Object Lessons: Mexican People Portfolio

In 1946, the Taller de Grafica Popular (People’s Graphic Workshop) in Mexico City published a portfolio titled Mexican People that consisted of twelve lithographic prints by ten different artists depicting scenes of Mexican working life. The purpose of the portfolio was to help Americans better understand the peoples and cultures of Mexico as both countries struggled to readjust to new global economic conditions after World War II.

Silver Mine Worker. Francisco Mora (Mexican, 1922-2002), 1946, Lithograph, Hope College Collection

The Kruizenga Art Museum purchased an intact copy of the Mexican People portfolio in January, 2016. It has since become one of the most heavily used artworks in the museum’s teaching program as every year it is shown to multiple Spanish language, history, and interdisciplinary studies classes.

The Taller de Grafica Popular, or TGP, was a printmaking collective that was founded in 1937 to promote the goals of the Mexican Revolution and other left-wing causes. During its heyday from the late 1930s to the late 1950s, the TGP produced thousands of low-cost prints and posters aimed at supporting workers’ rights, combatting corruption and violence, and promoting national and international unity.

Lime Kilns. Raul Anguiano (Mexican, 1915-2006), 1946, Lithograph, Hope College Collection

Publication of the Mexican People portfolio coincided with the 100th anniversary of the start of the Mexican-American War, which lasted from 1846 to 1848 and resulted in the United States claiming a large portion of Mexico’s northern territory. It also coincided with a renewed conversation about immigration that occurred as American politicians debated what to do about the Bracero program, which brought hundreds of thousands of Mexican workers to the United States to fill vital farm and factory jobs during World War II. Although Bracero workers were supposed to come into the US on fixed-term labor contracts, some wanted the ability to extend their contracts while others wanted to stay in the US permanently. Many American farmers supported extending the Bracero program as they had become highly reliant on Mexican labor to maintain their agricultural output. In the end, the Bracero program was extended until 1964 and provided a legal channel for more than five million Mexicans to work in the US on a seasonal or full-time basis during those years.

Lumber Workers. Alfredo Zalce (Mexican, 1908-2003), 1946, Lithograph, Hope College Collection

The Mexican People portfolio presents a positive image of Mexicans as being hardworking and industrious. It includes captions in both Spanish and English that explain the subjects of each print and shows on a map of Mexico where the different scenes are located. The portfolio was distributed in the United States through Associated American Artists, a New York-based gallery that was dedicated to providing original works of art at affordable prices to middle-class consumers. Approximately 250 copies of the portfolio were issued in the United States. Some of the portfolios were broken up and the prints were sold off individually; other copies of the portfolio were kept intact.

The complete portfolio is on view in the Kruizenga Museum through January 26. Admission is always free and everyone is welcome. Gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10am to 4pm.

Silver Mine Worker

Francisco Mora (Mexican, 1922-2002), 1946, Lithograph, Hope College Collection, 2016.1.1.2

Mexico is home to some of the richest silver deposits in the world.  After the Spanish conquest of Mexico in the 16th century, huge quantities of Mexican silver were shipped overseas to fuel the economies of Europe and Asia. Historically most Mexican silver was mined by hand. Miners often worked in low tunnels with poor ventilation and drainage and accidental deaths were common. The exploitation of Mexican mines and miners continued well into the 20th century, as we see in this Francisco Mora print depicting a miner working in the state of Hidalgo north of Mexico City.

Lime Kilns

Raul Anguiano (Mexican, 1915-2006), 1946, Lithograph, Hope College Collection, 2016.1.1.4

Lime is a calcium-rich mineral that was traditionally produced by burning limestone or chalk in large kilns. It is a vital ingredient in cement and concrete around the world. In Mexico it is also often used to whitewash adobe houses and to prepare maize for cooking. Making lime can be dangerous. The smoke from the kilns contains particles that can damage the lungs, while the intense light of the kiln fire can damage the eyes. Raul Anguiano captures the hot, back-breaking nature of lime production in this image of a lime factory near the town of Tula de Allende in central Mexico.

