In his many award winning novels and short stories, Gabriel Garcia Marquez invokes magic, or the seemingly supernatural, in otherwise realistic settings. When asked why he chose to write in this genre, appropriately called Magical Realism, Marquez has said, “my most important problem was destroying the line of demarcation that separates what seems real from what seems fantastic.” Marquez explains that he uses Magical Realism to blur the distinction between the real and the fantastic and explores the limits of both these notions. Furthermore, as this genre demonstrates that reality is also comprised of magical elements, Garcia-Marquez seeks to promote hybridity and prove that everything is made up of different factors and that nothing— nations, families, nor even a single human being— is completely homogeneous. 
Like Magical Realism, the Western genre is also concerned with boundaries. However, in its case it is specific boundaries— that of the domestic and the wilderness of the frontier. The Western’s hero, the cowboy, is one who straddles the line between these two worlds. One film that borrows heavily from the Western Genre but also invokes this literary genre is Robert Rodriguez’s Once Upon A Time in Mexico. Mexico appropriately joins these two together because its project is also concerned with boundaries and hyrbridity as it uses a cinematic genre that exemplifies America to tell a story about its neighbor to the south.
Once Upon a Time in Mexico is the third film in the mariachi trilogy directed by Robert Rodriguez and starring Antonio Banderas. The hero, El Mariachi, is a brooding hit man who carries a guitar. In this film, El Mariachi, also referred to simply as El, seeks to disrupt a coup led by a sinister General and financed by a dangerous drug cartel. The film also includes plots about a rogue CIA agent played by Johnny Depp and a Chihuahua-holding fugitive named Billy Chambers. The movie opened to mixed reviews as the plot was seen to be convoluted and the dialogue a bit immature.
While the plot and dialogue are a far-cry from Citizen Kane, Mexico is thematically rich and interesting. Mexico is an overt homage to the Western genre— specifically the work of Sergio Leone. The movie resembles a Western in that it features a number of shootouts, a set that is reminiscent of the Wild West, and a great emphasis on guns and violence. The title of the film explicitly evokes Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West and Rodriguez references other Leone films, like The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, in interviews. Furthermore, like in Leone films, the hero does not have a name and is instead referred to by a nickname. West’s hero, Harmonica, is also named for his musical talents in lieu of a real name and, more famously, Clint Eastwood plays “the man with no name” in a number of Leone films.
Additionally, I believe this film implicitly owes a lot to the literary genre of Magical Realism and Garcia-Marquez’s work more generally. The hero of this film, El Mariachi, exemplifies the typical heroic cowboy however, as Magical Realism pushes the limits of the real into the fantastic, the talents and accomplishments of this man push the envelope from the heroic to the supernatural. The first scene that shows him is in the form of one character narrating El’s exploits to Depp’s Sands. “He’s a legend, a myth” he claims. In this early sequence, El manages to appear as if from nowhere and defeat a number of men while he remains untouched by a hail of bullets. With this beginning, his character is shrouded in mystery and magic right from the start. In a later scene, he climbs up the wall like a spider and the bullets he uses seem to pack a little more juice than everybody else’s weapons. For instance, on the final scene, he shoots his nemesis, Marquez, and the bullets rip off Marquez’s skin exposing his bone in a rather gory and improbable wound.
Garcia-Marquez is particularly appropriate inspiration in that his work takes place in Spanish-speaking countries and focuses heavily on violence and revolution. Many of the men in Garcia-Marquez’s magnum opus, One Hundred Years of Solitude, fight in wars and get caught up in bloody life-threatening situations. Also, his heroes are often soldiers who are also artists. Like El, Colonel Aureliano Buendía of One Hundred Years of Solitude, excels in the military realm and is also a gifted poet. Furthermore, like the film, works like One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera don’t follow a strict chronology. True to this form, El’s tragic memories unfold in flashbacks at various points in the master narrative.
Mexico uses these two genres for two reasons. First, because this allows Rodriguez to advance the Western as he infuses it with fantasy. Furthermore, these genres are thematically about boundaries as the space in which different entities fuse and interact. Therefore, a second, and perhaps more subtle reason these films invoke both genres is because it is a film about mixtures. Where the spaghetti Westerns were made by Italians and shot in Spain, they still took place in America. This film, however, transplants the American Western into Mexico and thus instills this classic genre with both a magical and multicultural twist and an interesting subtext that examines fusion itself.
 Interview with Gabrial Garcia Marquez in Revista Primera Plana - Año V Buenos Aires, 20-26 June 1967 Nº 234, pages 52-55
 Bringhurst, Robert. “Coterminous worlds.” Coterminous Worlds: Magical Realism and contemporary post-colinial literature in English. Ed. Elsa LInguati. Atlanta: Rodopi B.V., 1999.