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date: 24 April 2017

José Vasconcelos, National Education, and Revolutionary Culture in Mexico

Summary and Keywords

As Mexico’s minister of public education from 1921 to 1924, José Vasconcelos played a prominent role in efforts to create a new national identity expressing the 1910 Revolution’s goals of an inclusive society and equitable nation, opportunities created through education, and shared cultural expressions. Vasconcelos has been widely praised for his educational campaigns, especially in the countryside, among indigenous communities, and for his literacy programs in the city. According to these recent interpretations, his efforts as minister of public education have been both over- and underestimated. Nevertheless, the revolutionary national identity that he helped to foster with his discussion of mestizaje in La Raza Cósmica (The Cosmic Race; 1925) has since been ingrained into everyday life and culture.

Keywords: José Vasconcelos, Ministry of Public Education, rural education, Mexican indigenous programs, Luis Márquez, Rafael Ramírez, Cosmic Race, mestizaje

  • The great brief intellectual flowering
  • which we succeeded in creating would
  • not otherwise have been possible, for
  • the hardest thing to improvise is culture.
  • Everywhere we found intelligent men of
  • good will who in the midst of indifference
  • and skepticism were almost heroic.1

The Vasconcelos Plan

The 1910 Mexican revolutionaries committed their regime to creating a new culture, an inclusive society, and an equitable nation at the beginnings of the 1920s. Less heralded than land reform and worker organization, their cultural campaign still received general fanfare and widespread acceptance. The revolutionary culture program began largely through the educational initiatives inaugurated by José Vasconcelos (1882–1959), the secretary of the newly re-created Ministry of Public Education (1921) during the Alvaro Obregón administration (1920–1924). The secretary had a deep-seated and long-standing commitment to education; while in exile in Lima, Peru, during the presidency of Venustiano Carranza (1916–1920), he had developed an educational plan. His proposal for the new ministry drew inspiration from the program developed by Anatoly Lunacharsky, the first Soviet Commissar for Enlightenment in charge of culture and education, although immodestly Vasconcelos believed he had created a simpler and better organized initiative.

The Vasconcelos plan aimed at the creation of a nation that shared both a mixed ethnicity and Hispanic culture.2 It aimed, succinctly stated, “at incorporating the … people—including the indigenous communities—into a unified, literate, Spanish-speaking nation” accomplished through secular and standardized education that valued Western civilization at large and Hispanic culture in particular. His program had two major parts: to bring all communities into national life and to adapt values from the indigenous peoples in the creation of a revolutionary culture—what could be called an indigenous-inspired aesthetic.3

The educational program encompassed the entire nation4 and called for a three-part administration of schools, libraries, and fine arts. The latter had responsibility for the instruction of singing, drawing, and physical fitness in all schools and supervision of existing institutions such as the Academy of Fine Arts, the National Museum, and the Conservatories of Music. Members of the national congress also insisted the new ministry include a department of indigenous culture.5

Vasconcelos identified what he considered two exigent situations, the indigenous population not speaking Spanish language and the lack of literacy among the general population, and he created provisional departments to teach Spanish to the indigenous peoples of the countryside and literacy throughout the nation, but especially in the cities. For reaching the rural populations, he drew on the model of Spanish missionaries by creating teacher missions that he called “Missionaries of Indigenous Culture and Public Education,” which included the basic instructor and at times other experts in agriculture, arts, and crafts. He envisioned, among his more expansive plans, what he called village readers who would read aloud history, geography, and newspapers in the plaza and musicians who would play tunes to awaken local interest in traditional melodies. Vasconcelos summed up his educational goals, saying: “Youth would be the new cosmic race which we could forge; but Indianism means going back for millennia”—in other words, he imagined a uniform mestizo population and consequently opposed preserving indigenous cultural diversity promoted by Manuel Gamio and other anthropologists—through the educational campaign.6

Vasconcelos has remained highly praised for his campaigns as the minister of public education, even when his rural programs were described with gentle sarcasm about his wish for students to master classics such as Plato and Homer. (He once told Obregón he wanted to distribute 100,000 copies of the Iliad and other classics throughout the countryside, and his program to do so may explain the availability still today of cheap copies of Dante’s Inferno in public markets.7) He has received widespread praise for his rural educational program. Young women especially became educational evangelists and the secretary has received recognition—“in the whole history of Mexico there does not exist any official project for the redemption of women comparable to it or as practical”8—for creating opportunities for females. Vasconcelos has been acclaimed as well for serving as the patron of Diego Rivera, David A. Siqueiros, and José Clemente Orozco, who became famous worldwide as grand masters of mural art.9

This evaluation stands, even though Vasconcelos became increasingly controversial beginning with his 1929 presidential campaign fiasco, because of his racial and later racist views, his increasingly fascist politics, and his misogynist social attitudes,10 euphemistically excused by one author, saying, “he chafed under the restrictions of family life.” As for his ethnic and racist views before 1929, they were embedded in discussions of the Cosmic Race and were rather conventional in some intellectual circles because they built on interpretations concerning the mestizo developed in the last decades of the 19th century by Positivists, beginning with Gabino Barrera and continuing through Andrés Molina Enríquez.11 In his change on racial issues by the early 1930s, Vasconcelos wanted his nation to get in step in the direction of the future represented by Adolf Hitler and German Nazism.12

Regarding their interpretations of Vasconcelos, historians and other scholars over the past two decades have reached a number of conclusions and interpretations about the cultural revolution, Obregón’s administration, social programs, indigenous peoples, and official mestizaje as redemption of the nation. These interpretations intimate the need for a reassessment of Vasconcelos as minister of education and his programs of literacy in Spanish, art with revolutionary motifs, and music of the common people.13 What becomes immediately apparent is that several essential persons associated with the ministry, such as Joaquín Beristáin, Eulalia Guzmán, and Rafael Ramírez, have been ignored or pushed to the background, where they stand in Vasconcelos’s shadow. Within the ministry, Rafael Ramírez, who had taught in both the countryside and the city and held various titles including the director of rural education, managed the daily activities of the teachers. With assistance from Roberto Medellín, he dispatched and supervised educational missions into the countryside.14 He remained in his position under several revolutionary presidents and represented Mexico at the II Conferencia Interamericana de Educación (CIE) in 1934 in Santiago de Chile.15 He managed the day-to-day programs as the attention and praise went to Vasconcelos.

Other successful cabinet ministers without Vanconcelos’s gift for self-promotion have been largely ignored. Perhaps the best example is Gabriel Malda, head of the Department of Public Health, who promoted a successful campaign against infectious diseases that altered health conditions within the nation.16 The necessary re-evaluation of Vasconcelos has begun with the documentary La passion de José Vasconcelos, written by Lucia Beltrán, using newly available documents, and directed by Alvaro Vázquez Montecón.17 The conclusion that this revision suggests is that Vasconcelos’s significance as minister of public education, depending on the specific program, has been both over- and underestimated.

The Cosmic Race

Vasconcelos’s career diverges, according to nearly all scholars, at his 1929 unsuccessful presidential campaign, but after his service as secretary of public education ended in 1925, he turned to the consideration of high theory and deep philosophy, without the bitterness and extremism that followed his defeat in the presidential campaign. The years from 1925 to 1929 provide a convenient era in which to consider his ideas. In 1925, he published The Cosmic Race, his classic statement on the mestizo and the significance of mestizaje for Mexico and Latin America. This coincided with the first national recognition for Mariano Azuela’s novel of the Revolution, Los de Abajo, and the death of Heriberto Frias, author of Tomochic.18 Together, these events resulted in a moment for reflection on mestizaje in the views of these three and other intellectuals who debated these issues.

Vasconcelos became duly famous for his promotion of the Cosmic Race, personified as the mestizo, who represented biological merging of the Spanish and Indigenous peoples, with the possible admixture of the cultures of African and Asian individuals as well. The mestizos, in his judgment, would form the new revolutionary nation, with a culture that was unmistakably Hispanic. In order to achieve this, he intended to establish a mass culture with the mass distribution of “both canonic literary and musical works, and everything that could be claimed as national and Hispanic.”19 Although he published his classic statement in 1925 after leaving the ministry, he provided the earliest view of these ideas in his 1907 law school thesis and in short pieces and speeches thereafter. He acted on his views from 1921 to 1924. This Cosmic Race meant that mestizos would become the new, revolutionary Mexicans. This Cosmic Race, in part, would spring from the regenerated indigenous peoples. The general revolutionary program of Indigenismo, the concern for the indigenous peoples, resulted, in the hands of Vasconcelos, in several programs for their assimilation, especially as designed through education in the countryside. His goal was to redefine “living Indians from a national embarrassment into an integral component” of the new revolutionary nation.20 He developed a plan for what he considered social regeneration for rural, especially indigenous, peoples through cultural programs that included traditional and folkloric demonstrations with related popular arts, music, dances, and handcrafts in the rediscovery of the grandeur of the indigenous past.

