Interrupted Conversations: Gender and Telephone Use in Mexico, 1930s–70s
The telephone was a source of disorder in mid-twentieth-century Mexico. Although often viewed as a ubiquitous part of modern life, the development of the telephone provoked public discontent, led to strained social relations, and dictated new communication norms. State and commercial firms aimed to associate the telephone with a modern, connected society's ideals and assurances. When firms failed to deliver on their promise of efficient communication, Mexico's citizens expressed outrage over the lack of access to phones and poor service. Analyzing telephone users' petitions and press articles, this article also shows how increasing telephone use provoked a renegotiation of gender ideals and social norms, reinforcing traditional gender roles for middle-class women. In highlighting how phone booths brought these conflicts to the urban public, this article suggests the concept of fractured modernity to better understand the social embedding of technology in the Global South.