A Note on Chicano-Mexicano Cultural Capital: African-American Icons and Symbols in Chicano Art

Amelia Malagamba Ansótegui

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Este artículo forma parte de un proyecto de investigación más amplio en proceso. En él se argumenta que la "transportación" de "capital cultural" por los migrantes encontró tierra fértil entre la población mexicoestadunidense ya establecida en los estados fronterizos entre México y Estados Unidos. Se entiende como capital cultural el bagaje histórico, las costumbres y la producción de bienes simbólicos diarios que legitimizan y dan coherencia a una comunidad. Este capital cultural ha pasado por un proceso de transformación en las comunidades méxicoestadunidenses. Muchas de las costumbres simbólicas tempranas han sido adaptadas a circunstancias nuevas. El uso de iconos y símbolos de herencia africomexicana por artistas chicanos, por un lado, y las discusiones sociales y políticas de una localidad cultural africoestadunidense, por otro, se han convertido en parte del capital cultural de las comunidades méxicoestadunidenses. Para entender la traducción y la interpretación del uso de estos bienes simbólicos, deben rescatarse algunos aspectos históricos claves.



This article forms part of a longer research project in progress. It argues that the "transportation" of "cultural capital" by the migrants found fertile ground among the Mexican-American population already established in the border states between Mexico and the United States. Cultural capital is understood as the historical bag-gage and daily practices and production of symbolic goods that legitimate and give coherence to a community. This cultural capital has undergone a process of transformation in the Mexican-American communities. Many of the early symbolic practices have been adapted to new circumstances. The use by several Chicano artists of icons and symbols of African-Mexican heritage on the one hand, and of social and political issues from an African-American cultural location on the other, have become part of the cultural capital of Mexican-American communities. To understand the translation and interpretation of the use of these symbolic goods key aspects of history must be highlighted.

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Gonzalo Aguirre Beltrán, Medicina y magia. El proceso de aculturación en la estructura colonial, Instituto Nacional Indigenista, Secretaría de Educación Pública, Colección SEP/INI, México, 1980.

Bourdieu defines "symbolic capital" as; economic and political capital that is disavowed, misrecognized and thereby recognized, hence legitimate. He further argues that symbolic capital is a "credit" which under certain conditions, and always in the long run, guarantees "economic profits". Cultural and symbolic capital have been the sources of strength in the every day lives of the Mexican and Mexican-American comunities in the United States. See Pierre Bourdieu, Outline of a Theory of Practice, Cambridge University Press, 1992, pp. 171-183.

In an exploration of a mythical figure of a healer in the South of Texas, some of these cultural practices that mix the knowledge of the African-Mexicans and Mexicans in South Texas still can he seen. See Amelia Malagamba, "Don Pedrito Jaramillo, una leyenda mexicana en el sur de Texas", in José Manuel Valenzuela (comp.), Entre la magia y la historia, Programa Cultural de las Fronteras/El Colegio de la Frontera Norte, 1992, pp. 63-73.

Some of the most obvious sources of continued cultural presence of people of African descent in Mexico in recent times are the strong diplomatic relationship between governments and the direct relations among the peoples of Mexico and Cuba-

For a detailed discussion of the Rascuacheaesthetic, a concept developed by lbarra-Frausto, see "Rasquachismo: A Chicano Sensibility", in CARA. Chicano Art: Resistance and Affirmation. An Interpretive Exhibition of the Chicano Art Movement, 1965-1985, UCLA, Wight Art Gallery, Los Angeles, 1991, and "The Chicano Movement/The Movement of Chicano Art", in Exhibiting Cultures. The Poetics and Politics of Museum Display, ed. by Ivan Karp and Steven D. Lavine, The Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C., 1991, p.p. 128-150.

Gonzalo Aguirre Beltrán, Población negra de México, segunda edición, Fondo de Cultura Económica, México, 1972.

Patrick J. Carrol, Blacks in Colonial Veracruz, Race, Ethnicty, and Regional Development, University of Texas Press, Austin, 1991.

Patrick J. Carrol, ibid., p. 88.

Patrick J. Carrol, ibid., p. 99.

Patrick J. Carrol, ibid., pp. 99-100.

Alberto M. Carreño, "El peligro negro", discurso, Sociedad Mexicana de Geografía y Estadística, April 28, 1910, México, p. 1. "...We have to confess that we had doubts about which theme could be the most appropriate to discuss in today's celebration, and to the end objectives of our institute. ...We are refering here to what we can denominate the black threat, that is, the immigration of men with that skin color who want to come to establish themselves in Mexico, as reported by the press of the last few days."

