Women in Mexican Folk Art

Women in Mexican Folk Art: Of Promises, Betrayals, Monsters and Celebrities

Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 1
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  • Book Info
    Women in Mexican Folk Art
    Book Description:

    Intends to engender Mexican folk art and locate women at its centre by studying the processes of creation, distribution, and consumption, as well as examining iconographic aspects, and elements of class and ethnicity, from the perspective of gender.

    eISBN: 978-1-78316-074-7
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Series Editors’ Foreword
    (pp. vi-vi)

    Over recent decades the traditional ‘languages and literatures’ model in Spanish departments in universities in the United Kingdom has been superceded by a contextual, interdisciplinary and ‘area studies’ approach to the study of the culture, history, society and politics of the Hispanic and Lusophone worlds – categories that extend far beyond the confines of the Iberian Peninsula, not only in Latin America but also to Spanish-speaking and Lusophone Africa.

    In response to these dynamic trends in research priorities and curriculum development, this series is designed to present both disciplinary and interdisciplinary research within the general field of Iberian and Latin American...

  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vii-vii)
  5. [Map]
    (pp. viii-viii)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    It appears no easy task to arrive at a gender-based perspective on folk art. After much careful searching, through all the many libraries I have visited and the many bookshops I have come across in Mexico and abroad, for texts on feminism and folk art – even including texts just on women and folk art – it must be said that the harvest has been meagre, although in recent years there has been a slight increase in output. The starting point for any study of the current situation ought to be the recognition of the fact that today’s is a patriarchal society...

  7. Chapter One Folk Art and some of its Myths
    (pp. 11-26)

    Folk art, the art engaged in by all peoples of the earth, seems to be a never-ending source of surprises. For many people, whether or not they are connoisseurs or have studied the subject, handicrafts and folk art are one and the same. For the recognized art critic Marta Traba, for example, folk art is made up of handicrafts, folklore and primitive painting.¹ I believe, however, that handicrafts are one thing and folk art is another. All folk art can be considered to involve handicrafts, but not all handicrafts are folk art. A handmade palm fibre chair, even if it...

  8. Chapter Two Women and Votive Paintings
    (pp. 27-46)

    In some museums and many private collections in Mexico and abroad, and also still in some churches, one may find what remains today of an extraordinary folk art known as votive painting or ex-votos. In Mexico they are also known popularly asretablos(a word which in official use means altarpieces) ormilagrosormilagritos(miracles). In Castile and León in Spain, they have been calledofrendas(offerings) and in Cataloniaretaulons(littleretablos).

    Ever since human beings invented gods (or the other way round, if you prefer), they have shown in various ways their gratitude for favours received in...

  9. Chapter Three Judas was not a Woman, but...
    (pp. 47-66)

    Studying the cardboard figures known as ‘Judases’ from a nonandrocentric perspective and aiming to seek out the presence of women might seem at first glance a perfectly absurd task. Even so, I shall embark on this adventure.

    The traditional figure of the Judas is masculine: the traitor – the devil – has gender and is male. Judas was not a woman, and yet I hope to show where and in what manner women appear in the process of creation and utilization of this expression of folk art.

    The Judases made in Mexico are figures of cardboard and paste, painted using natural earth...

  10. Chapter Four Fantastic Art: Alebrijes and Ocumichos
    (pp. 67-96)

    What really marks the boundary between fantastic and surrealist art? These two concepts are applied almost exclusively to the art of the elites. Folk art is hardly ever described as either surrealist or fantastic. Are these terms perhaps too sophisticated to be applied to an art regarded as eminently ‘primitive’?

    Very often it is difficult to apply labels: it can also be uncomfortable and totally inadequate and yet sometimes it is perhaps necessary. The surrealistic and the fantastic elements in art are two of the most dif-ficult to define. For example Frida Kahlo’s work was described, early on, as surrealist....

  11. Chapter Five Frida Kahlo on a Visit to Ocotlán: ‘The Painting’s One Thing, the Clay’s Another’
    (pp. 97-114)

    A further example of hybrid art that blends elements of elite and folk art is the reproduction in clay of the paintings of Frida Kahlo.

    Ocotlán de Morelos is a sunlit and sparkling bustling market town of around 14,000 inhabitants in the state of Oaxaca, thirty-one kilometres from the city of Oaxaca on the road to the coast. Its beautifully kept church with six domes painted blue, yellow and white has a sober interior, and the adjacent sixteenth-century former monastery, Santo Domingo de Guzmán, has been restored to house a cultural centre. All this has been thanks to the efforts...

  12. Chapter Six The Paintings on the Serapes of Teotitlán
    (pp. 115-126)

    There are ugly towns and pretty towns. Teotitlán del Valle, Oaxaca, verges on the ugly. Its main interest is the very considerable production of serapes. The presence of a large number of houses of recent construction in concrete frame and brick infill is remarkable; many have the ends of their steel reinforcement rods pointing up to the sky, giving the horizon a spiky appearance and indicating that the second storeys await addition. It is a relatively prosperous town in rapid expansion.

    Teotitlán is a Zapotec-speaking locality of some five thousand inhabitants about twenty-nine kilometres from the state capital. According to...

  13. Chapter Seven From Humble Rag Dolls to Zapatistas
    (pp. 127-136)

    With combinations of folk and elite art being possible, as we have seen, what I shall now describe appears to be a form of articulation between politics and folk art. While art in general and folk art in particular are never alien to politics and ideology, here we shall see the direct link between a popular armed uprising and artistic creativity.

    There are some interesting ‘characters’ of fairly recent appearance among Mexican handicrafts. These are the rag dolls from Chiapas representing Subcomandante Marcos and Comandanta Ramona of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional: EZLN). We find...

  14. Chapter Eight Embroiderers of Miracles
    (pp. 137-150)

    The daily miracle worked by the women of Guanajuato is insufficient to earn them a decent life and provides no escape from penury. Arid, semi-desert lands, where prickly shrubs and cacti such as thecardónandhuizachegrow, and the grass is very yellow throughout the dry season, the vista is broken from time to time by large cultivated estates, where the crops are green, always green. In the highest areas there are evergreen woodlands, but elsewhere is a landscape of spiny bushes, interrupted bynopalcactus plantations and irrigated pastures. There in the small villages surrounding San Miguel de Allende,...

  15. Epilogue
    (pp. 151-158)

    Folk art is eminently feminine. Of course this could only be a metaphor; but the fact is that large numbers of women throughout the world work daily in the creation of folk art. It is beyond any doubt that there are many more women involved in folk art than elite art. There are folk arts in which only women are involved, as we have seen: there are others where only men work, and yet more in which both genders are occupied. But this art, in general, shares with women as a group the condition of social subordination. It also shares...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 159-166)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 167-176)
  18. Index
    (pp. 177-184)