Portrait of a Young Painter

Pepe Zuniga and Mexico City's Rebel Generation

Portrait of a Young Painter

Book Pages: 304 Illustrations: 52 illustrations Published: December 2014

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

In Portrait of a Young Painter, the distinguished historian Mary Kay Vaughan adopts a biographical approach to understanding the culture surrounding the Mexico City youth rebellion of the 1960s. Her chronicle of the life of painter Pepe Zúñiga counters a literature that portrays post-1940 Mexican history as a series of uprisings against state repression, injustice, and social neglect that culminated in the student protests of 1968. Rendering Zúñiga's coming of age on the margins of formal politics, Vaughan depicts midcentury Mexico City as a culture of growing prosperity, state largesse, and a vibrant, transnationally-informed public life that produced a multifaceted youth movement brimming with creativity and criticism of convention. In an analysis encompassing the mass media, schools, politics, family, sexuality, neighborhoods, and friendships, she subtly invokes theories of discourse, phenomenology, and affect to examine the formation of Zúñiga's persona in the decades leading up to 1968. By discussing the influences that shaped his worldview, she historicizes the process of subject formation and shows how doing so offers new perspectives on the events of 1968.


"The last several years have revealed the start of a remarkable ferment among historians of postrevolutionary, and especially of post-1945, Mexico....Mary Kay Vaughan’s beautifully written, masterful new book, Portrait of a Young Painter, is situated precisely at the interstices of this historiographical revisionism." — Eric Zolov, Hispanic American Historical Review

"Mary Kay Vaughan’s Portrait of a Young Painter is an extraordinary contribution to the literature on the Latin American sixties.... It will be mandatory reading on the sixties, an era of transforming subjectivities worldwide." — Valeria Manzano, American Historical Review

"Scholars will gain much from reading this smartly written, imaginative study. Skillfully revealing the complex, multilayered worlds that Zúñiga inhabited, Vaughan opens the door to a greater understanding of Mexico's 1960s youth rebellion. This powerful analysis will contribute significantly to the field, but also should point to new ways of writing history." — Stephanie J. Smith, The Americas

"Vaughan’s book suggests that the roots of political resistance in Mexico can be profitably explored at the level of individual subjectivity, and her work should influence future scholarship by Mexicanists and historians of youth movements in Latin America and beyond." — Rachel Grace Newman, Journal of Latin American Studies

"Mary Kay Vaughan’s biography of Mexican painter Pepe Zúñiga is a labor of love and friendship." — Robert M. Buffington, EIAL

“Vaughan writes a lively, inspired, and extremely detailed cultural history of Mexico City’s urban culture between 1940 and 1970. . . . She writes with empathy, intelligence, and humor.” — Rubén Gallo, Latin American Research Review

"Portrait of a Young Painter is one of the most original and engaging books I have read in a long time. It is dazzling in its layers of perception, its textures, and its intimate insights. It is genuinely original in both argument and methodology, a remarkable work and a pleasure to read." — Barbara Weinstein, author of The Color of Modernity: Sao Paulo and the Making of Race and Nation in Brazil

"Portrait of a Young Painter is a major contribution to understanding Mexico City's student rebellion of 1968 and contemporary Mexican history. Mary Kay Vaughan follows the personal evolution of painter José 'Pepe' Zúñiga as he engaged with mid-twentieth-century Mexico City's public culture. She masterfully connects the experiences of movies, radio, music, and other media with the evolution of his self. Her approach, historicizing subjectivity, not only gives her important new perspectives on the events of 1968, but also transcends cultural history and opens new paths of historical analysis."
— Pablo Piccato, author of The Tyranny of Opinion: Honor in the Construction of the Mexican Public Sphere


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Price: $27.95

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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Mary Kay Vaughan is Professor of History Emerita at the University of Maryland. She is the author of Cultural Politics in Revolution: Teachers, Peasants, and Schools in Mexico, 1930–40, winner of both the Conference on Latin American History's Bolton Prize and the Latin American Studies Association's Bryce Wood Award, and a coeditor of Sex in Revolution: Gender, Politics, and Power in Modern Mexico and The Eagle and the Virgin: Nation and Cultural Revolution in Mexico, 1920–1940, both also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments ix

Introduction 1

1. Lupe's Voice 29

2. Enchanting City / Magical Radio 44

3. Pepe at School and with God, the Virgin, and the Saints 58

4. My Father, My Teacher 78

5. The Zúñiga Family as a Radionovela 98

6. "How Difficult Is Adolescence!" 127

7. "Five Pesos, Two Pencils, and an Eraser!" 145

8. Exuberant Interlude: Painting at the Museo de Antropología 173

9. Private Struggle / Public Protest: 1965–1972 184

10. Subjectivity and the Public Sphere: The Mature Art of José (Pepe) Zúñiga 212

Notes 241

Bibliography 259

Index 279
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Mary Kay Vaughan is the recipient of the 2016 Conference on Latin American History (CLAH) Distinguished Service Award.

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5781-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5765-0
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