In the growing cities, Vasconcelos’s ministry, resolute in its nationalistic and educational ideals, initiated a major adult literacy campaign under the direction of Eulalia Guzmán. Guzmán later achieved fame for her studies of pre-Columbian indigenous stone monuments in the 1930s, and in 1949 she gained notoriety for proclaiming that the bones discovered in the village of Ixcateopan, Guerrero, were those of the last Aztec emperor, Cuauhtémoc.21

The secretary’s staunch nationalist views can be seen in his urban program of physical education. He said that he hated sports because he considered them “palliatives for the absurd life-system created by big business and the deplorable climate of England.”22 In his effort to eliminate foreign influence in the revolutionary society, he wanted to rescue physical education in particular from the U.S. Protestant institution the Young Men’s Christian Association, which had first arrived in Mexico in 1904. The Y had grown to three clubs in the capital with branches in Monterrey and Chihuahua by the 1920s, and the program was in the hands of Mexican administrators.23 Nevertheless, Vasconcelos launched a program to build gymnasiums and open-air swimming pools that were superior to those of the YMCA in order to demonstrate the vitality of the revolutionary regime.

The secretary placed his various programs in the hands of what historian Guillermo Palacios calls the pedagogical intellectuals, especially several from the Ateneo de Juventud of which Vasconcelos had been a member, and they controlled official cultural programs to a large extent until the 1940.24 Vasconcelos and his intellectual associates, including Antonio Caso, Gerardo Murillo (Dr. Atl), Adolfo Best Maugard, and Roberto Montenegro, attempted to give value to the indigenous past by promoting events that would illustrate the indigenous base of national identity. Stephen Lewis refers to this campaign developed by the circle of intellectuals in favor of rural, Indian peoples who made no contribution to its formulation as “Salon Indigenism.”25 Created by these intellectuals, they singled out indigenous art and music as the basis of a nationalist aesthetic. For example, professional dancers, notably Anne Sokolov, performed folkloric ballets such as Fantasía Mexicana, and composers Manuel Ponce and Carlos Chávez wrote classical music inspired by the traditional examples.26 Exhibitions of typical handcrafts were celebrated as expressions of the authentic national heritage, but neither Vasconcelos nor intellectuals such as Francisco Zamora, who used the authorial name Gerónimo Coignard, saw much in these items beyond inspiration for academy-trained artists. The inspiration that he envisioned would enable “painters, musicians, poets, and later filmmakers” to draw on “indigenous colors, design motifs, musical scales, linguistic tropes, and panoramic landscape …”27

Admiration for the secretary’s campaign ultimately turns to his rural education efforts. Certainly, Vasconcelos inspired this program, but its conception and its execution as everyday practice were two different things, and it seems more and more apparent that the person who put the plan into operation was Rafael Ramírez. At the level of theory, Vasconcelos certainly drew on the legacy of intellectuals who believed it was both possible and necessary to assimilate indigenous peoples, especially through education. That is, he believed in the creation of a cultural hybrid, the mestizo, who represented the Cosmic Race. Of particular importance in this regard were the conclusions reached by Andrés Molina Enríquez, author of the widely read Los Grandes Problemas Nacionales (1908). At the level of practice, Ramírez, devoted his attention to sending out teachers, overseeing their activities, and dispatching instructions and warnings about village life. Of particular concern to Ramírez was the prospect that teachers might use local languages rather than Spanish and, like the foreign traveler or zealous cultural anthropologist, “Go Native,” integrating into the indigenous community.28 Teachers at times faced community or family opposition to the schools that removed children from the workforce, taught them behavior contrary to community legacies, and encouraged ambitions that many parents considered inappropriate for their children. Success, measured by community reception of teachers and children’s participation in the schools, had a checkered character, depending on both families and communities.

The ministry developed a plan in 1922 to send teams of specialists into the countryside for three- to six-week visits, in some cases ahead of more permanent teachers for the community. The leader, who also served as a teacher trainer, led the mission that included specialists in “agricultural science, social work, health education and recreation, domestic sciences, building sciences, ‘small industries’ (crafts and trades such as soap-making and tanning), and music.” Ramírez directed the first mission in 1923 for a three-week visit to Zacualtipán, Hidalgo; Alfredo Tamayo served as the first musical specialist and reported that he taught both adult and children’s groups to sing the national anthem as well as other patriotic songs, such as “La Cucaracha.” The ministry judged the mission a success and created additional teams. By the end of Vasconcelos’s term as minister, eight missions were operating, and by 1945 there were eighteen active groups. The music instructor, besides teaching singing to both children and adults and organizing music groups, also had the responsibility of collecting folk music in the community.29 Although Ramírez, as the director of rural education, was responsible for the daily activities of the teachers, the attention and praise went to Vasconcelos.

The celebration of Vasconcelos notwithstanding, the major support for indigenous peoples came from anthropologists. Manuel Gamio and Moisés Sáenz, often at odds with each other and with the Vasconcelos program, looked to rural projects not for social regeneration, but as campaigns to reinvigorate the indigenous communities. The inspiration of these anthropologists was Columbia University professor Franz Boas, who had served as the first director of Mexico’s Escuela International de Antropología, founded in 1910. Boas had developed theories of cultural relativism that rejected the theories of racial evolution. The anthropologists trained by Boas, or who followed his analysis, attempted model community programs of education and public health to give vitality to indigenous villages.30 The Indigenistas, not all anthropologists, first found a place in the new revolutionary bureaucracy in 1917, with the founding of the Dirección de Antropología within the Ministry of Agriculture. This agency set out to promote indigenous peoples. Indigenistas such as Manuel Gamio, regarded as the father of Mexican anthropology, Lucio Mendieta y Niniez, Carlos Basauri, and Miguel Othon de Mendizabal attempted to combine revolutionary enthusiasm and new social science zeal in order to document and preserve Indian cultures. Eventually the Indigenistas fell into ideological conflicts during the Vasconcelos era, but they did achieve public prominence through the Ministry of Education’s Cultural Missions. Gamio initiated a pilot project during the 1910s in the Teotihuacan Valley. Other anthropologists endorsed the idea and attempted its implementation. A notable effort came through the efforts of the John Geddings Gray Memorial Expedition in 1928, jointly sponsored by the Ministry of Education and Tulane University. The Indigenistas later found greater success, at least in the numbers who participated, through the Casa del Estudiante Indígena (1926), Educación Socialista (1934), the Departamento Autonómo de Asuntos Indigenas (DAAI) (1936), and the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia (1938).31 Anthropologists, especially Sáenz, continued model village programs under President Lázaro Cárdenas (1934–1940) in Actopán, Hidalgo, and Carapan, Michoacán. From the beginning of the Vasconcelos era, these anthropologists also investigated the efforts of other Latin American nations with large indigenous populations to adapt successful programs. Sáenz, for example, under the auspices of Secretaría de Educación Pública in 1931, traveled to Guatemala to observe efforts toward the cultural incorporation of the Indian in national life. Later, he also visited Ecuador, Bolivia, and Peru in search of programs that could benefit Mexico.32

Vasconcelos’s emphasis on an assimilation program for the indigenous generally receives discussion as the implementation aspect of his theoretical construct of the Cosmic Race. Oddly, his youthful experience in Sasabé, Sonora, with its common tales of Apache attacks, provided his mother with cautionary stories should he be kidnapped. The stories included enough melodrama to ensure they would be remembered, and they were twisted by the minister into a personal hero myth that has not been connected to his opposition to preservationist programs. Moreover, during his youth in Sonora, the federal army, in the process of pushing the Yaqui people off their lands, fought a brutal war that included deporting captives to the henequen fields of Yucatán. Nothing in these frontier experiences of raids and wars, it would seem, might have created for Vasconcelos an argument for preservation programs.33

Rather, the mestizaje that created the nation’s hybrid population—the Cosmic Race—legitimated the revolutionary government through programs to include the entire national population. In both theoretical discussions and policy formulations of the mestizo people, the critical foundational group was the Indigenous, who posed grave problems of identification. The resulting programs of assimilation have been explained as “intercultural democratization,” “the positive mark of … national identity,” “de-Indianization,” and, “by extension, ethnocide.”34 In addition to the anthropologists committed to preserving Indigenist communities, various other intellectuals also rejected the Vasconcelos cultural program, including the Peruvian José Carlos Mariátegui, Mexican writers Martín Luis Guzmán and Roldolfo Usigli, and several independent-minded painters; by the end of the 1920s the latter were rejecting the muralists’ resolute revolutionary images used in national social campaigns and turning to more cosmopolitan and individual subjects. For example, María Izquierdo, beginning in the late 1920s, painted a series of nude females, who were obviously neither indigenous nor rural, unlike the women typically portrayed by the muralists.35 These painters were soon joined by photographers who also rejected the indigenous and rural sentimentality of the muralists in general.

