Saturday, June 5, 2010

Mexico in the Early 1900s...

I originally did this post on the Casasola photography exhibit a year ago. Just a few days ago (June 23, 2011), I happened to receive a random e-mail from someone named Jorge Orozco who commented on Casasola's photos. Obviously, Senor Orozco knows quite a bit about the history of Mexico and helped me to understand the story behind some of the photos. So, I've edited this post and added his comments which appear in orange. Jorge, thank you for educating me (and my readers) on the revolutionary history of Mexico. Your comments are very much appreciated and make my meager post that much more interesting.

The art department at the university where I work was having a little exhibit on...

I decided to check it out and it was pretty interesting. The exhibit featured photographer Agustin Victor Casasola, and here's what they said about him:

"Founder of one of the world's first news photography agencies, Agustin Victor Casasola has been rightly terms one of the giants of 20th century photography. Agustin and his brother, Miguel, worked in Mexico as photojournalists during the early decades of the 20th century. In 1912 they established the Archivo Casasola, one of the world's first photo agencies.

By the 1920s, the Casasolas realized that their work extended beyond creating images for the next day's newspapers, and began to create an ongoing photographic record of all aspects of Mexican society. In the years that followed, they collected the work of more than 480 photographers. As a result, authorship of individual photographs is difficult to ascertain. One thing, however, is certain: the archive represents the most important visual resource on the Mexican people during the first half of the dynamic 20th century."

Tha Casasola Family was one of the best photographers in Mexico during that times. There is a lot of history behind the shots, here are my 25 cents to give you more information, please free to use my comments and edit my wording since I am only lloking to help you understand what you recapture with your camera.

This is quite an eclectic mix of photographs, but some of them are sobering and disturbing. I can just imagine how chaotic the Mexican government was during this time, and it is clear to see that in many of these pictures. I think they are rather haunting and thought they deserved a post. You will be able to see my reflection in the glass in most of them which I would have preferred not to see, but it adds kind of an ethereal effect to them. I took pictures of some of the descriptions next to the photos so that I could explain what they are about, but some really had no explanations other than what they were of. Like these next ones of circus performers...

Very strange...

This is a photo of the construction of the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City in 1925.

It was finally completed in 1934 and looks like this today.

This was a funeral procession...that's Diego Rivera in the front.

Leading the Partido Comunista banner walk was painter "Diego Rivera" , perhaps already married to Frida Kahlo by the time the picture was taken. The picture is in Mexico City downtown.

I'm not going to comment on all of them. I just liked the composition of a LOT of them and thought they were very interesting.

The car is an advertisement from a company. The models wear masks not to be recognized by any, they were probably showing too much. The kid dressed in a uniform is know as a "merolico or griton", this uniform still wear by young kids that are in charge of announcing the winners of the Loteria Nacional "Mexican Lotto". The uniform is red with golden color buttons. The sign behind the girls is not clear as many parts are covered by the models, but I can translate: "Lo..... Obsequia a su clientela este coche...." "Lo....give away to our clientele this car....".

Guy running for his life among the cars. Mexico City, notice the trolley car rails in the floor and the lack of pedestrian and driver education, still in effect in Mexico City. Until the car was brought in for those that could afford it, public transportation was called "tren de mulitas" which translates to "Mule Train". Mules were used to pulled the trolley carts. Notice in another picture taken inside a trolley car that this one is an electric trolley already. Only Mexico City, Guadalajara and Monterrey had trolley cars servicing mainly downtown areas.

"In the year 1914, the usurper Victoriano Huerta fell from power and the rebel groups met in Mexico City. In this photograph are the American Consul, Mr. Carothers, and Emiliano Zapata in Xochimilco."


This photo apparently stemmed from the experimentation they were doing on epidemics.

Soldiers...

This was Maria Zavala, nicknamed La Destroyer, a welder who consoled dying soldiers and became famous for helping those who had fallen in battle to die a more rapid and less painful death.

