Materials: Wood, metal, leather, plastic
This object is an accordion, a musical instrument invented in Europe in the 1800s. It was brought to America by European immigrants and is especially popular in French-Louisiana and along the Texas/Mexico border.
In Texas, the accordion is mainly used in a genre of music developed by working class Texas-Mexican peoples at the turn of the nineteenth century. This genre is known as conjunto music. In the 1890s, Texas had strong German, Polish, and Czech influences from all the immigrants settling in the area. These cultures brought their music and instruments along with the rest of their culture, and the local Tejanos began to pick up their musical influences – particularly the polka, which used the violin and the accordion prominently.
There were many prominent Texan artists famous for their skill in playing the accordion. Men like Narciso Martinez, known as El Huracan del valle or “The Hurricane of the Valley,” Santiago Jimenez, and Valerio Longoria made the conjunto style of music popular throughout the twentieth century.
San Antonio, Texas holds an annual International Accordion Festival which has been conducted since 2001. It incorporates not only conjunto style music, but Cajun, zydeco, Czech, and German styles as well. There is also the Accordion Kings and Queens concert that takes place in Houston, Texas, hosted by the Texas Folk Life organization. [Caitlin Bernstein, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]
Materials: Wood, Fabric, and Hair
This doll is a figure of a dancing woman wearing a stylized Hispanic dress. Dresses like these were typically worn in a traditional Mexican folk dance. Baile Folklórico is Spanish for “folk dance” and is the term for the various traditional dances of the Latin American people, from South America to Mexico and Central America. These dances are expressions of the lives and culture of the Latin American people, they use indigenous and inherited folk dances to make a religious, social, or political statement. The dresses used are typically brightly colored and have a long skirt with many layers so they flare out when the dancer spins.
With the end of the Mexican Revolution in the early 20th century came a new era in Mexico, the war had ended but the culture and government was radically changing. The cultural renaissance happening in Mexico at this time provoked a dialogue on the social inequalities and the ambiguity of the Mexican identity. Famous modern artists, such as Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, expressed these inequalities through public art. Baile Folklórico dances became popular at this time as well, while dramatic changes were happening in society the dances revived the awareness of the native heritage.
The Ballet Folklórico de Mexico, created by Amalia Hernández in the late 1950s, was the first professional folklórico performing company. It is internationally recognized and serves as ambassador of Mexican folklore and arts across the world. The Ballet Folklórico has helped significantly in not only the preservation, but the growth of the Mexican Baile Folklórico traditions. Many of the Mexican States have their own distinct techniques and costumes, attributed to geographic differences or influences of indigenous or European groups. A variety of Ballet Folklórico dances are featured every year here at the Institute of Texan Cultures during the Texas FolkLife Festival.
The cultural renaissance in Mexico resonated throughout the 20th Century, no doubt inspiring in the Mexican American population in the U.S. During the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s and 1960s. Along with African Americans, all people of color including Chicanos began to assert their cultural and historical heritage through art during this time. The intended audiences of these works were la gente del barrio, or the people from the local communities or neighborhoods. These various art mediums confront and affirm traditions, beliefs, and practices of the culture. They are intended to not only express heritage, but to educate and empower people by celebrating their cultural identity and confronting social issues. Today, muralism is still popular in asserting the identity of a culture. San Antonio is known for its downtown murals where artists, such as Adriana Garcia, and other local artists unite and inspire the community through public art. The San Anto Cultural Arts, established in 1933, has a public art program that encourages members of the community to participate in the creation of murals, inspiring pride in the community. [Sara Countryman, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]
This comb was donated by a descendant of Dr. Aureliano Urratia, who was an exile from Mexico during the 1910 Mexican Revolution. Before the revolution, Mexico was led by Porfirio Diaz. Diaz and his government was essentially a dictatorship, running Mexico from 1876 to 1911. During his years in power, Diaz achieved a level of political stability and economic development that had yet to have been seen. This fast development caused many changes in Mexico, some of these changes would eventually lead to the revolution.
One of the avenues for economic development was commercial agriculture. Mexican and foreign entrepreneurs expanded their land holdings and focused their efforts on raising cash crops such as sugar, henequen, and cotton. However, this would lead to problems with smaller villages and peasants. These massive estates controlled all the farm lands in rural Mexico. Prior to the growth of commercial agriculture, some of the land had been rented out to the local villagers and peasants to use for food and grain production, but now the landlords devoted all their lands to cash crops which were more profitable than renting the land. Without access to land, rural villages and peasants struggled to get food to support themselves. The size of these estates and the amount of land taken was so great, that a quarter of the land in Mexico was held by only 834 people.