After the departure of Vasconcelos, during the administration of Plutarco E. Calles, new efforts in the educational ministry turned to the creation of the Casa del Estudiante Indígena, designed to train indigenous youths, who were supposed to return home and become community educators and leaders. During its brief existence from 1927 to 1932, under director Enrique Corona, the boarding school Indian students served as the case study for the Indianistas led by Gonzalo Aguirre Beltrán. The institution soon became a normal school for Indian teachers, expected to return home as instructors. Highly publicized and celebrated throughout its existence for the assimilation of the students into mestizo society, the Casa del Estudiante Indígena closed with little attention to the fact that few students actually returned to their communities.36 The anthropological view of preserving indigenous cultures through native language became national policy in 1943, when Jaime Torres Bodet became minister of public education and initiated a literacy campaign that included bilingual education in Indian learning centers.37

Preserving Indigenous Cultures

The formation of the Cosmic Race through the promotion of the mestizo would eliminate indigenous cultures, as anthropologists and scholars noted.38 What has been largely ignored or at least not generally appreciated are the efforts Vasconcelos made, perhaps in anticipation of the disappearance of these cultures, to document the nation’s indigenous diversity. He outlined a campaign to identity, survey, and record the cultures of the nation’s rural, especially indigenous peoples. This included a call for suggestions as to how the nation might celebrate the centennial of the achievement of independence in 1921 that prompted a proposal “to find out what groups lived where, how they lived, in what numbers, what languages they spoke, and what traditions they followed.” Although the government had never achieved this previously, citing its lack of expertise, funds, and, possibly, interest, Vasconcelos seems to have undertaken this responsibility.39 On the other hand, perhaps motivated by the assumption that the living communities were destined to disappear, he took steps to preserve descriptions, images, and examples of these cultures for posterity. This resulted in programs involving teachers, artists, writers, and intellectuals who visited remote regions of the country to record the diverse cultural traditions of village ethnic groups through descriptions of markets, archeological ruins, fiestas, houses, milpas (corn patches), and daily life. Vasconcelos requested, through directives sent by Ramírez, that the teachers collect information on local practices and customs. This information was intended to provide an important profile of ethnicity and ethnography of the countryside for both descriptive purposes and policy making.40

Collecting folk music was also a part of Minister Vasconcelos’s design to preserve a record of the countryside. He instructed ethnomusicologist Joaquín Beristáin, working through the Ministry of Public Education’s Dirección de Cultura Estética, to record the music and sounds of the “popular soul,” following a project initiated during the Porfirian years by Manuel M. Ponce.41 Several investigators under Beristáin’s direction worked to preserve regional music that seemed to be disappearing. Among this group, Ignacio Fernández Esperón became the best known. He soon became a performer using the professional name Tata Nacho and was known especially for “La Borrachita.” This recovered song became popular enough that Plutarco Calles adopted it as his presidential campaign song in 1924. Other outstanding participants active as collectors or performers of folk songs were Concepción Michel, Carmen Herrera de Mendizábal, and Francisco Domínguez. The latter published Sones, Canciones y Corridos Michoacanos, and Música Popular de Oaxaca.42 Vasconcelos called on Beristáin to help him achieve his dream of a mass culture through what has been called “collective Neo-Platonist flights of the national soul.”43

The Vasconcelos project for music, whether devised by the minister or Beristáin, used developments in urban popular culture, popular music, and teatro de género chico and accepted the importance of the canción that had been advocated by Manuel M. Ponce. The campaign promoted Mexican songs and others from Spanish-speaking countries to thwart, as Vasconcelos said, the increasing popularity through movies and recordings of foreign popular genres such as the tango and the foxtrot.44

Vasconcelos, in one of his most successful aspects of this preservation program, hired a group of photographers to go into Mexico Profundo—the backcountry—and photograph the indigenous cultures in their wide-ranging and colorful diversity. His photographers included Luis Márquez, Alvaro Bravo, Hugo Brehme (a German), and Charles Waite (an American). He intended for the photographers to capture in particular the clothing styles and cultural practices along with the daily activities of the indigenous.45 The commissioned photographers took thousands of photos of individuals, especially women, documenting the culture practices of that era. The best known photographs were those by Luis Márquez.

Luis Márquez

Márquez had grown up in the artistic, bohemian world of actors, artists, and intellectuals concerned with issues of nationalism and identity in Mexico City. His father, José, was the agent for the famous actress Virginia Fábregas and the promoter and director of programs for Esperanza Iris at the Teatro Principal, later renamed the Teatro Iris, where among other performances he directed the sensational zarzuela, Chin Chun Chan. During the worst of the revolutionary fighting, in 1914, he led the theater company on a tour throughout Latin America and relocated his family to Cuba. There the youthful Luis became a skillful photographer and soon was well known in Havana. When he returned to Mexico City in 1921, he became a member of the intellectual circles attempting to foster cultural revolution. He was hired in 1922 as a member of the Taller de Fotografía y Cinematografía (The Photographic and Cinemagraphic Studio) of the Department of Bellas Artes in the Ministry of Education. He would soon be devoted to documenting the indigenous cultures. This experience shaped his life in a number of ways and shaped the emerging cultural nationalism.

The first indication that Márquez’s position would be more than a bureaucratic desk job came with an assignment to document the fiesta at the pilgrimage site in Chalma together with Father Canuto Flores, ethnographer Miguel Othón de Mendizábel, and the musicologist Francisco Domínguez. The resulting film is widely regarded as Mexico’s first documentary. The inspiration for the visit to Chalma seems to have come from Vanconcelos’s plans to develop films as a part of his educational mission.46 Moreover, an educated guess finds the presence of the minister’s head of the Department of Artistic Education, Adolfo Best Maugard. He participated in the collateral intellectual circle, including Rosa and Miguel Covarrubias, many of whom shared an interest in experimental films.47 This conclusion rests as well on the decision to expand the use of educational films through the Ministry of Education’s departments of Cultural Aesthetics (la Dirección de Cultura Estética), where Best Maugard worked in the sections devoted to Bellas Artes and Libraries.48

Whoever inspired the trip to Chalma, this experience gave direction to Márquez’s career and life as his first encounter with rural peoples and led him to explore the rural nation. His representation of the countryside and its residents was always picturesque. In 1923, Márquez visited Lake Patzcuaro and the Island of Janitzio, where he participated in the celebration of Day of the Dead. After this journey, he organized a night of “Danzas típicas del Estado de Michoacán y el ritual de la Noche de Difuntos” at the Murciélago Theater, with the assistance of Miguel Othón de Mendizábal and Francisco Domínguez. This soon became the experimental theater promoted by intellectuals, especially the members of the Estridentista movment, who called for an expressive and popular art that stressed regional diversity to avoid any folkloric standardization.49

Márquez continued to ponder the Janitzio experience for a number of years as he worked in the early movie industry. He participated in the production of five Cuban and three Mexican silent films and worked with Sergei Eisenstein filming Que Viva México. Finally, his ideas coalesced and resulted in the movie Janitzio, made with Emilio Fernández, El Indio, as its star. The now classic film debuted in 1935.

