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This is an article based on a letter received by the reporter Eduardo Pallares from the writer and politician Enrique Delhumeau, who visited the 1958 Brussels Expo. In the letter he says “what others are whispering”: “The expo objectives that are being fully realized are: a ton of commercial propaganda and a ton of political propaganda.” Considerably fewer spectators attended than were forecasted at the beginning, he reports. The Mexican Pavilion, although well presented, was situated far from the center; its signs were in French, with no Spanish translation; there were no explanatory labels next to the photographs; the staff members who met the visitors were all from Spain. Also, there was harsh criticism of Fernando Gamboa’s curatorial concept: the photograph of the architect Carlos Pani and his wife in tails and evening gown was “undoubtedly to show that all of us over there do not dress in feathers or cowboy gear” and, “finally, the unavoidable photos of mourning and burial, consisting of several skulls and skeletons displayed in bad taste to show our adoration of death.”
Undoubtedly, Delhumeau’s comments were true, especially those related to the commercial and political aspects of the World Fair in Belgium. The purpose was financial profits, even in the most trivial aspects: “There is not a single water fountain thus forcing visitors to consume soda and beer at double prices.” Turning scientific progress into aesthetic events was the upbeat thread running through presentations by parties during the Cold War. Belgium was hoping to win sympathy as the host and to obtain more support for its policy of domination in the Congo (a colony that had provided the uranium used to construct the bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima); Germany was making efforts to distance itself from the authoritarian image it had in World War II; and the United States was using the occasion to reinforce its anticommunist propaganda in Western Europe. Fernando Gamboa’s (1909-90) presentation of a modern Mexico without contradictions that were based on stereotypes preferred by European taste contributed to the “edifying” atmosphere of the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair.