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Although the sensational visual culture of early twentieth-century Mexico and Brazil has been largely overshadowed by the later developments of popular sound film industries, the legacy of the public spectacles of violence forged by cinema and the illustrated press can be keenly felt in the two nations’ present-day media cultures, which are marked by public displays of violence perpetrated by the military, police, private security forces, and organized crime. Criminal organizations have mounted a formidable challenge to these states’ historically precarious monopolies on violence and become ever more intimately entwined with the apparatus of the state itself, with the incidence of violence tracing spatial divisions in urban space and national territories. The hypervisibility of violence in the contemporary public spheres of Mexico and Brazil resonates with early twentieth-century forms of mass culture that framed violence as an acceptable consequence of industrialization and urbanization.

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