Visiting the pilgrimage site of Chalma had another profound effect on Márquez. While there, he purchased a complete regional costume from one of the fiesta participants. He became entranced with the clothing of indigenous women and collected examples of each cultural group that he photographed. His collection reached 2,800 complete costumes, all meticulously documented. He said later he had been approached several times by potential buyers but wanted the collection to serve as the basis for a Museo del Traje. In 1977, the collection was donated to El Claustro de Sor Juana, today part of the Colegio of the same name, and it remains an invaluable archive and index of indigenous material culture during the 1920s and 1930s. Meanwhile, Márquez worked in and around the movie industry for several decades, primarily as a still photographer. His approximately 200,000 photographs of pre-Hispanic, colonial, and modern art, landscapes, and indigenous customs comprise much of his archive at the Instituto de Investigaciones Esteticas, UNAM.50

Almost immediately after his first photographic and costume purchasing trip into the countryside, Márquez began to organize “folklore sketches” of different regions, in which he acted as host, providing information on the history of the indigenous group, explaining cultural practices, popular traditions, styles of dress, and local musical traditions. His sketches with nationalistic themes proved highly popular. He also worked with Julia Ruiz Sánchez to organize a cycle of conferences on the “Traditions and Customs of Mexico.” Amalia Hernández, who founded the Ballet Folklórico in 1952, acknowledged his influence.

Márquez’s photographs captured contemporary indigenous life and vestiges of the pre-Columbian past that, through the success of Vasconcelos’s promotion of educational and folkloric programs, reclaimed a vital national heritage. The photographic campaign both anticipated and contributed to the programs of the Murciélago Theater.51 Performances held there included Best Maugard’s “Gran noche mexicana” and the scenic sketches produced by Ermilo Abreu Gómez, Germán Cueto, and Tina Modotti. These programs represented the cultural and artistic influence of both indigenous and popular cultures as expressed in dance, theater, literature, movies, and photographs and related to other popular programs such as the contest to proclaim the “India Bonita.” Such initiatives fomented nationwide interest and recognition of indigenous communities.

Mestizo Images and Mass Culture

The official Vasconcelos program offered new opportunities to make use of the various cultures of daily life. Not for the first time, small businessmen discovered economic opportunities inherent in the creation of ideas about national identity.52 In 1922, printers Salvador García Guerrero and Francisco González de la Vega in 1922 founded the Enseñanza Objetiva, which in 1935 became the first printing house to produce promotional calendars in Mexico. Competitors, such as Galas de México, quickly followed.

Once printing companies undertook the production of calendars, they hired painters to produce the calendar images. Beginning in the 1930s, they portrayed on canvas folkloric figures, especially indigenous women, men in Charro suits, revolutionaries, and the landscape, along with images of the Virgin of Guadalupe, the Jarabe Tapatío, and the volcanoes that dominated the countryside. Prominent calendar artists such as A. X. Peña, Antonio Gómez R., Xavier Gómez, and Eduardo Cataño worked from photos to provide their calendar images with such accuracy that regional locations were immediately apparent. The calendar image artists drew heavily from the national imaginary created during the Vasconcelos years in the Ministry of Education that promoted revolutionary culture and national stereotypes. Vasconcelos wanted every pupil to learn the jarape tapatío, and this quickly became a popular subject for the calendars. Artists rented the photographs taken by Luis Márquez and other veterans of the Vasconcelos campaign to produce their paintings and on occasion paid to use huipiles, rebozos, serapes, or other items from Márquez’s costume collection to achieve a greater degree of detail. Márquez encouraged this attention to detail during the 1930s, when he served as the artistic advisor of Imprentas Galas. 53

The artists worked in oils on large canvasses that often reached 10 feet in width to accommodate the large cameras in use at the time. These paintings were then photographed and reproduced through chromolithography for the annual calendars. The calendar images circulated widely as large businesses such as José Cuervo tequila ordered as many as 200,000 calendars to distribute through cantinas. Of course, many other free and for-sale calendars were produced in lesser quantities. Such calendars often provided the only artistic decoration along with a cross or crucifix in the humble homes of poor rural communities. The images also appeared on other advertising items such as beer trays and folding fans. Moreover, Galas de México successfully began exporting the calendars to international Mexican communities in the United States, Cuba, and Haiti and to other Central and South American nations. The ethnic features of the calendar images, often based on photographs, also inspired an artistic renaissance in the 1930s, as Rufino Tamayo, Miguel Covarrubias, and Frida Kahlo painted indigenous figures and filmmakers Gabriel Figueroa and Sergei Eisenstein featured ethnicity and indigeneity in their films.54

These same Vasconcelos-inspired photographs by Márquez represented Mexico to international audiences, as the photographer participated in the World’s Fair organized to celebrate the centennial of Brazilian independence in Rio de Janeiro in 1923, the Ibero-American Exposition in Seville (1929–1930), and the New York’s World Fair (1939–1940). His photographs won awards in the first two exhibits, and in New York he took over the Mexican display and reorganized it in 1940.

Revolutionaries in the cities, in addition to Vasconcelos, turned their attention to the countryside in the effort to create a new national identity that included the indigenous population as part of the shared mestizo culture. Indianness was determined to be one of the characteristics that would unify the national society as the regime made efforts both to promote Indian cultures and link them to the new revolutionary national identity. One of the forms that this took was the creation of the India Bonita contest sponsored by newspaper editor Felix Palavicini beginning in 1921 in El Universal. Palavacini sent photographers to the markets of towns and cities to look for indias who qualified for the contest. While many people assumed young women dressed as indias could participate in the contests, organizers made it clear that they sought indigenous women whose features contrasted with the stereotypes of the Indians caricatured in urban folklore. The judges (anthropologist Manuel Gamio, contest organizer and later head of the department of Fine Arts Rafael Pérez Taylor, nativist artist Jorge Enciso, and dance and theater authorities Carlos Ortega and Aurelio González Carrasco) emphasized that Indianness was the major criterion for winning the contest; Gamio even relied on the Jenk’s Anthropomorphic Index of body measurements of the races to establish criteria. María Bibiana, selected by the judges for her light green rather than the requisite dark eyes, quickly became an inspiration for artists. Dressed in her traditional clothing, she appeared in pictures on the front page of El Universal (August 2, 1921) and in other sections that showed her barefoot and holding a gourd bowl and described her rural Puebla origins and her native language of Nahual. As she received invitations to important social and political events, María helped make the India Bonita figure popular with the middle and upper classes, who gained an appreciation of the indigenous contribution to the new revolutionary society. The India Bonita became a popular symbol of the nation’s promise to its indigenous population and patrimony of Indian authentic traditions. Her popularity sparked musical scores, including a foxtrot called La India Bonita, plays, songs, and poems. Theater reviews such as Antojitos Mexicanos and Mexicanarias and the widely celebrated play by Julio Sesto La India Bonita, starring Maria Conesa, included more reasonable, less stereotypical views of Indians. Only five months after the contest, the Obregón government incorporated the India Bonita into the centennial celebration, marking the achievement of independence from Spain. Both the India Bonita contest and the Exhibition of Popular Arts demonstrated the early effort to discover, validate, and promote things Mexican, beyond the programs in the Ministry of Education. It extended the nationalist commitment of the revolutionaries into the realm of aesthetics that began to play a vital role in narratives of ethnicity, class, and collective identity. 55


A survey of recent historical work evaluating Vasconcelos’s tenure as the Minister of Education clearly reveals that his achievements have been both under- and overestimated. The activities of Márquez alone demonstrate that in matters of documenting the nation’s indigenous cultures, Vasconcelos’s efforts in the 1920s, even if the intention was to preserve a record of peoples who would be erased by the Cosmic Race, have been undervalued. Curiously, it is this aspect of Vasconcelos’s program that created the images of the nation’s indigenous people, their activities, the landscape, the revolution, and the folklore—all of which received widespread distribution on free or inexpensive annual calendars owned by many individuals across the nation. In cities and in the countryside, rich and poor, and male and female—nearly everyone had calendars. These became the folkloric, popular images of the nation.