Ibid. "But was the gained freedom (by the African-Americans) and the equality of the laws given to them with respect to the rest of the American citizens any help in elevating the very low standard of living of the Negro? Definitively not, and that forces us to consider if the phenomenon is caused by the inferiority of that race and their imposibility to struggle with success with the White race." Later in his speech he asserts that "the inferiority of the Black race cannot be denied. It is hard enough to have to take care of the Indian problem, which Mexico needs to resolve, and which we have addressed before in this same forum, to have to complicate ourselves with the worst of complications."

See José Guadalupe Posada. Messenger of Morality, ed. by Julian Rothenstein, Moyer Bell Limited, N.Y., 1989; Posada's Popular Mexican Prints. 273 Cuts by José Guadalupe Posada, Selected and edited by Roberto Berdecio and Stanley Appelbaum, Dover Publications, New York, 1972; Edward Larocque Tinker, &Calaveras, Harry Ransom Center, University of Texas, Austin, 1961; México en el Arte, No. 5, INBA, November 1948; Las obras de José Guadalupe Posada, Grabador Mexicano, with introduction by Diego Rivera, Mexican Folkways, Talleres Gráficos de la Nación, Mexico City, 1930.

See Elizabeth Salas, Soldaderas in the Mexican Military. Myth and History, University of Texas Press, Austin, 1990.

See Francisco Rojas González, La Negra Angustias, Ibero-Americana de Publicaciones, México, 1944.

Salas, op. cit., p. 87.

In Adriana Williams, Covarrubias, University of Texas Press, Austin, 1994, p. 37.

Lithograph, not dated. This piece is part of the collection of El Museo Nacional de la Estampa, in Mexico City.

The translation of the song Angelitos Negros: "You, painter born in my land, with the foreign brush, you, painter that follows the path 01 so many old painters . Even if the Virgin is white, paint me little black angels. Because all good blacks also go to heaven. You, painter, if you paint with love, why do you despise their color, if you know that in heaven also God loves them? You, painter of bedroom saints, if you have soul in your body, why did you forget blacks when you painted your art? When you paint churches you always paint beautiful little angels, but you never remember to paint a black angel".

In Manuel González Casanova, "El cine en el Caribe", in Cultura del Caribe III, Memorias del 2do. Festival Internacional de Culturas del Caribe, Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, Programa Cultural de las Fronteras, México, 1989, pp. 393-400.

Term given to the lower classes by the elite. A despective term that literally means the pealed ones, those naked, without skin, in the castas paintings Indians were depicted with their heads shaved.

Fredric Jameson, The Political Unconscious, Narrative as a Socially Symbolic Act, Cornell University Press, New York, 1991, p. 20.

David Montejano, Anglos and Mexicans in the Making of Texas, 1836-1986, University of Texas Press, Austin, 1989, p. 26.

David Montejano, Ibid., p. 221.

David Montejano, Ibid., p. 231.

David Montejano, Ibid., p, 262.

500 Años del Pueblo Chicano/500 Years of History in Pictures, Elizabeth Martínez, ed. Southwest Organizing Project (SWOP), Albuquerque, New Mexico, expanded ed. 1991, p. ii.

Fredric Jameson, op. cit., p. 20. Jameson does not include race and the experience that the struggle to overcome racism brings to this proposition. But together with social class, gender, sexual orientation and ethnicity, race is a fundamental variable wich has to be part of this statement, in order to understand the reasons why struggles some times are open and sometimes are hidden.

500 Años del Pueblo Chicano, p. iii.

Timothy W. Drescher, San Francisco Murals, Community Creates its Muse, 1914-1990, Pogo Press, 1991, p. 52.

In CARA, Chicano Art: Resistance and Affirmation, An Interpretive Exhibition of the Chicano Art Movement, 1965-1985, Wight Art Gallery, University of California, Los Angeles, Index of Artists, p. 351, 1991.

Personal communication with the artist, April, 1993.

Amelia Malagamba Ansótegui and Gilberto Cárdenas, "Imágenes de la frontera", in Imágenes de la Frontera: Monotipia/Monoprint Images of the Border, Festival Internacional de la Raza 1992, Tijuana, B. C., and Nuevo Laredo, Tamps., México, 1992.

Lucy R. Lippard, "Rupert García", in Rupert García, Prints and Posters/Grabados y Afliches, 1967-1990, The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Centro Cultural/Arte Contemporáneo and Fundación Cultural Tele-visa, A. C., Northeastern University Press, Boston, 1991, p. 34.

Lippard, op. cit., p. 31.

Melba Levick and Stanley Youns, Murals of Los Angeles, The Big Picture, A New York Graphic Society Book, Liltle, Brown and Company, New York, 1988, pp. 86-87.

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