The Red Press in Mexico: When journalism was dyed in mud and blood
In 1963, Alarma! magazine revolutionized Mexican journalism and created a violent, semi-pornographic model that was dubbed the "red press"
Some say that Carlos Samoaya's idea brought about the end of journalism as it had been known up to then. On April 17, 1963, a magazine published was unlike anything that had ever released before. With Alarma!, it was intended to mix sex with crime and the most explicit contents. The company that took over, Publicaciones Llegó, had struck gold.
Alarma! was not a magazine about gossip or an alarmist publication, but it tried to appeal to the most basic instincts, giving the spotlight to malicious headlines and the most outrageous photographs. While promising the most lurid and violent true stories on the front page, it advertised posters of models and actresses in their underwear, together with photographs that presented men as sex-starved beasts of prey coveted by cunning and devious women, also light in clothing, of course.
The formula was repeated with other editorial proposals, which continued the tradition of Alarma! and even consolidated the genre of erotic and criminal photo-novels. In these products, television stars undressed and put themselves in the shoes of the protagonists of the most lurid and convoluted stories. Basic instincts, sensuality and violence were naturally mixed in headlines like "Cases of Alarm, Real Cases and Valley of Tears."
Cases of Alarm! was born in 1971 to continue exploiting the vein: it specialized in the photo-novel to recreate famous crimes committed by famous figures.
Nothing alien to the Hispanic tradition: since the Middle Ages, writers took advantage of the moralistic alibi to describe scenes with a high tone: the Archpriest of Hita did it, Fernando de Rojas did it in La Celestina, and the naturalists and hygienists of the 19th century took advantage of moral lessons to recreate passages and engravings of diverse intimacies. But they did not have the element of image as these magazines did. For example, Alarma! displayed a frontal and recalcitrant homophobia, persecuting and stigmatizing homosexual or transsexual people that it whipped up in the texts. Sex was a dangerous thing that could easily lead to ruin, even death. Likewise, women were constantly accused of sowing chaos among men, giving rise to the most diverse bloody messes. Women and profiteers caused murder, unrest and robbery.
In the 1980s, Alarma! reached half a million circulation. For almost 20 years, it had been among the best-selling media in Mexico. But the patience of the institutions ran out. In 1985, an earthquake struck Mexico and the magazine covered the misfortune with all sorts of sensationalist details. Although the lack of ethics was notable, more than 2.5 million readers bought it. The World Cup was scheduled for the following year, and the country's capital had to be left clean and presentable. It was the perfect excuse to end the reign of the red press that led Alarma!
This was how the good taste and decorum of the government ended up with a publication that is very much appreciated today by collectors, for its black humor and incredible impudence, which today, with the world full of pornographic content, can cause more laughter than scandal. That mix of black arts, common crimes, runaway passions and girls in underwear turned Alarma! into an icon of the most underground and kitschy culture.