Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art Home


Document first page thumbnail

The letter from Ricardo Gómez Robelo to Edward Weston is an emotional letter thanking Weston for the gift of some photographs, but, above all, he is grateful for Weston’s friendship. Robelo acknowledges that they [the group of friends around Weston] are his friends, and that he had a great time with the whole group during those years in Los Angeles. Robelo is also aware that Mexicans find people in the United States somewhat cold in their manner, whether based on the different customs abroad or perhaps based on U.S. biases. He focuses on his “special circle” and what it made him think about the differences between Latin and Anglo-Saxon culture. He also discusses the exhibition of Weston’s work, how it was held privately, solely attended by artists and reporters; however, it was a huge success. Referring to the photographs sent to Robel—by Weston and Miss Margrethe Mather—he tells the photographer what a great impression they made on him, along with the portraits of Tina Modotti. Moreover, Robelo again raises the possibility that the exhibition be held a month later. He sends his regards to all his friends and then signs off.


This is a very personal letter in which the cultural promoter and poet Ricardo Gómez Robelo (1884-1924) shows his feelings about the friendship extended by the circle he came to know during his stay in Los Angeles. The time he spent in California was the result of his political opposition to the presidency of Francisco I. Madero and his service as Attorney General of Mexico in the cabinet of the usurper, [President] Victoriano Huerta (1913-14). As the Revolution went on, he felt that he had to leave Mexico. In 1919, he was reunited with one of his old friends from Ateneo de la Juventud [Atheneum of Youth], José Vasconcelos (1882-1959), in Los Angeles. The group of friends around Edward Weston (1886-1958) was decisive for many of the new approaches, which revealed their overlapping interests. Their common starting point was the desire to break with the traditional art and literary approaches. The return to Mexico of Gómez Robelo—better known by his nickname “Rodino”— was made possible by the minister himself, Vasconcelos. It was in 1921, when Vasconcelos was appointed Minister of Public Education (1921-23) that Gómez Robelo returned to Mexico to serve as head of the [government’s] Fine Arts Department (later known as INBA). That was when he took over the management of new cultural spaces, and part of his plan was to foster the presence of Weston and Tina Modotti (1896-1942) in that innovative cultural scenario. Both photographers came to show their highly unconventional, modern and avant-garde photographs. According to the comments of the historian, Antonio Saborit, it was Gómez Robelo’s unwholesome passion for Modotti that led him to Los Angeles; this, he deduces, was the reason for his interest in bringing her to Mexico. Whether or not this was true, it was this action taken by Robelo that made possible the innovative presence of Weston and Modotti in Mexico. 

Rebeca Monroy
CURARE, Espacio crítico para las artes, Mexico City, Mexico
Center for Creative Photography de Tucson, Arizona