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In this document, Professor Amelia Malagamba explores how Afro-Mexican icons and symbols, as well as sociopolitical issues in the African-American community, have been transformed into what she terms “cultural capital.” A “cultural capital”as such, according to the author, was used by Chicano artists who sought to articulate a specifically Chicano aesthetic centered on an embrace of both tradition and innovation. Malagamba details the early history of African slavery that first brought blacks to Mexico, followed by a discussion of changing ideologies among the elite during the dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz (1876-1910) that favored a Mexican population of European descent. Among the non-elite, darker-skinned citizens, this led to the rise in popularity of the prints of José Guadalupe Posada, who embraced an aesthetic of protest and subversion that denounced the corruption of the upper classes and the government. According to her, many of Posada’s prints featured images of Afro-Mexican revolutionaries, attesting to their strong presence in the events of the Revolution. Following this, Malagamba discusses the period following the Revolution and the development of what she calls a “new Mexicanista aesthetic language” that reflected the ideals of the armed movement. Finally, she turns to a discussion of the ways in which these and other aspects of Mexican culture were transported to the United States by migrants and became incorporated into the visual language of Chicano artists who were seeking a new vocabulary with which to articulate their own struggle.
Amelia Malagamba is an assistant professor at the School of Art at Arizona State University, where she teaches Chicana/o art and cultural studies. The paper, which was published in Frontera Norte, a journal of a Tijuana college, takes the discussion of the African presence in Mexico and provides a detailed historical account of the African and Afro-Diasporic influences in Mexican art. She highlights the influence of artist Manuel [sic] (Miguel) Covarrubias, who frequently turned to images from Afro-Caribbean cultures, and also cites other examples of the ways in which African cultures in other places in the Caribbean—especially Cuba—impacted Mexican pop culture. Of note is her discussion of how this “cultural capital” was introduced in the U.S. by migrants and became part of the Chicano iconography. While ignoring Mexico’s not-so-overt racism and the shared struggles of people of color during the United States Civil Rights Movement, she does provide a well-researched and interesting argument within a very neglected area of art history.