Take a look at our exhibition Luces y Sombras: Images of Mexico | Photographs from the Bank of America Collection–more than 100 photographs spanning more than 85 years of Mexican culture and history.
Luces y Sombras reflects a broad span of Mexico’s modern history, beginning with work by photographers active in the 1920s, not long after the conclusion of the Mexican Revolution. A struggle for political power that began with the overthrow in 1911 of Mexico’s authoritarian president, Porfirio Díaz, became the catalyst for a popular uprising of campesinos, agrarian indigenous and mestizo (mixed race) people who fought for agrarian and social reform. Revolutionary leader Emiliano Zapata’s rallying cry, “Tierra y Libertad” (Land and Liberty), not only galvanized the hundreds of thousands of campesinos who joined the revolt but, in its wake, came to represent the affirmation of rural people, whose lives were inextricably tied to the land.
Many images in this exhibition manifest the cultural values that came to the fore in the decades following the Revolution, when politicians and intellectuals alike endeavored to reconstruct and, indeed, re-envision their nation. In the cultural sphere, Mexico’s new leadership sought to purge the nation of the European influence favored by the Díaz regime. Nationalist ideals and broad-based exploration of Mexicanidad (the quality of being Mexican) were accompanied by a new reverence for Mexico’s indigenous roots and everyday men and women. Photographs made throughout the last century of indigenous and mestizo people reflect not only the survival of indigenous communities and traditions but also the realities of poverty and social marginalization that persist for a large lower class up to the present day.
Luces y Sombras reflects many other themes embraced by photographers in Mexico, both native and foreign-born – the landscape, urban life, and, especially among younger generations, gender and invented situations infused with symbolism. The inclusion of such foreign photographers as Paul Strand, Elliott Erwitt, Aaron Siskind, Danny Lyon, and Nan Goldin speaks to another key component of the history of photography in Mexico – the significance of a nation seen through foreign eyes.
In gathering work by such a diversity of voices, Luces y Sombras provides vivid testimony to the character of life in a nation in the throes of reinvention, modernization, and continued change over the last century.