Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art

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Synopsis

This article is the first of a series of three written by the critic and historian Antonio Rodríguez on the development and dissemination of the news over several centuries and historical periods in Mexico. He organized the graphic and textual materials in their different forms from the pre-Hispanic period through the twentieth century.

In this first article, he points out the forms in which the pre-Hispanic inhabitants left records of the most important news of the early colonial years in different media, from mural paintings to codices. He also describes some of the codices created after the conquest that showed the power relations established by the Spanish over the Natives. The writer highlights the creative tradition maintained in Mexico by artists, where the visual arts had reached high levels of development; he even describes how actual illustrated reports were rendered starting in those years. Yet he also acknowledges that when referring to the testimony of the tlacuilos or Mexican painters, it cannot be called journalism per se. Also unresolved is whether news items in these forms were significant forerunners of what would later be the world of the press, the news and the related illustrations.

He moves on in history to address the hojas volantes [flyers] that had their heyday in the sixteenth century, especially those produced by the first printing press, the Imprenta de Juan Pablos. Illustrated with woodcuts, these hojas gave the most important news of the time, emphasizing earthquakes, monstrous animals and/or deformed humans, and anomalies that occurred in different parts of the Spanish colonies.

The writer states that in 1722, the news press launched both the Gacetas de México [Mexican Gazettes] and Noticias de Nueva España [New Spain News]. This was the start of a period in which publications took a form more like newspapers. They also adopted a sensational, hair-raising slant on terrible stories of monstrous beings or supernatural events. This was when metal engraving (both red and yellow) made its appearance to accompany the short articles in the Gacetas. Rodríguez explains that Father José Antonio Alzate’s Gacetas published the first reports accompanied by copperplate engravings. These were highly popular in the late eighteenth century.

After a quick review of the primary forerunners of the Mexican press, the article concludes with a look at the development of Mexican news in the nineteenth century. The different calendars illustrated with woodcuts, literary reviews, and the journal Iris, among others, open their doors to a new and different journalism in the year 1825. This is the year that marked the introduction of the modern lithograph as a new way to illustrate the news, which began an innovative, abundant graphic phase that represented a significant step in the history of the Mexican press.

Annotations

This article is one of the first that provides a brief but substantial history of the way news was handled in Mexico, from the early days of the pre-Hispanic world to the colonial times of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Its chronological order highlights some of the milestones in the development of the image attached to the news, such as in the codices and mural paintings, especially since Native discourse was basically pictographic. Similarly, it points out the arrival of new visual resources in colonial Mexico. The writer, Antonio Rodríguez (1914–1993), establishes how the medium changed from woodcuts to metal engraving, then to copper engraving, and finally to lithography. At this point he ends his essay, which was followed by second article and concluded in a third. Although it is brief, the text is erudite and well documented and helps to fully understand the rich development of the illustrated press in Mexico.

Researcher
Rebeca Monroy : CURARE A. C.
Team
CURARE, Espacio crítico para las artes, Mexico City, Mexico
Credit
Courtesy of María Antonieta Fernández Moreno, Mexico City, México
Location
Instituto de Investigaciones Bibliográficas : Biblioteca Nacional/Hemeroteca Nacional