Great praise has been heaped on the muralists Rivera, Siquieros, and Orozco for picturing the nation’s revolutionary, historical, and indigenous patrimony, and, of course, today, these images have become well known across the nation through textbooks, television, and discussions of the national artistic heritage. Perhaps none is greater than the Rivera mural at the National Palace. The influence of the indigenist discourse and his personal collecting informed his own murals. In 1935 he finished the History of Mexico at the National Palace. The mural should be examined as a dichotomist representation of the country’s past as colony and sovereign. The three main panels construct a visual narrative of the history of Mexico beginning with ancient civilizations, followed by Spanish conquest, and ending with contemporary working-class struggles.56 The mural features pre-Columbian iconography influenced by Rivera’s own affinity for indigenous art. Aztec mythology (eagle clutching serpent), monumental architecture, allegorical references to the land, and artistic production are all depicted in this mural. Incorporating indigenous iconography into his work became the medium by which Rivera idealized and crafted a visual syllabary that appealed to a wide audience and crafted the nationalist discourse of revolutionary Mexico. Although he embodied the spirit of revolutionary nationalism (which embraced indigenous cultures and exalted their contribution to the formation of the modern state), he also propelled aesthetically pleasing art that drew foreign attention and acclaim.57

Nevertheless, in the decades of the 1930s and 1940s, this and other murals, one suspects, were not widely seen nor appreciated outside elite social and bureaucratic circles. Ordinary people did not regularly visit the presidential executive offices, the Ministry of Public Education building, the national prep school, or even the lobby of the Hotel del Prado. The more widely accessible murals at the Abelardo Rodríguez market near the Zócalo were not painted by the three master muralists, but by their acolytes.58 Moreover, the opposition to the murals that appeared in the 1920s remains in large measure ignored. National Preparatory students mutilated Orozco and Siquieros’s murals at their school in 1924. Students demanded the project be halted and the murals replaced. Vasconcelos complied. Rivera’s works at the same office of the Ministry of Public Education received a good deal of criticism, but they were not defaced.59 Even in the era of mechanical reproduction, through photographs and postcards, for example, the lower and working classes had essentially no access to these murals.60

Vasconcelos and the muralists, it seems clear, have been greatly overestimated. Even though Rivera painted a world record 6,000 square meters, these murals were not widely seen. Rather, the murals by the lesser known and, in several cases, foreign painters were the ones accessible to the general public. Pablo O’Higgins and others represented this group, although they were not widely championed.61 The focus on the promotion of murals and art generally as the aesthetic of the cultural revolution ignores, for example, architectural innovations, more generally available to the view of the public and, in some cases, a result of other Ministry of Public Education SEP programs, but also other forces. Urbanization and bureaucratic expansion, both revolutionary products of the previous decade, required construction of buildings that expressed ideas of a new modern nation. The government’s expanded programs through the Ministry of Public Education could be seen in the new third floor of the presidential executive building, required to house the increasing number of bureaucrats employed in the expanded number of agencies. Architects built many new buildings in the new utilitarian style and for others turned to the colonial or California Mission style that had been exempted from property taxes under a decree of President Carranza (1917–1920) in an effort to synchronize the Revolution with its Hispanic heritage, rather than the French fashions of the Porfirian regime. Architects Carlos Obregón Santacilia and the brothers Nicolás and Federico Mariscal relied on details, such as tiles, fountains, stucco walls, and ironworks, for schools, the Ministry of Public Health, and even monuments. Furniture manufacturers, such as Antonio Ruiz Galindo’s Distribuidora Mexicana, S.A, provided modern, utilitarian metal and wooden desks, chairs, and other furniture for the government’s bureaucratic expansion.62 Vasconcelos’s direct and indirect promotion of these construction projects also deserves recognition.

Undervalued as well is Vasconcelos’s promotion of art and music education through the work of Best Maugard. As director of the Department of Artistic Education, Best Maugard created groups of teachers committed to promoting art among schoolchildren, using books he wrote to make art one of the bases of nationalism.63 The mestizo leaders who made up the Obregón government brought with them mariachi music, the rural sounds of both the western (Jalisco and Michoacán) and northeastern (Tamaulipas) regions, that quickly were popularized as uniquely national musics. In Peru, rural mestizo music, especially with the charango, was labeled as neo-Indianist, while mariachi became the music representing wistful feelings for a rural life that had never existed. The countryside, especially the pastoral landscape, provided inspiration for composition. This coincided with Vasconcelos’s romantic aims to have the youth of the nation learn the music and dance of this rural heritage; the nostalgic folklorization of these forms would serve as the groundwork for their incorporation in later sentimental ranchero movies. The ranchero movies represent an important legacy of the folklore programs of Vasconcelos, Nevertheless, the movie industry contemporary to the ministry was that of Best Maugard and others attempting experimental films. The connections of these contemporary filmmakers with Vasconcelos’s romantic ideals merits further attention.

This romanticism, often ignored, must serve as a major theme in a successful biography of Vasconcelos, but as David A. Brading noted twenty-five years ago, one does not exist.64 Brading pointed to this quality in a discussion of Vasconcelos’s first major work, Pythagoras. A Theory of Rhythm (1916), in which the author developed a theory that the universe was essentially musical. In that text, the Mexican author praised Pythagoras in contrast to Isaac Newton, as he developed his musical theories and notions. In his philosophical statements, Vasconcelos repeated time and again his romantic views. President Obregón sent Vasconcelos to Rio de Janeiro as Mexico’s representative to the centennial celebration of Brazilian independence. He took with him a statue of Cuauhtémoc, based on the monument in the traffic circle at Reforma and Insurgentes Avenues. In statements that made clear his romantic notions, he explained he did not support Indianism that rejected the Spanish culture, but saw in the image of Cuauhtémoc a call for a cosmic race that would represent a second era of independence in the hemisphere.65

These romantic ideas, especially of the Mestizo, allowed Vasconcelos and other revolutionary officials, in the words of Guillermo Palacios, to “kidnap history and converted it into [their] history, a narrative used to solve the problems of … legitimacy … History became an instrument of consolidation and an ideological guarantee of authenticity.”66 In this way, it served in the construction of the popular imaginary of the revolutionary political administration, its society, and its culture. The goals of mestizaje made hostages of the indigenous peoples, who escaped this status through the ethnic politics that followed the First National Congress of Indigenous Peoples in 1975 leading to the 1992 amendment to the national constitution that recognizes Mexico as a pluricultural nation with an indigenous base.

The Mestizo, Vasconcelos’s savior of Mexico and avatar of the Cosmic Race, represented the human conclusion of national intellectuals attempting to solve persistent programs. The lines of romantic thought leading to Vasconcelos’s ideas can be traced to Positivism, beginning with Gabino Barrera, in his Oración Cívica (1867), through Andrés Molina Enríquez in Grandes Problems Nacionales (1906), and continuing on to Antonio Caso and Vasconcelos.67 The Minister of Education’s programs reflected both this intense romanticism and revolutionary fever, joined, in the case of the minister himself, to an elitist predilection for high culture and artistic endeavor.

The Vasconcelos campaign, especially these cultural programs for national integration, were one step ahead of similar campaigns in other Hispanic American nations with large unassimilated indigenous or immigrant populations. During the 1920s and 1930s, this resulted in programs that used the ideology of mestizaje, often mixed with the “anti-materialist and pan-Latin American school of thought” shared by the Cuban José Martí, Uruguayan José E. Rodó, and Mexican Antonio Caso. In this latter development, mestizaje rejected European theories of racial degeneration, positivism, and U.S. economic and political policies. Moreover, the proponents of mestizaje sought to balance the competing views of both hispanismo and indigenismo as the main source of national character. These inclusive definitions of national identity and assimilation programs, especially promoting education and folklore, often described as populist movements, dominated until the 1980s, until the idea of mestizaje was undercut by ethnic politics, on the one hand, and intellectual deconstruction by Angel Rama, Guillermo Bonfil Batalla, and Roger Barta, on the other.68

Nevertheless, Vasconcelos should be credited in many ways as the father of mass culture that with the rise of increased literacy and expanded mass media resulted in new expressions of national creativity, including comics, movies, records, and radio. How ironic that enduring evidence of the Ministry of Education’s successes in creating lasting national symbols under Vasconcelos’s direction could be viewed in the romantic images of the nation and its people on calendars, heard in the corridos dedicated to Pancho Villa performed by school choral groups, and enjoyed in the mariachi and son music broadcast on the radio. In a twist of fate, Vasconcelos’s Cosmic Race found its widely known and accepted expressions in the song “La Borrachita” and the common Calendar Girl.

