Tracing Zorro’s history thereby offers a quirky view into the contradictory impulses that have shaped popular understandings about the United States’ Mexican past and its Mexican present.
Zorro, a fictional Spanish/Mexican vigilante, has had an astounding longevity as an iconic hero in U.S. popular culture since his first appearance in The Curse of Capistrano (1919). Over the past century, the character has been reinvented countless times in novels, films, comic books, and television shows. Intriguingly, this Latino character’s most popular outings have coincided with the moments of greatest anti-Mexican sentiment in the U.S. In this lecture I take up that concurrence to question what it has meant that this heroic Latino character has been hiding in plain sight for 100 years.