The takeover of vast amounts of peasant and village land was not the only reason for the revolution, but it was a major one. As Diaz’s reign continued, many started to become frustrated with the regime. Early in the 1900s, the Partido Liberal Mexicano (PLM) was formed which called for a four year presidential term, minimum wage, eight hour workday, and an end to child labor.
The call for a four-year presidential term limit shows the frustration that was being felt by many. In the 1910 election, Francisco Madero would choose to run against Diaz. Diaz would go on to arrest Madero, and this would spark the revolution. In the early days, Madero would escape the reach of Diaz by hiding in many towns in the southern United States, including San Antonio. But despite not being in the country, many rose up and lead forces in his name, or in the name of revolution.
Many of those who rebelled against the government were poorer agricultural workers. This can be seen in the makeup of revolutionary leader Pascual Orozco’s men, who were primarily ranchers, peasant farmers, shepherds, or muleteers. This shows the resentment that the poorer agricultural workers had for the commercial farming program.
This revolution would take years and much bloodshed to reach its conclusion. In 1920 Alvaro Obregon would become president after ten years of conflict. With the signing of the Constitution of 1917, laws were put into place that addressed the issues that groups like the PLM were most concerned about. The constitution gave peasants the right to their land, a minimum wage, right to education, and more. The Revolution of 1910 in Mexico was very important in making the country we know today. [Ryan Farrell, edited by Kathryn S. McCloud]
Wood & Son, England
This object is a commemorative plate with the image of Benito Juarez and Porfirio Diaz with the Mexican flag in the background. Benito Juarez and Porfirio Diaz played important roles in Mexican history during the 1800s. Both came from backgrounds connected to Mexico’s indigenous population. They would find themselves at the top of Mexican politics and eventually served as Presidents during the nineteenth and into the early twentieth centuries.
The Mexican-American War began in 1946 and marked the beginning of an aggressive campaign to expand the United States territory from coast to coast. Manifest Destiny had been a popular idea throughout the 19th century and was used in 1945 by John L. O’Sullivan, an editor for the Democratic Review. This idea was used to support the annexation of Texas and the acquisition of California, Utah, Nevada, Arizona and New Mexico by the United States . By 1948 the war was over and the United States now claimed a third of Mexican territory.
Benito Juarez was born 1806 in Oaxaca, Mexico. Despite his upbringing in a peasant Zapotec family, Juarez gained the education and connections needed to begin his participation in politics by 1831 as a lawyer and liberal politician. He participated in the denouncement of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo and ex-President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna. Later he was also against the Mexican-American War. By 1957, Benito Juarez had gained the people’s support and was democratically elected as the President of Mexico where he served until his death in 1872.
Porfirio Diaz was born in 1830 in a poor mestizo, or part Indian family. Diaz joined the Mexican-American War at 16 although he never saw combat. An avid supporter of Juarez, he was brought under him as a protégé after the Mexican-American War. He supported Juarez’s regime as a prominent member in the military. During the French Intervention, when France took over Mexico and installed Maximilian of Austria-Hungary as a monarch, Diaz continued to play an important part in the military push against the French. He was present as the Battle of Puebla in 1862 which successfully pushed back the French from advancing on Mexico City and is celebrated today as Cinco de Mayo.
Porfirio Diaz would go on to become President from 1877 to 1880. After his handpicked successor failed him, he ran for reelection in 1884 and would soon become the dictator of Mexico until 1911. At that point his administration was opposed militarily by Francisco Madero which pushed Diaz into exile in France where he died in 1915. [Briana Miano edited by Joscelynn Garcia]
I-0226 c, e, & g
San Andres Chicahuaxtla, Oaxaca, Mexico
These three objects are clothing items from the Trique tribe of Oaxaca, Mexico. The first object is a belt called a soyate, the second is a tunic or shirt called a huipil, and the third is a wraparound skirt called an enredo. Each of these objects are handmade textiles from the village of San Andres Chicahuaxtla and have connections to past clothing traditions of the native peoples of Mexico. All together they create a complete outfit a young woman would wear.
There are five villages of Trique people in the mountainous region of southern Oaxaca, Mexico. The San Andres Chicahuaxtla, San Jose Xochixtlan, San Martin Itunyoso, Santo Domingo del Estado, and the San Juan Copala. Altogether, the population of the Trique is about 30,000-40,000 people. The Trique are descendants of native indigenous groups dating back thousands of years. Trique is not only their name but the name for the language which links the five villages together. Each village does have differences though and can be divided into the lowland and highland groups. The Trique continue to be a part of Oaxacan culture today.
