- Guest Editor’s Preface
This special issue of Studies in Latin American Popular Culture intends to demonstrate new developments in the scholarship of this field. The first section on Latin America at the World’s Fair presents four essays that demonstrate the rich potential of research on these international exhibitions and the bibliography on World’s Fair publications offers a starting point for anyone interested in initiating such a study. The second section of the journal turns to the topic of Gender and Fashion, and the three essays (two conference presentations and a selection from a master’s thesis) proffer indications of the subtle aspects, the veiled allusions, and significant nuances that scholars have begun to analyze beyond the broad-gauge accounts that marked the early studies in women’s and gender history. Moreover, the periodization of the three essays, roughly the 1940s and 1950s, reveal new interest in these years by Mexican historians. The first two authors give particular attention to the transnational flow of fashions from Paris and New York to Mexico City, and from Mexico City to East Los Angeles, but with careful attention to the appropriation and refinements that make the styles the property of the local community. The third essay focuses on the mass media, in particular movies and television, and the portrayal of gender debates. In this sense, all three pieces point to new developments in the study of popular culture.
World’s fairs for over a century and half have offered exhibits of modern technology, natural resources, indigenous communities, and cultural patrimony identified within the framework of nations. Examining the fairs offers portraits of the self-image constructed by national leaders, promotions to attract investment and industry, and demonstrations of cultural achievements. Scholars have just begun to use this remarkable source, although collectors and hobbyists for years have carried out investigations, published appreciations, compared fair objects, located spectator recollections, and found visitor photographs—enriching the available documentation on the fairs as expressions of nation and national identity.
Several scholars, as noted by Lisa Munro in her historiographic essay in this issue, have written on world’s fairs, especially involving the United States, Great Britain, the English-speaking nations of Australia and India,1 and Mexico, but they have barely scratched the possibilities. The essays included in this special issue of Studies in Latin American Popular Culture represent the work of the well-known anthropologist Nancy Parezo and an enterprising group of graduate students who have identified the possibilities of world’s [End Page 1] fair expositions. Each of the contributors brings a unique perspective, using the expositions to enable and enliven studies with broader subjects than just descriptions of the fairs themselves.
Nancy Egan, a graduate student investigating the social history of early twentieth-century Bolivia under the direction of Nancy Postero and Christine Hunefeldt at the University of California–San Diego, uses the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago as the event that resulted in the adventures and misadventures of a band of Bolivian musicians who came to the United States. Because they were not official representatives of the Bolivian government, but rather a group contracted by a private promoter, they had an experience that departs from the one described in many other works about the indigenous peoples who participated in the fair. The essay demonstrates a good deal about U.S. society and popular performances at the time and the creation of the racialized other.
Dr. Nancy J. Parezo, professor of American Indian studies and anthropology at the University of Arizona, has authored numerous books and articles on Native North America, art, and the history of anthropology and museums. She serves as a faculty member in the Smithsonian Summer Institute in Museum Studies. Recently, with colleague Don D. Fowler, she wrote Anthropology Goes to the Fair: The 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition.2 This book analyzes the multiple anthropological exhibits and the lives of the 3,000 indigenous peoples who participated in the St. Louis exposition, and, as such, they made the most important available investigation of the 1904 World’s Fair and the most careful evaluation of anthropologists and their involvement with indigenous peoples who were exhibited in the...