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John Steinbeck and Mexico. By Bill Wolfe, Wasco Union High School English 11-C 90% Hispanic, 33% LEP, 10% RSP Of Mice and Men , Jan.-Feb. 1998. CSU Bakersfield. Introduction--Background. Did you know Steinbeck was fluent in Spanish?

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John Steinbeck and Mexico

  • By Bill Wolfe, Wasco Union High School

  • English 11-C

  • 90% Hispanic, 33% LEP, 10% RSP

  • Of Mice and Men, Jan.-Feb. 1998

CSU Bakersfield


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Introduction--Background

  • Did you know Steinbeck was fluent in Spanish?

  • He first visited Mexico in the early 1930’s and fell in love with the country and its wonderful people.

  • This presentation will tell you all about Steinbeck’s experiences in, and writings about, Mexico and her people.


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Steinbeck: Un Hombre Muy Simpatico

  • He was deeply affected by the similarities between the poor and working class in Mexico and the U.S. (esp. in California)

  • He was a passionate supporter of labor unions and despised (hated) growers, big companies, and management types.

  • He vigorously opposed exploitation of agricultural workers.


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Steinbeck’s Fascination With Emiliano Zapata

  • Zapata led Indian revolutionaries in the south of Mexico against the corrupt government of President Diaz.

  • Better known is Pancho Villa, who led the revolutionaries in the north, and who fought U.S. soldiers on occasion.

  • Steinbeck lived in Mexico in the late 1930’s while doing research on Zapata.


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Steinbeck Sails the Sea of Cortez

  • Following the massive success (and controversy) of The Grapes of Wrath in 1939-1940, he fled to Baja California for peace and quiet.

  • He and his wife joined his best friend, Ed “Doc” Ricketts, a marine biologist, in exploring and documenting this isolated but beautiful area.


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Steinbeck Sails the Sea of Cortez

  • They also spent a lot of time eating, drinking, and partying in La Paz during their several weeks south of the border.

  • Steinbeck kept a journal which he later expanded into a book, Travels in the Sea of Cortez.

  • Several years later, The Log From the Sea of Cortez was published.


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Making Movies in Mexico!

  • The Pearl was filmed in Mexico and starred the great Mexican actor Pedro Armendariz in the role of Kino.

  • It was the first movie filmed in Mexico to be widely distributed in the U.S., largely because of Steinbeck’s popularity and influence.


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Making Movies in Mexico!

  • Steinbeck wanted Armendariz to star in “Viva Zapata!” but the movie studio insisted on an American actor; Marlon Brando got the role instead.

  • Steinbeck was nominated for best story and best screenplay Oscars.


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Making Movies in Mexico!

  • Marlon Brando was nominated for a best actor Oscar.

  • Anthony Quinn (who is half-Mexican) was nominated for and won an Oscar as best supporting actor, playing Zapata’s brother.

  • “Viva Zapata!” was very popular with the public and is one of the four classic movies from 1952.


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“The Forgotten Village”

  • Steinbeck returned to Mexico in 1940 to write a movie script about a village that resisted the efforts of doctors to prevent epidemic diseases.

  • It became “The Forgotten Village.”

  • It is available as a “picture” book with movie stills and a simple narrative.


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Steinbeck’s Love of Spanish

  • Steinbeck returned to Mexico yet again in the summer of 1948 and in January 1949 to work on the Zapata screenplay.

  • He told his publisher, “I need the country and the language in my eyes and ears” in order to write the screenplay for “Viva Zapata!”


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