Crafting Mexico

Intellectuals, Artisans, and the State after the Revolution

Crafting Mexico

Book Pages: 424 Illustrations: 16 color illustrations, 23 b&w, 1 map Published: September 2010

Author: Rick A. López

Art and Visual Culture, History > Latin American History, Latin American Studies > Mexico

After Mexico’s revolution of 1910–1920, intellectuals sought to forge a unified cultural nation out of the country’s diverse populace. Their efforts resulted in an “ethnicized” interpretation of Mexicanness that intentionally incorporated elements of folk and indigenous culture. In this rich history, Rick A. López explains how thinkers and artists, including the anthropologist Manuel Gamio, the composer Carlos Chávez, the educator Moisés Sáenz, the painter Diego Rivera, and many less-known figures, formulated and promoted a notion of nationhood in which previously denigrated vernacular arts—dance, music, and handicrafts such as textiles, basketry, ceramics, wooden toys, and ritual masks—came to be seen as symbolic of Mexico’s modernity and national distinctiveness. López examines how the nationalist project intersected with transnational intellectual and artistic currents, as well as how it was adapted in rural communities. He provides an in-depth account of artisanal practices in the village of Olinalá, located in the mountainous southern state of Guerrero. Since the 1920s, Olinalá has been renowned for its lacquered boxes and gourds, which have been considered to be among the “most Mexican” of the nation’s arts. Crafting Mexico illuminates the role of cultural politics and visual production in Mexico’s transformation from a regionally and culturally fragmented country into a modern nation-state with an inclusive and compelling national identity.


“[A] fine and authoritative book. Its combination of historical analysis, ethnographic observation, and geographic and material description will extend its interest far beyond History. Artists and art historians, anthropologists, and geographers will enjoy and benefit from his rich descriptions of Guerrero’s challenging terrain and of the features of the art itself, descriptions that represent the product of deep local knowledge and a personal connection to the artisans of Olinalá.” — Ryan Alexander, The Latin Americanist

"Crafting México is a major contribution to the growing literature on nation, revolution, and indigenismo in postrevolutionary Mexico…. If the format and scope of this book is novel, so too is much of the research. López worked in roughly two dozen archives and interviewed a host of Olinaltecos as well as the daughter of the original India Bonita. This fascinating and richly illustrated book is a fitting testimony to over a decade of exhaustive research and careful writing. It will surely serve as a model for future work." — Stephen E. Lewis, The Americas

Crafting México is a major contribution to the growing literature on nation, revolution, and indigenismo in postrevolutionary Mexico. . . . This fascinating and richly illustrated book is a fitting testimony to over a decade of exhaustive research and careful writing. It will surely serve as a model for future work.” — Stephen E. Lewis, The Americas

Crafting Mexico is an important and original contribution to the literature on
visual arts in national ideologies. The detailed history, sophisticated analyses, intriguing case studies, and wonderful black and white and color photographs make this book essential to the library of anyone interested in Mexican popular art. “ — Michael Chibnik, Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology

Crafting Mexico is an impressive work of cultural and intellectual history
that is unique in analyzing the intersection of grassroots practices with
intellectual currents. It should gain an audience among scholars of state
formation beyond Mexico or Latin America.” — Robert F. Alegre, History: Reviews of New Books

Crafting Mexico reminds us that quality scholarship does not resort to sweeping generalizations but rather assesses what is often a complex situation case by case. It is an impressive interdisciplinary study that adds much to our appreciation of modern Mexican culture and society.” — Andrew Grant Wood Hispanic, American Historical Review

“Rick A. López tells the fascinating story of how folk art produced by anonymous potters, weavers, and wood carvers became a ‘proud symbol of Mexico’s authentic national identity’ (p. 2). His excellent monograph advances our understanding of Mexico’s cultural revolution—the state policies, artistic movements, and commercial developments that transformed a regionally fragmented postwar society into a unified nationstate with an ethnically inclusive national identity.” — Michael Snodgrass, American Historical Review

Crafting Mexico covers much new territory. Its linkage of local, national, and transnational history is exemplary.” — Mary Kay Vaughan, co-editor of The Eagle and the Virgin: Nation and Cultural Revolution in Mexico, 1920–1940

“In recent decades, historians of twentieth-century Mexico have reshaped the way we understand state and nation formation—particularly popular constructions of the national—and the role that foreign actors have played in brokering Mexico’s distinctive, transnational process of becoming modern. Crafting Mexico represents a culminating moment in these inquiries. Better than any study I know, it wrestles with the complex process whereby Mexico transformed itself from a fragmented society, driven by regional loyalties, linguistic and cultural particularism, and caudillo politics, into one of the hemisphere’s most unified nations. Part of the answer, Rick A. López argues masterfully, lies in a surprisingly contingent aesthetic and political process that embraced foreign and local actors, cosmopolitan intellectuals and indigenous crafts producers, and a panoply of state and private initiatives. Deftly integrating analytical and spatial dimensions, and bridging temporal boundaries, Crafting Mexico is a substantial achievement.” — Gilbert M. Joseph, co-editor of Fragments of a Golden Age: The Politics of Culture in Mexico since 1940


Availability: In stock
Price: $30.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Rick A. López is Associate Professor of History at Amherst College.

Table of Contents Back to Top
List of Illustrations vii

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction: Nation Formation, Popular Art, and the Search for a Mexican Aesthetic 1

Part I. Indianness and the Postrevolutionary Mexican Nation 27

1. Ethnicizing the Nation: The India Bonita Contest of 1921 29

2. Popular Art and the Staging of Indianness 65

3. Foreign-Mexican Collaboration, 1920–1940 95

4. The Postrevolutionary Cultural Project, 1916–1938 127

5. The Museum and the Market, 1929–1948 151

6. Formulating a State Policy toward Popular Art, 1937–1974 175

Part II. Alternative Narratives of Metropolitan Intervention: The Artisans of Olinalá, Guerrero 195

7. The "Unbroken Tradition" of Olinalá from the Aztecs through the Revolution 201

8. Transnational Renaissance and Local Power Struggles, 1920s to 1950s 229

9. The Road to Olinalá, 1935–1972 263

Conclusions 289

Notes 299

Bibliography 349

Index 381
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing
Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4703-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4694-4
Publicity material