Discussion of the Literature

No standard biography of José Vasconcelos exists. His autobiography, translated into English as A Mexican Ulysses: An Autobiography, provides a starting point from which students can work, piecing it together with other good studies of specific moments in his life.69 José Joaquín Blanco’s Se llamaba Vasconcelos: Una evocación crítica and various titles by Susana Quintanilla, such as “Los muchos ateneos: genealogía y trayectoria del Ateneo de la Juventud” (available on the Internet) and “Nosotros”: La juventud del Ateneo de México, should be consulted for an appreciation of Vasconcelos’s impact on revolutionary programs, national identity, and ethnic ideology in Mexico and throughout Latin America.70 The documentary La Passion de José Vasconcelos, directed by Alvaro Vázquez Montecón and written by Lucia Beltrán, also provides an excellent summary of his career.71 For a description of his checkered relationship with women, a starting point is Jean Franco’s “Body and Soul: Women and Postrevolutionary Messianism.”72

Alan Knight provides an introduction to efforts at forging a new revolutionary national identity and culture in “Popular Culture and the Revolutionary State in Mexico, 1910–1940.”73

On Vasconcelos, the muralists, and other intellectuals during the 1920s and 1930s, an excellent starting point is the 1967 edition of Jean Charlot’s The Mexican Mural Renaissance, 1920–1925, which Yale University Press published without any notification that it is a revision of the 1963 edition. This work should be supplemented by John Charlot’s essay in this encyclopedia, “Jean Charlot and the Mexican Mural Renaissance.”

The educational missions and their programs from the Ministry of Public Edition have been the subject of Mary Kay Vaughan’s publications throughout her career. The following titles provide a good introduction to this significant literature: The State, Education and Social Class in Mexico, 1880–1928, Politics in Revolution: Teachers, Peasants, and Schools, 1930–1940, and, as an example of her many important articles on this topic, “Nationalizing the Countryside and Rural Communities in the 1930s.”74 Rafael Ramírez and his crucial role in the ministry have been examined by Elsie Rockwell in Hacer escuela, hacer Estado and Concepción Jiménez Alarcón in Rafael Ramírez y la escuela rural mexicana.75 The ministry’s focus on children, especially in the city, is the subject of the recent, excellent study by Elena Jackson Albarrán, Seen and Heard in Mexico: Children and Revolutionary Cultural Nationalism.76

An outstanding discussion of photographers working through the Ministry of Public Education and on their own, particularly in regard to creating a record of indigenous communities, can be found in the unpublished dissertation by Deborah Dorotinsky, “La vida de un archivo: ‘México Indígena’ y la fotografía etnográfica de los años cuarenta en México.”77 The analysis of calendar girls begins with Angela Villalba, Mexican Calendar Girls, with additional information on the calendar business in Anna Rose Alexander, “Counting the Days: Calendars and Consumption During the Mexican Miracle, 1946–1982.”78

Little has been published on the music teachers and their efforts for the Ministry of Public Education, but some scholars can start with David G. Tovey, “The Role of the Music Educator in Mexico’s Cultural Missions,” and Carlos Monsaías, “Bolero: A History,” and “Yo soy un humilde cancionero (De la música popular en México).”79 A tres bandas: mestizaje, síncretismo é hibridación en el espacio sonoro iberoamericano discusses music and mestizaje, offering a good introduction to the general topic of the Cosmic Race.80

The topics of the Cosmic Race and mestizaje have inspired an extensive literature. The basic reading remains La Raza Cósmica.81 For both Vasconcelos and the evolution of his ideas on mestizaje that resulted in his classic volume, an outstanding introduction is David A. Brading’s short but excellent discussion entitled “Social Darwinism and Romantic Idealism: Andrés Molina Enríquez and José Vasconcelos in the Mexican Revolution.”82 As he did on so many topics of Mexican history, such as mining, haciendas, and the Virgin of Guadalupe, Brading indicated the general lines of inquiry and added new, significant conclusions—in this case, the ideas of Molina Enriquez. Other outstanding discussions of the topic include Joshua Lund, The Impure Imagination: Toward a Critical Hybridity in Latin American, and Marilyn Miller, Rise and Fall of the Cosmic Race. The Culture of Mestizaje in Latin America.83 These should be combined with the provocative essay by Peter Wade, “Rethinking Mestizaje: Ideology and Lived Experience.”84 There is also an extensive literature on the influence of the Cosmic Race and mestizaje on the development of La Raza and Chicano politics in the United States that is beyond the scope of this essay. This remains a vibrant topic, and the literature on it continues to grow.

Primary Sources

The basic sources for the revolutionary educational campaign remain the archives of the Ministry of Public Education and other governmental document collections, such as presidential administration files, located in the Archivo General de la Nación. The education ministry’s monthly magazine for teachers, El Maestro, also provides an intriguing resource documenting educators’ activities at the local level. A little used source is the card file on teachers and their activities in the Frank Tannenbaum Collection in the Columbia University Library, New York City.

The other archival sources of great value are the photographic collections of Luis Márquez and others in the Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas, at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. The personal collections of other artists and intellectuals, such as the Jean Chalot archive and collection at the University of Hawai’i provide additional information. These can be identified through various catalogs of photographic exhibits, mural retrospectives, and folk art collections in museum archives. The indigenous women’s clothing collection at the Colegio de Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz and the collection of calendars at the Franz Mayer Museum are two such examples.

Further Reading

Brading, David A. “Social Darwinism and Romantic Idealism: Andrés Molina Enríquez and José Vasconcelos in the Mexican Revolution.” In Prophecy and Myth in Mexican History Cambridge, U.K.: Centre of Latin American Studies, 1984.Find this resource:

Beezley, William H., ed. The Companion to Mexican History and Culture. Malden, Ma: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011.Find this resource:

Charlot, Jean. The Mexican Mural Renaissance, 1920–1925. New Haven. CT: Yale University Press, 1967.Find this resource:

Knight, Alan. “Popular Culture and the Revolutionary State in Mexico, 1910–1940.” Hispanic American Historical Review 74.3 (1994): 393–444.Find this resource:

Lund, Joshua. The Impure Imagination: Toward a Critical Hybridity in Latin American Writing. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006.Find this resource:

Miller, Marilyn. Rise and Fall of the Cosmic Race. The Cult of Mestizaje in Latin America. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2004.Find this resource:

Vasconcelos, José. La Raza Cósmica. Mexico City: Espasa Calpe, S.A., 1948. (Published in English as The Cosmic Race/La raza cósmica. Translated by Didier T. Jaén. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997.)Find this resource:

Vasconcelos, José. A Mexican Ulysses: An Autobiography. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1963.Find this resource:

Vaughan, Mary Kay. Politics in Revolution: Teachers, Peasants, and Schools, 1930–1940. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1997.Find this resource:

Vaughan, Mary Kay, and Stephen E. Lewis, eds. The Eagle and the Virgin: Nation and Cultural Revolution in Mexico, 1920–1940. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006.Find this resource:

Villalba, Angela. Mexican Calendar Girls. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books, 2006.Find this resource:

Wade, Peter. “Rethinking Mestizaje: Ideology and Lived Experience.” Journal of Latin American Studies 37.2 (2005): 239–257.Find this resource:


(1.) José Vasconcelos, A Mexican Ulysses: An Autobiography, trans. and abridged by W. Rex Crawford (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1963), 151.

(2.) Leonora Saavedra, “Manuel M. Ponce’s Chapultepec and the Conflicted Representations of a Contested Space,” The Musical Quarterly 92.3–4 (Fall–Winter 2009): 289–290.

(3.) Jean Franco, The Modern Culture of Latin America: Society and the Artist, rev. ed. (Harmondsworth, U.K.: Penguin Books, 1970), 84–85.

(4.) The earlier Porfirian ministry of education directed by Justo Sierra had jurisdiction only in federal territories, such as the Federal District.

(5.) Deborah Dorotinsky, “La vida de un archivo: ‘México Indígena’ y la fotografía etnográfica de los años cuarenta en México” (México: tesís para obtener el grado de Doctora en historia del arte” UNAM-FFyL, 2003), 81.

(6.) Vasconcelos, A Mexican Ulysses, 151–152, 169–170, 130.

(7.) Vasconcelos, A Mexican Ulysses, 158; Susan Vogel, Becoming Pablo O’Higgins: How an Anglo-American Artist from Utah Became a Mexican Muralist (San Francisco: Pince-Nez Press, 2010), 58.

(8.) José Joaquín Blanco, Se llamaba Vasconcelos: Una evocación crítica (Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1977), 110.

(9.) Jean Charlot, The Mexican Mural Renaissance, 19201925 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1967). Charlot participated in the circle of intellectuals, especially the artists, discussed in this volume. In 1967, Yale University Press, without noting it, published significant revisions in the second edition of the 1963 volume.

