Creating Patzcuaro, Creating Mexico

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Winner, Arthur P. Whitaker Prize, Middle Atlantic Council of Latin American Studies, 2019

In the 1930s, the artistic and cultural patronage of celebrated Mexican president L´┐Żzaro C´┐Żrdenas transformed a small Michoac´┐Żn city, P´┐Żtzcuaro, into a popular center for national tourism. C´┐Żrdenas commissioned public monuments and archeological excavations; supported new schools, libraries, and a public theater; developed tourism sites and infrastructure, including the Museo de Artes e Industrias Populares; and hired artists to paint murals celebrating regional history, traditions, and culture. The creation of P´┐Żtzcuaro was formative for Mexico; not only did it provide an early model for regional economic and cultural development, but it also helped establish some of Mexico's most enduring national myths, rituals, and institutions.

In Creating P´┐Żtzcuaro, Creating Mexico, Jennifer Jolly argues that P´┐Żtzcuaro became a microcosm of cultural power during the 1930s and that we find the foundations of modern Mexico in its creation. Her extensive historical and archival research reveals how C´┐Żrdenas and the artists and intellectuals who worked with him used cultural patronage as a guise for radical modernization in the region. Jolly demonstrates that the P´┐Żtzcuaro project helped define a new modern body politic for Mexico, in which the population was asked to emulate C´┐Żrdenas by touring the country and seeing and embracing its land, history, and people. Ultimately, by offering Mexicans a means to identify and engage with power and privilege, the creation of P´┐Żtzcuaro placed art and tourism at the center of Mexico's postrevolutionary nation building project.