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Introduction The Art of History Stuart A. Day T his book offers readers aprofoundunderstandingof keyideasand events in Mexico and beyond by explicitly combining art and history in order to encourage a multidimensional understanding of Mexican touchstones and watersheds. Each chapter provides a historical grounding of its topic in the initial pages, followed by a multifaceted analysis through vari­ ous artistic representations that provide a more complex (if still incomplete) view of Mexico. Through this approach the authors of the following pages— all experts in the field—demonstrate the power of art and artists to question, explain, and influence the world around us. The initial reference page of each chapter lists readily available murals, political cartoons, plays, pamphlets, post­ ers, films, poems, novels, and other cultural products, like documents and doc­ umentaries, that teachers can use to build syllabi or independent learners can use to enrich their knowledge of Mexico; the chapter endnotes list suggestions for further reading. One example of an artistic representation that brings to life the history and culture of modern Mexico is Diego Rivera’s mural Sueño de una tarde dominical en la Alameda Central (Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Central). The mural is fascinating for its critique of high-society wealthy elites, one of its common and compelling interpretations; yet it also contains within it keys to a multitude of other stories that intersect with it as part of a web of historical memory. Of the many events and concepts that can be explained by studying 4 Stuart A. Day Rivera’s mural, two in particular—the Mexico City earthquake of 1985 and the role of Catholicism in Mexico from the Conquest to the present—can be used to highlight the main purpose of this book: to in­ vestigate what art adds to our understanding of key events and ideas. Painted in the mid-1940s, the mural is a complex rendition of Mexican history, which, because Rivera himself was a key figure in postrevolutionary Mexico, includes many colorful characters from his own life. The work of art—brilliant in its depiction of Frida Kahlo, José Gua­ dalupe Posada, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, and over a hundred more figures— is housed close to the park for which it was named, though its location in a custom-made museum is a bit tricky to find. (As I will explain below, it is rela­ tively new and therefore not as prominent as the other museums in the area.) The massive mural, the history it depicts, and even its physical journey from the Hotel del Prado to the small, built-to-suit Museo Mural Diego Rivera after the 1985 earthquake hold answers to many of the questions readers might ask about Mexico. As mentioned above, two brief examples—the earthquake and its devastating aftershocks,as well as the role of Catholicism in Mexico—dem­ onstrate the value of a cultural studies approach to our academic endeavors; namely,the use of multiple cultural artifacts to explain the world around us and to expose intersections and entanglements of specific power dynamics. Such analyses, emerging out of the Birmingham School of Cultural Studies begin­ ning in the 1950s, are now common practice for teacher-scholars in the United States. A central term epitomizes the period following the earthquake: displacement. The historical accounts that narrate the disaster and the government’s feeble, delayed, even arrogant response, which showed incompetence at the same time that it bolstered civic participation (out of necessity),underscore the political and social impact of the earthquake. Studied from only one angle, the impact of the earthquake can be understood; studied from a variety of views, it can be felt. His­ torical writing can make use of and be combined with,for instance,Elena Ponia­ towska’s book Nada, nadie: Voces del temblor (Nothing, Nobody:The Voices of the Mexico City Earthquake, 1988), which relays personal stories of the devastation (much as her book on the 1968 Tlatelolco massacre of students and others at the hands of the government does).Through these mediated testimonies it is evident that, as with the 1968 tragedy, people saw corruption exposed, as another account of citizen engagement, this time from a member of the group called the Coor­ dinadora Única de Damnificados (Victims’Coordinating Council), relates: “Re­ construction was made possible by the popular organizations that already existed Introduction 5 and by those that were created, and also by a great, well-channeled solidarity. I believe this was the...


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