The clothing items are from the San Andres Chicahuaxtla village. The huipil is the main item of clothing and has the biggest connection to the Trique cultural identity. Originally, the huipil and other clothing items would have been made of hand spun and dyed cotton. Because of the added work and materials needed for dyes, older huipils are mostly white in color. The main band of color was always present at chest level and went across the front and back of the huipil. The enredo is a knee-length skirt that would have been worn underneath the long, tunic-like huipil and held in place by the soyate. The soyate is wrapped at the top of the skirt and then tucked under itself to stay in place. Traditional dress also included brown wool shawls. The Trique women didn’t have foot or headwear though. Red, blue, white, black, and brown were the main colors used in their clothing.
The Trique are still around today and continue to make their clothing. Despite technological advances, the Trique have managed to keep their traditional art of weaving while incorporating manufactured textiles. This has allowed there to be more intricate and colorful creations. Without having to lose their culture and traditions, the Trique have found a way to benefit from modern society while remaining true to their traditions. However, lately they have been facing problems. Clashes between individual villages and the government have led to unrest and some Trique have been removed from their homes. Today indigenous communities, are faced with the threat of modern day governments and big businesses. [Briana Miano edited by Joscelynn Garcia]
El Chico Restaurant
This item is an El Chico menu from the 1960’s. El Chico is a Mexican restaurant chain in the southern United States. The history of the El Chico restaurant begins with the Cuellar family in the late 1800’s. Adelaida Cuellar was born near Matehuala, Nuevo Leon, Mexico on May 30, 1871. In 1892, Adelaida moved to Texas with Marcario Cuellar, where the couple eventually married in Laredo, Texas. Speaking only Spanish, the couple worked on farms near Laredo, Lockhart, Rosebud and San Marcos . In 1913 Adelaida and Marcario relocated their 11 children to Kaufman, Texas where they found work as sharecroppers.
By 1926, they had 12 children that Adelaida needed to help support. In order to make extra money, she sold homemade tamales at the Kaufman County Fair. She was so successful that she did the same thing the next year. Other working-class Mexican immigrants also found they could make additional cash by selling food, often during festivals. In San Antonio during the 1880’s, vendors (often Mexican women) called “Chili Queens” would set up stalls in the city square. Some stalls would sell chili con carne with bread for only a dime. In the 1890’s tamale men would push their carts around town selling their wares. The city of San Antonio banned tamale men from certain neighborhoods around town. Eventually they allowed street vending in the 1940’s as long as they met certain criteria. These were not the only difficulties vendors of Mexican food encountered.
In Los Angeles, between 1900 and 1925 the city council tried to pass legislation barring tamale wagons. In 1903, vendors joined together to present the city council with a petition signed by 500 of their customers. The city council succeeded in banning them, but they continued to sell their food nonetheless. Those men came to be known as loncheras. Vendors were sometimes exceedingly popular, like the vendors at the San Antonio Chili Stand selling food at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago.
At first, some Americans viewed Mexican food as dangerous. Spicy foods were stigmatized and companies started to sell their own versions of canned Mexican food with ingredients advertised as better than the original. It wasn’t until the 20th century with the arrival of family restaurants that Mexican-Americans were able to redeem their culinary culture.
In 1928 two of Adelaida Cuellar’s adult children, Frank and Amos, borrowed $350 from her to open a restaurant in Kaufman (it closed after 2 years due to the onset of the Great Depression). Adelaida cooked for the restaurant. By the time their family restaurant opened, Mexican food had been in the United States for some time. The first business to offer Mexican food was San Antonio’s Original Mexican Restaurant in 1900.
In 1933, Adelaida revived the family restaurant in Kaufman. Her sons opened several other restaurants in the 1930s but none enjoyed success until they opened El Charro, later known as El Chico, in 1940. Opened in Dallas, the restaurant featured air-conditioning, which allowed the restaurant to stay open during the summer when others in the area usually had to close. As they grew more successful, they expanded their restaurant chain and Adelaida’s sons earned the nickname “Mama’s Boys.” In 1955 the family entered into the frozen food business. By the time Adelaida died on April 13, 1969 in Dallas, El Chico Corporation had extended their interests into 20 different business ventures which ranged from restaurants to canning.
The food industry allowed a number of Mexican immigrants to find success in the United States, including Larry Cano of Los Angeles. He got his start as a dishwasher before eventually purchasing El Torito, a restaurant chain that popularized sit-down Mexican dining in America. The popularity of Mexican food increased so much that by the 1990’s, Mexican food became one of the top 3 varieties of ethnic foods in the United States. In 1991 Salsa replaced Ketchup as the top selling condiment in the U.S. Today, Mexican food has become an integral part to American culture. [Ashton Meade, edited by Joscelynn Garcia]