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Images to See-Yourself: The History of Racism in Mexico

The provocative exhibition asks questions about the role of racism in Mexico today

The final room of the exhibit, photo: The News/Peter Appleby
By Peter Appleby Whatsapp Twitter Facebook Share
1 year ago

Judging by the queue to enter the Museo de la Ciudad de Mexico’s current exhibition, “Imágenes para ver-te: Una exhibición de racismo en México” (Images to See-Youself: The History of Racism in Mexico), the consequences of colonialism and its enduring history is still a topic of considerable interest in the capital city. But this very self-reflexive exhibit doesn’t only focus on the far-off past.

Ex Voto, Juan Carols "El Crayolas" Perez, 2005. Photo: Peter Appleby

Ex Voto, Juan Carols “El Crayolas” Pérez, 2005. Photo: The News/Peter Appleby

An introductory text, to be read while waiting to enter the first room, is clear in its message. Listing words frequently heard in Mexico like “naco” and “chaca,” we are reminded of their roots, highlighting the fact that racially-driven discriminations are not consigned to history but are still very much alive in Mexico today.

Objects, paintings, documents and photographs are shown in a loosely chronological order, split between rooms that mirror the topic, such as “The Body”, “The Skin”, and “The Face.” On show in the early rooms are drawings of various implements used in the control of slaves, vices to ratchet open the mouth for forced feeding and shackles that bound feet together in the bottom of ships. Older items are punctuated by more modern examples, like the signs stating “whites only” that guide the viewer around the exhibition, or a sepia-toned photograph of a girl, looking straight into the camera, a tape measure around her head. While at first glance the photo appears to be an example of the eugenics practiced during colonialism, it is actually the work of Guatemalan photographer, Luis González Palma, and dates from 1998.

The exhibition features a variety of historical artificats, including examples from early anthropology and eugenics. Photo: Peter Appleby

The exhibition features a variety of historical artifacts, including examples from early anthropology and eugenics. Photo: The News/Peter Appleby

César Carrillo Trueba, the curator and an anthropology lecturer at Sciences Sociales in Paris, explained the purpose of his exhibit in a conversation with Aristegui Noticias; “This is to show how racist imagery was formed, the actions that led up to their formation, and its persistence over time to the point that it is integrated into the national culture, like the films of the Golden Age.”

Frederick Starr’s “Bustes de Mexicanos-1900,” a selection of head busts of indigenous Mexican men, who Starr considered to be “ignorant, timid, and suspicious” is juxtaposed against Andrés Carratero’s “Rubios” (2011), a photographic series of Mexican women with heavy make-up and dyed blonde hair — the idealised image of “güera” beauty. Similarly, a photograph of a Black Lives Matter protest is placed next to a photo of the Memphis Sanitation strike of 1968, where men help signs barring the words “I Am A Man.” How much, we are asked, has really changed?

The last room of the exhibition focuses on the struggles of indigenous people in Mexico today and features a powerful artwork on the 43 students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers College from Oaxacan artist, Francisco Toledo. Toledo, an open critic of the current government, has frequently used his art to call for further investigations into Ayotzinapa, and justice for the missing students. In the piece, the artist is shown running while 43 kites, all of which have the face of one a missing student printed upon it, soar into the sky behind him.

The exhibition runs until Sept. 25 and is well worth a visit.

Museo de la Ciudad de México is a short walk from both Metro Zócalo and Metro Pino Suárez. The address is: José María Pino Suárez 30, Centro, 06060 Ciudad de México, D.F.

 


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