"Soldadera", from Soldier, Soldati (not welder) traveled along the military forces and during the 1900's fought among them. Since medieval times women accompanied troops, for other "services", but it was in the 1900's when they started fighting among the men and gained the name Soldadera "Female Soldier" and Coronela (Female Coronel) of those even leading whole regiments.

This photograph is of a 25-year-old woman who committed suicide.

Suicidio picture. A very, very unusual photo for the era. Is an American or British Citizen. Hazel Walker. (?) The picture was taken in the patios of private funeral home. Government morges did not carry black coffins with shining handles. This photo is worth researching. Not usual for the Casasola's at all. Who was her?

This is an Army officer target practicing.

Army officer. All people executed at firing squad were given a "tiro de gracia", by an officer. That picture reflects what many innocent people saw before dying.

This is the execution of the Banda del Automovil Gris or "Gray Automobile Gang" in Mexico City in 1919. They were counterfeiters, a crime punishable by death before a firing squad, as shown in the photograph, in which six counterfeiters were executed outside the school where recruits were taught to shoot.

Bodies of federal soldiers...


This was taken of a prisoner smoking a last cigarette before he was executed...

The prisioner ready to die infront of the firing squad was a Revolutionary Coronel. I can't find his name at this time. During this era Catholics and Catholic priest were also persecuted and killed by firing squad. More than 600 priest were murdered in that years. Victoriano Huerta was a dictator and murderer, he planned and ordered the killing of President Madero. In reality many of this men, women and children were not even granted a trial. Death by firing squad was abolished by President Lazaro Cardenas until the 1940's. For many historians and researches the revolution did not finished until then. Victoriano Huerta died while in prision at Fort Bliss, El Paso, Texas.

Female welders and soldiers with the railway administrator...

President Victoriano Huerto accompanied by members of his cabinet and the army...

"The dictatorship of General Porfirio Diaz began in the year 1877 and lasted until 1911, when he went into exile in Europe. This ended the period in Mexican history known as the Porfirian Peace. Diaz appears here surrounded by his collaborators. On his left is Mexico's ambassador to the United States, Enrique Creel, at a ceremony honoring the republican President Benito Juarez.


General Porfirio Diaz next to the Aztec Calendar Stone reads: "Aztec Calendar or Stone of the Sun. In the month of December of the year 1880, while performing the leveling of the new street for the main square of this capital city. This single carved stone was discovered and then placed at the occidental tower of the Cathedral, from the side that faces West and from which then was sent to this national museum in August 1885."

A proud land-owner...


Some of the photos were damaged, like this one. This is a group of engineers...

Engineers, damaged picture was taken on a roof top at the Alameda Central in Mexico City. The Mexico City Cathedral on the background and Valle del Tepeyac hills also in the background. Notice that the size of the laurel trees at the Alameda Central.

A mathematics class for little girls...

There was a section devoted to jail scenes and people who had committed crimes. This is a prostitute...

"Delinquents were studied according to common techniques in use at the time. In 1920, the Criminology and Identification Laboratory was inaugurated, as shown in the photograph."

An autopsy...

A criminal caught with his weapon...

An incarcerated woman...

Female welders ("soldaderas") were a brave faction of the revolutionary war effort, in addition to being the subject of popular songs.

This was Nicaraguan revolutionary, Cesar Augusto Sandino, who took temporary refuge in Mexico in 1929, the year of this photograph.

So that's my blog lesson in Mexican history...a past heavy with violence and unrest. While some of these photographs are unsettling to say the least, they are, nonetheless, art.

4 comments:

Jamqueen said...

What a treasure trove of history! I like the ethereal quality of lots of the photos--like a veil in front of the lens. Thanks for sharing, Deb!

Keith Dannemiller said...

soldaderas are female soldiers who went along with men in the Revolution. also known as adelitas.

Isla Deb said...

Thanks, Ann! That was a good way of putting it...like a veil.

Keith - Thanks for visiting my blog. I merely reported the exhibit as they explained it and they referred to the soldaderas as welders. Thank you for your clarification.

Anonymous said...

the ladies standing on the car look just like our roaring 20's.
carl/debbie