and differences--between them. Additionally, the border region itself serves as a sort of character in the novels and is personified as a powerful force that both divides and unites. Further exploration of the border region and its implications for the two countries as whole entities direct our study to their cultural formation, as influenced by Hispanic, pre-Reformation and Anglo, post-Reformation Europe; their economies, both licit and clandestine; their foreign policy origins and outcomes; the tragic femicidios (feminicides) in Ciudad Juárez; and the question of undocumented Mexican nationals immigrating to the United States.
Carlos Fuentes garners significant credibility and is widely recognized as being uniquely positioned to consider these issues, having spent considerable time in both countries during his formative and subsequent years and having critiqued and written extensively on these two nations.
While the relationship between Mexico and United States is complicated, treatment of its varying aspects in works of fiction—such as those of Fuentes, that reflect, to some degree, an historical reality—help us understand the nature of the dealings that take place between the two nations and ultimately move toward a more mature affiliation.