Bold Caballeros y Noble Bandidas

Captivating exhibition explores Mexican popular culture inspired by the Mexican Revolution of 1910, Saturday, 11.1.08 - 5.10.09

By Yadhira De Leon
Published on LatinoLA: October 29, 2008

Bold Caballeros y Noble Bandidas

Bold Caballeros y Noble Bandidas ride in to the Autry National Center of the American West this fall to explore the development of Mexican popular culture and United States-Mexico relations. Organized by the Autry National Center in association with Arizona State University's Hispanic Research Center, the exhibition uses art, rare historical footage, feature film, music, and popular culture to experience and understand the monumental changes in the Americas that were initiated by the Mexican Revolution of 1910.

Creating a mythology that endures to this day in Mexico and the United States, towering figures such as Emiliano Zapata and Francisco "Pancho" Villa inspired a vast output of film, art, folklore, music, song, and literature that continues to shape the identity of the U. S.-Mexico borderlands.

"This exhibition is part of a museum-wide effort to explore the Latino experience in the American West and the crosscultural influences that have shaped the past, present, and future of this region. In better understanding the region as part of Latin America, we can better understand our future as part of an interconnected continent," explained Jonathan Spaulding, Executive Director of the Museum of the American West.

U.S.-Mexico Borderlands - Bold Caballeros y Noble Bandidas explores the creation of the borderland's identity, with its own customs and practices. In the nineteenth century, outlaws such as Joaquin Murrieta, Tiburcio Vasquez, and Gregorio Cortez became cultural heroes and symbols of resistance to the U.S. occupation of lands that once belonged to Mexico. Before the Mexican Revolution the border was porous and unpatrolled. After the Revolution the border was not only armed, it also began to function as an autonomous zone, with practices and rules that were unique and unlike those that prevailed throughout the rest of the United States and Mexico. The exhibition explores the events and American reaction surrounding the invasion of the United States by Francisco "Pancho" Villa and the attack on Columbus, New Mexico. It showcases both the Punitive Expedition led by General Pershing, accompanied by his aide George S. Patton, to capture and punish Pancho Villa, and the two occupations of Mexican ports (Tampico and Veracruz) ordered by President Woodrow Wilson.

Women Revolutionaries - For women, the Revolution served as a catalyst for their emancipation, their assumption of new roles including that of fighters, and their rise to power, prestige, and influence. Women who represented the peasantry, working poor, and intellectuals from the middle or the upper classes rose among the ranks as colonels, couriers, feminists, gang leaders, generals, journalists, nurses, outlaws, poets, political figures, revolutionaries, spies, and weapons experts. Their stories were propelled through popular culture and lore, including that of Elisa Acu??a y Roseta (1887ÔÇô1946), an associate of anarchist Antonio D?¡az Soto y Gama, one of the primary intellectual spokespersons for Emiliano Zapata and zapatismo; Generala Margarita Neri, called a "superb guerrilla commander" and noted for her implacability and ruthlessness; and Hermila Galindo de Topete (1896ÔÇô1954), cofounder and editor of the feminist and pro-Carranza journal Mujer Moderna, and an early supporter of many radical feminist issues such as sex education in schools, women's suffrage, and divorce.

Film - The Revolution provided a catalyst for the creation and increasing popularity of fiction films, newsreels, and documentaries. Over 400 films made between 1910 and 1920 were about Pancho Villa alone. The output includes unforgettable films from both Mexico and the United States. American films such as Viva Zapata! and Viva Villa! contained major social and political objectives, while a new type of Mexican film emerged featuring the female revolutionary leader, which propelled the career of Mexican actress Mar?¡a F?®lix, who starred in La Cucaracha, La Generala, Juana Gallo, and other films of this genre.

Visual Art - In addition to historic footage, movie reels, and music, the exhibition features fascinating artworks that combine revolutionary heroes and other bold outlaws (male and female) with the theme of the Day of the Dead. Works from the period of the Revolution by Jos?® Guadalupe Posada (died 1913), as well as contemporary artists, explore the roots and imagery of contemporary Chicano identity.

Contemporary Chicano art is closely linked ideologically with the social and political developments of the Mexican Revolution. The changes brought about by the Revolution promoted a strong desire among artists for a cultural and artistic introspection, drawing from a rich and complex history and producing a unique and inclusive cultural hybridization.

"To study and understand this art is to consider and submerge oneself in the spiritual, social, political, philosophical, and historical problems of our time, not only in Mexico, but in the panorama of world cultures." ÔÇôJustino Fern?índez.

Bold Caballeros y Noble Bandidas looks both backward and forward in its interpretation of contemporary and historical social resistance and change in the borderlands region.

The Autry National Center of the American West is an intercultural history center that includes the Southwest Museum of the American Indian, the Museum of the American West (formerly the Autry Museum of Western Heritage), and the Institute for the Study of the American West. Each institution maintains its individual identity; however, the convergence of resources allows us to expand our understanding of the diverse peoples of the American West, connecting the past with the present to inform our shared future. The Autry National Center's executive offices are located in Griffith Park.

The Museum of the American West and Museum Store are open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. From June 1 to August 31, Thursday hours are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Admission is free on the second Tuesday of every month and free for veterans year-round.

Admission is $9 for adults, $5 for students and seniors 60+, $3 for children 3ÔÇô12, and free for Autry members, veterans, and children 2 and under.

Autry National Center of the American West
4700 Western Heritage Way
Los Angeles, CA, 90027

Image: Edward Gonzales (b. 1947), Tierra o Muerte, 1999, Poster (detail)

About Yadhira De Leon:
Yadhira De Leon is the Sr. Manager, Public Relations at the Autry National Center of the American West.
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