Lumber Workers

Alfredo Zalce (Mexican, 1908-2003), 1946, Lithograph, Hope College Collection, 2016.1.1.11

The Lacandon Jungle in the state of Chiapas in southern Mexico is a lush tropical rainforest filled with a bountiful variety of trees, plants and animals. Because it was remote and difficult to access, the Lacandon Jungle remained relatively intact until the late 19th century. Since then, however, large sections of the rainforest have been cut down to make way for mining operations, coffee and rubber plantations as well as agricultural farms and ranches. Today only ten percent of the original forest remains untouched. This print depicts sawyers in the Gulf Coast port of Ciudad del Carmen cutting tropical hardwood logs from Chiapas into standard lengths so that they can be shipped off to market in the United States and Europe.

Student Profile: Theatre Major Katrina Dykstra Thrives in NYC

Katrina Dykstra, left, performs in The Christmas Carol with Titan Theatre. Photo by Michael Pauley

I had the privilege of spending four months in New York City last fall, working with the Titan Theatre Company, a classical theatre company based in Queens. In my time with Titan, I helped set up a fundraising gala, understudied roles and worked on the set and costume designs for their production of The Tempest, and worked on the costumes and performed in their production of A Christmas Carol.

I met Lenny Banovez, the artistic director of Titan, through Hope Summer Repertory Theatre (HSRT) in the spring of 2018. (Lenny is also the artistic director for HSRT so he was on our campus  last spring to get ready for summer shows.) I knew I would be spending a semester in New York with the GLCA New York Arts Semester, a program Hope has had a long association with, so I got up the courage to asked Lenny if I could work for Titan. I am so happy that I took that small risk.  Working for a smaller company like Titan gave me opportunity to use all of my theatre skills, from costumes to performing, and allowed me to work closely with their entire team, from the artistic director to the general manager to the artistic associate. My experience ended up being so personalized to me, and I gained so many friends and professional connections through the process.

I quickly fell in love with New York bagels and the busy sidewalks, and found my routine of daily errands, internship tasks and night-time rehearsals.

Moving to New York from West Michigan was definitely a big transition. I was definitely a little scared when I showed up at LaGuardia Airport in Queens with two bags, my backpack, and myself. From grocery shopping to getting a cup of coffee, life just looks different in New York.  I had to learn how to navigate subways and buses, and I walked more than I ever have in my life! I quickly fell in love with New York bagels and the busy sidewalks, and found my routine of daily errands, internship tasks and night-time rehearsals. Having the opportunity to go to New York for four months and only focus on theatre was such a gift, and I’m so grateful to Hope College and the New York Arts Program for enabling me to do this.

A Christmas Carol scene with Katrina Dykstra, seated back right. Photo by Michael Pauley

My NYC internship was perfect to round out my college career as I was able to put to work all the skills I have learned with my Hope theatre education. Being in NYC also allowed me to bring back some knowledge and experience about the “real world” and share it with my friends and classmates, such as what going to Broadway chorus auditions looks like, or the best place to get soup dumplings.

A highlight of my time in New York was working on A Christmas Carol. A guest director, Tony Clements, came in to work on the production. Getting to work with a director and actors who have Broadway credits was such an incredible experience for me as a student, and as an actor looking to work in the field. I learned so much just by watching them work in rehearsal, whether I was onstage with them in a scene or not. We were lucky enough to sell out most of the shows for A Christmas Carol, and it was an experience I will never forget.

From hemming tablecloths to sewing rope onto sails to performing, I got to experience every part of what it takes to put up a theatre production in a small New York theatre. I am so grateful for what the New York Arts Program and Titan Theatre Company helped me do this past semester, and I’m hoping to go back to New York soon!

Editor’s note: At the regional Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival held in Madison, Wisconsin earlier this month, Katrina won a regional Theatrical Design Excellence award for her costume design for Hope’s production of Shiloh last April.  As a part of this honor, she is invited to attend the national KCACT Festival in Washington, D.C. in April.  She has also been cast as Nina in Hope’s April production of The Seagull so it will be a busy semester for her!