(10.) Robert Conn, “Vasconcelos as Screenwriter. Bolivar Remembered,” in Mexico Reading the United States, ed. Linda Egan and Mary K. Long (Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 2009), 42.

(11.) See, as an example of this critique, Jean Franco, “Body and Soul: Women and Postrevolutionary Messianism,” in Plotting Women: Gender and Representation in Mexico (New York: Columbia University Press, 1989), 102–128. Also see Joshua Lund, The Impure Imagination: Toward a Critical Hybridity in Latin American Writing (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 206), 109, 110, and 222, ft. 8.

(12.) Thomas Benjamin, “Rebuilding the Nation,” in The Oxford History of Mexico, ed. Michael C. Meyer and William H. Beezley (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), 467.

(13.) Alan Knight, “Popular Culture and the Revolutionary State in Mexico, 1910–1940,” Hispanic American Historical Review 74.3 (1994): 393–444.

(14.) Mary Kay Vaughan, The State, Education and Social Class in Mexico, 1880–1928 (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1978); Vaughan, Politics in Revolution: Teachers, Peasants, and Schools, 1930–1940 (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1997); and her many important articles on this topic such as “Nationalizing the Countryside and Rural Communities in the 1930s,” in The Engle and The Virgin: Nation and Cultural Revolution in Mexico, 1920–1940, ed. Mary Kay Vaughan and Stephen E. Lewis (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006), 157–175.

(15.) Amelia Kiddle, “The Latin American Foreign Policy of Lázaro Cárdenas, 1934–1949” (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Arizona, 2010), chapter 4, p. 4.

(16.) Gabriela Soto Laveaga and Claudia Agostoni, “Science and Public Health in the Century of Evolution,” in The Companion to Mexican History and Culture, ed. William H. Beezley (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwells, 2011), 9.

(17.) Lucia Beltrán, La passion de José Vasconcelos (México City: Siglo Nuevo, 2002).

(18.) Lund, Impure Imagination, 105.

(19.) Saavedra, “Manuel M. Ponce’s Chapultepec,” 290.

(20.) Rick Anthony López, “The India Bonita Contest of 1921 and the Ethnicization of Mexican National Culture,” Hispanic American Historical Review 82.2 (2002): 317.

(21.) Lyman L. Johnson, “Digging Up Cuauhtémoc,” in Death, Dismemberment, and Memory: Body Politics in Latin America (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 204), 207–244.

(22.) Vasconcelos, Mexican Ulysses, 180.

(23.) Glenn Avent, “A Popular and Wholesome Resort: Gender, Class, and the Y.M.C.A. in Porfirian Mexico” (M.A. thesis, University of British Columbia, 1996); “The YMCA and the Making of Modern Mexico,” presented at Rocky Mountain Council for Latin American Studies, Flagstaff, Arizona, April 10, 2008; and “The YMCA in Mexico: Cultural Change and Globalizing Modernity, 1902–1940” presented at Missouri Valley History Conference, Omaha, Nebraska, March 7, 2008.

(24.) Guillermo Palacios, “The Social Sciences, Revolutionary Nationalism, and Inter-Academic Relations: Mexico and the United States, 1930–1940,” in Populism in Twentieth Century Mexico, ed. Amelia Kiddle and Maria Muñoz, eds. (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2010); D. A. Brading, “Social Darwinism and Romantic Idealism: Andrés Molina Enríquez and José Vasconcelos in the Mexican Revolution,” in Prophecy and Myth in Mexican History (Cambridge, U.K.: Centre of Latin American Studies, 1984), 71–72.

(25.) Stephen E. Lewis, “The Nation, Education, and the ‘Indian Problem’ in Mexico, 1920–1940,” in The Eagle and the Serpent, 178; The Engle and The Virgin, 2006.

(26.) Rick A. López, “The Noche Mexicana and the Exhibition of Popular Arts: Two Ways of Exalting Indianness,” in The Eagle and the Serpent, 24–42; Julia del Palacio Langer, “The Construction of a Presidential Figure: Lázaro Cárdenas and His Use of Music as a Political Tool,” M.A. Thesis (Columbia University, 2008); Ricardo Pérez Monfort, Expresiones populares y estereotipos culturales en México. Siglos XIX y XX. Diez ensayos (Mexico City: CIESAS/Publicaciones de la Casa Chata, 2007).

(27.) López, “The Noche Mexicana and the Exhibition of Popular Arts,” in The Eagle and the Serpent, eds. Mary Kay Vaughan and Stephen E. Lewis, 24–25.

(28.) Lewis, 179–180; for the most careful evaluation of Ramírez, see Concepción Jiménez Alarcón, Rafael Ramírez y la escuela rural mexicana (México City: Secretaría de Educación Pública, 1986) and Elsie Rockwell, Hacer escuela, hacer Estado. La educacion posrevolucionaria vista desde Tlaxcala (México City: Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios Superiores en Antropologia Social, 2007).

(29.) Elissa J. Rushkin, “Soy De Nacion Campesino”: Identidad y Representacion en El Agrarismo Veracruzano,” Dimensión Antropológica, INAH, vol. 61, 143–160, May–August 2014; Ricardo Pérez Monfort, Expresiones populares y estereotipos culturales en México. Siglos XIX y XX. Diez ensayos (México City: CIESAS/Publicaciones de la Casa Chata, 2007).

(30.) “Introduction,” The Eagle and the Serpent, 10–11.

(31.) Alexander S. Dawson, “From Models for the Nation to Model Citizens: Indigenismo and the ‘Revindication’ of the Mexican Indian, 1920–40,” Journal of Latin American Studies 30.2 (1998): 281.

(32.) Mexican Embassy in Guatemala to the Guatemalan Ministeria de Relacciones Exteriores September 2, 1931. Apparently Saenz was not in Guatemala long as there’s a thank you letter to the ministry for its assistance to Saenz during his trip, October 17, 1931; William H. Beezley and Colin M. MacLachlan, Mexicans in Revolution, 1910–1946 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2009), 76, 115–116.

(33.) Vasconcelos, Ulísis Criollo, p. 290, quoted in Jean Franco, “Body and Soul: Women and Postrevolutionary Messianism,” in Plotting Women, 104.

(34.) Lund, Impure Imagination, 62, 66–67; references in order to Néstor García Canclini, Guillermo Bonfil, “Del indigenismo de la revoluci6n a la antropologia critica,” De eso que llaman antropologia mexicana (Mexico, 1970), Enrique Krause, and Joshua Lund.

(35.) José Carlos Mariátequi, Siete Ensayos de interpretación de la realidad peruana (Lima: Libros del Perú, 1928); Guzmán’s El águila y la Serpiente (1925); Usigli, El Gesticulador (1938) as noted by Lund, Impure Imagination, 113, 222, ft. 7, 224 n. 18; Adriana Zavala, “María Izaujierdo,” in Vaughan and Lewis, eds., The Engle and The Virgin, 67–78.

(36.) Alexander S. Dawson, Indian and Nation in revolutionary Mexico (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2004), and “‘Wild Indians,’ ‘Mexican Gentlemen,’ and the Lessons Learned in the casa del Estudiante Indígena, 1926–1932,” The Americas 57.3 (2001): 329–361.

(37.) Benjamin, “Rebuilding the Nation,” p. 468.

(38.) Dawson, “From Models for the Nation,” 262, citing Marjorie Becker, Setting the Virgin on Fire (Berkeley, 1995); Claudio Lomnitz-Adler, Exits From the Labyrinth: Culture and Ideology in the Mexican National Space (Berkeley, 1992); Arturo Warman, “Todos santos y todos difuntos,” De eso que llaman antropologia mexicana (Mexico, 1970), p. 36; Guillermo Bonfil, “Del indigenismo de la revoluci6n a la antropologia critica,” De eso que llaman antropologia mexicana (Mexico, 1970), 43–46; Margarita Nolasco Armas, “La antropologia aplicada en Mexico y su destino final: el indigenismo,” De eso que llaman antropologia mexicana (Mexico, I970); Florencia Mallon, Peasant and Nation: The Making of Postcolonial Mexico and Peru (Berkeley, 1995); Guillermo Palacios, “Post-revolutionary Intellectuals, Rural Readings, and the Shaping of the ‘Peasant Problem’ in Mexico: El Maestro Rural, 1932–1934,” Journal of Latin American Studies 30.2 (1998): 309–339.

