Tehuana Urbana: How Cultural Mestizaje Shaped the Revolutionary Persona of Aurora Reyes, Mexico's First Female Muralist
The connection between the visual arts and revolutionary social change is the inspiration for this dissertation. In a 1953 interview, Aurora Reyes, Mexico's first female muralist, declared, 'Art is the medium with the greatest potential to penetrate human emotions, and therefore functions as a powerful weapon in the fight for the rights of the common man.' In the following chapters, I identify the ways in which the officially sanctioned visual narrative of Mexican history evolved during the transition from the Porfirian to the Revolutionary State. By tracing the artistic precursors of the revolution, I attempt to illuminate the role of cultural mestizaje and material culture in achieving sustainable social change in early twentieth century Mexico. The transition from Porfirian to revolutionary Mexico did not happen overnight. It required the committed efforts of several generations of artists and intellectuals. This creative cohort worked diligently to construct an alternative form of cultural nationalism that valued the nation's indigenous legacy. By simultaneously tracing the artistic and familial provenance of revolutionary artist Aurora Reyes, I provide a glimpse of the social balancing that defines revolutionary change. In addition to traditional archival sources, this interdisciplinary investigation required an analysis of 'alternative documents.' I consulted photographs, works of art, song lyrics, and poetry in an attempt to describe and explain the effects of cultural mestizaje as a formative influence on Reyes and her cohort. Their attraction to indigenous culture was not cultivated via written communications; therefore, my analysis of the process required a broad range of sources. I hope this work will inspire more historians to look to visual elements of the historic record to help explain social change.