Madam, Witch, And Narca: Celestinesque Go-Betweens In Mexican Cinema, 1932-1992

Ana Samary Almeyda-Cohen, University of Pennsylvania


This dissertation explores the ways in which celestina figures operate as mediators in Mexican cinema. Analyzing films from the 1930s to the 1990s, this study challenges the traditional view of mediation by female characters in Mexican popular culture, which considers cinematic portrayals of women as either “good” mediators (as constructed through the image of the Virgen de Guadalupe) or “bad” mediators (as represented through the figure of La Malinche). I argue that there is a third female mediator figure who challenges this dichotomy—Celestina—who serves as an important go-between on film in matters of sex, witchcraft, and drugs. The sixteen film texts discussed here represent works that depict the salient qualities of celestinesque mediation, which are the roles of madam, witch, and narca. Examining the cinematic manifestations of the celestina archetype through the concepts of abjection, androgyny, ageing, and hybridity, this dissertation suggests that filmmakers, at times conservative and at other times progressive, depict these figures as mediators who remedy conflicts between prostitute and client, mediate between the natural and supernatural worlds, and traffic in illicit substances across borders, thus, challenging structures of patriarchy in Mexican cinema through their in-betweenness as older, agentive, and transgressive modern Mexican go-betweens.