(39.) López, “The India Bonita,” 317.

(40.) A good deal of this information from the teachers in rural communities that discusses customs, noted on 3 × 5 cards, forms part of the Frank Tannenbaum Collection at Columbia University, New York City.

(41.) Carlos Monsiváis, “Bolero: A History,” in Mexican Postcards, ed. and trans. John Kraniauskas (New York: Verso, 1997), 173.

(42.) Ernest Gruening, Mexico and Its Heritage (New York: The Century Co., 1928), 653; Carlos Monsiváis, “Yo soy un humilde cancionero (De la música popular en México),” in La música en México: Panorama del siglo xx, ed. Aurelio Tello (México City: Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, 2010), 211.

(43.) Leonora Saavedra to author, June 13, 2010.

(44.) Ibid.; Vasconcelos, “Indología,” 1261, and “De Robinson a Odiseo,” 1684–1685.

(45.) Angela Villalba, Mexican Calendar Girls (San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 2006), 24; Also see Anna Rose Alexander, “Counting the Days: Calendars and Consumption During the Mexican Miracle, 1946–1982” (M.A. thesis, University of Arizona, 2008).

(46.) Fabián Herrera León, “México y el Instituto Internacional de Cinematografía Educativa, 1927–1937,” Estudios de Historia Moderna y Contemporánea de México, 36 (2008): 224–225.

(47.) El Cine Mexperimental: 60 Years of Avant-Garde Media Arts from Mexico (México: NP, 1998), p. 25. Best Maugard was Vasconcelos’s secretary, but this seems to be a misunderstanding of his position. The UNAM biographical dictionary says that from 1921 to 1924, he was the head of the Department of Artistic Education (Departamento de Educación Artística) of the SEP .

(48.) Herrera León, “México,” 225.

(49.) Itala Schmelz and Ernesto Peñaloza, “Luis Márquez en la Feria mundial de Nueva York, 1939–40,” unpublished catalog of Marquez exhibit to be held at Queens Museum of Art with the collaboration of the Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas, UNAM.

(50.) Raquel Tibol, Episodios fotográficos (México City: Libros de Proceso, 1989), interview with Luis Márquez in 1955, 116–122.

(51.) Tania Barberán Soler, “El Teatro Mexicano del Murciélago: un espectáculo de vanguardia” (thesis, FFyL-UNAM, 1997).

(52.) William H. Beezley, Mexican National Identity: Memory, Innuendo, and Popular Culture (Tucson: University of Arizona, 2008), 147–149.

(53.) Villalba, Calendar Girls, 17, 19, 22–25 (on page 25 there are examples of a photograph by Márquez and a calendar painting by Salvador Monroy); Schmelz and Peñaloza, “Luis Márquez en la Feria mundial,” 9.

(54.) Villalba, Calendar Girls, 36–37, 37–39.

(55.) López, “The India Bonita,” 291–328.

(56.) Desmond Rochfort, “The Sickle, the Serpent, and the Soil: History, Revolution, Nationhood, and Modernity in the Murals of Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros,” in The Eagle and the Virgin National and Cultural Revolution in Mexico, 19201940, ed. Mary Kay Vaughan and Stephen E. Lewis (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2006), 43–57.

(57.) For a discussion of Mexican muralism abroad, see Anna Indych Lopez, “Mural Gambits: Mexican Muralism in the United States and the ‘Portable’ Fresco,” Art Bulletin LXXXIX, no. 2 (June 2007): 286–304.” Also, James Oles presents a brief discussion of modern collecting of Mexican arts which presents U.S. interests in Mexican art grounded in the display’s of muralists throughout the 1920s and 1930s; see Oles, “El Coleccionista Reescribe la Historia: Una Aproximacion a la Colecion Blaisten,” El Coleccionista, 11 (México, 2011), 23.

(58.) Ageeth Sluis, “City of Spectacles: The Creation of Public Space and Women in Mexico City, 1920–1939” (PhD dissertation, University of Arizona, 2006).

(59.) Helen Delpar, “Mexican Culture, 1920–1945,” in The Oxford History of Mexico, ed. Michael C. Meyer and William H. Beezley (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), 516–517.

(60.) Art historian David Craven argues the opposite—that mechanical reproduction did make the murals widely available—but I find no evidence of these photographs and postcards in the hands of the lower classes.

(61.) Vogel, Becoming Pablo O’Higgins.

(62.) See Steven Bunker and Victor Macías-González, “Consumption and Material Culture, 1910 to the Present” in The Companion to Mexican History and Culture, ed. William H. Beezley (Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011); M. Fernández, “Architecture, Twentieth Century,” in Encyclopedia of Mexico, History, Society and Culture, ed. Michael S. Werner (Chicago: Fitzroy Dearborn, 1997), pp. 90–92; Patricia E. Olsen, “Un hogar para la revolución: Patrones y significado del desarrollo residencial,” in Miradas recurrentes, La ciudad de México en los siglos XIX y XX, vol. 1, ed. M. Angeles del Caba Collado (Mexico City: Instituto Mora and UAM, 2004).

(63.) After 1932 he was a member of the Consejo de Bellas Artes, the Consejo de Asuntos Culturales de la Ciudad de México, la Sociedad de Geografía y Estadística, and la Unión Mexicana de Directores Cinematográficos. In 1933, he represented the Departamento de Bellas Artes in the Consejo de Educación Primaria; from 1932 to 1935, he was the representative of publicity department of the Lotería Nacional de Beneficiencia Pública.

(64.) Brading, “Social Darwinism and Romantic Idealism,” 94. Listed as the best available: José Joaquín Blanco, Se llamaba Vasconcelos una evocación crítica (México: Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1977), Joaquín Cárdenas Noriega, José Vasconcelos 18821982 educador político y profeta (Mexico, Ediciones Océano, 1982), and Gabriella de Beer, José Vasconcelos and his World (New York: Las Americas Publishing Company, 1966).

(65.) Vasconcelos, A Mexican Ulysses, 172; Brading, in “Social Darwinism and Romantic Idealism,” 72–73.

(66.) Palacios, “The Social Sciences, Revolutionary Nationalism,” 313.

(67.) Lund, Impure Imagination, 80–82.

(68.) Marilyn Miller, Rise and Fall of the Cosmic Race. The Culture of Mestizaje in Latin America (Austin: University of Texas, 2004).

(69.) José Vasconcelos, A Mexican Ulysses: An Autobiography (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1963).

(70.) José Joaquin Blanco, Se llamaba Vasconcelos: Una evocación crítica (Mexico City: Fondo de Culture Economica, 1977); Susana Quintanilla, “Nosotros”: La juventud del Ateneo de México (Mexico City: Tusquets Tiempo de Memoria, 2008).

(71.) Beltrán, La Passion de José Vasconcelos.

(72.) Jean Franco, “Body and Soul: Women and Postrevolutionary Messianism,” in Plotting Women: Gender and Representation in Mexico (New York: Columbia University Press, 1989).

(73.) Knight, “Popular Culture.”

(74.) Vaughan, The State, Education and Social Class; Vaughan, Politics in Revolution; Vaughan, “Nationalizing the Countryside.”

(75.) Rockwell, Hacer escuela, hacer Estado; Alarcón, Rafael Ramírez.

(76.) Elena Jackson Albarrán, Seen and Heard in Mexico: Children and Revolutionary Cultural Nationalism (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2015).

(77.) Dorotinsky, “La vida de un archivo.”

(78.) Alexander, “Counting the Days.”

(79.) David G. Tovey, “The Role of the Music Educator in Mexico’s Cultural Missions,” Bulletin of the Council for Research in Music Education, no. 139 (Winter 1999), 1–11; Monsaías, “Bolero”; Monsaías, “Yo soy un humilde cancionero.”

(80.) Exhibition catalog (Medellín, Colombia: Museum of Antioquia, 2010).

(81.) José Vasconcelos, La Raza Cósmica (Mexico City: Espsasa Calpe, S.A., 1948).

(82.) Brading, “Social Darwinism and Romantic Idealism.”

(83.) Lund, The Impure Imagination; Miller, Rise and Fall of the Cosmic Race.

(84.) Peter Wade, “Rethinking Mestizaje: Ideology and Lived Experience,” Journal of Latin American Studies 37.2 (2005): 239–257.