A collaborative curated digital exhibition, Posada and the Mexican Imagination joins resources from the Latin American Collection with the research expertise of graduate students in the Department of Spanish and Portuguese at Indiana University. With support from faculty and librarians, a team of graduate students selected and curated the content featured in this exhibition.

Posada and Mexican Cultural Production

A key figure in the development of the popular, mass-produced penny press in Mexico, publisher Antonio Vanegas Arroyo (1852-1917) recruited master printmakers Manuel Manilla (1830-1895) and José Guadalupe Posada (1852-1913) for his printing shop. Manilla and Posada are best known for their iconic prints of calaveras (skeleton images). However, Posada’s artwork was much more multifaceted than one might think. In his illustrations for chapbooks and broadsides for Vanegas Arroyo, Posada displayed artistic versatility, covering a broad variety of themes and genres which ranged from humorous social commentary and political satire to juvenile stories, recipes and patterns, folklore, popular religion, and sensational news. Few graphic artists of his generation captured las luces y sombras (the lights and shadows) of the Mexican imagination as perceptively as Posada did. Rediscovered during the 1920s and 1930s by renowned painters such as Jean Charlot and Diego Rivera, José Guadalupe Posada has since become a cultural reference in his own right.

Consisting of original calavera prints, broadsides, chapbooks, and board games, the Vanegas Arroyo Collection in the Latin American Collection provides a broad representation of José Guadalupe Posada and Manuel Manilla’s work during a pivotal period in modern Mexican history. These primary materials form the core of the IU Libraries Latin American Collection’s growing 20th-century cultural production archive.

Decentering Knowledge Production and Collaborative Authorship

When the Latin American Collection recently purchased the rare Vanegas Arroyo Collection, which provides a window onto an important period in Mexican cultural and political history, we were inspired to use this acquisition not only to enrich the strong holdings the library has in this area but also to implement a working theory about new methods for contributing to knowledge production. It began with a graduate seminar that focused on cultural production in Mexico and on questioning traditional paradigms for the study of cultural artifacts and phenomena. In the course, we sought to understand our objects of study within their original socio-historical frameworks and to understand better the ways intellectual traditions and their implied politics had shaped our contemporary perceptions. We debated ways to move toward the de-hierarchization and decolonization of our academic approaches and discussed how changes in methods could make real change in research, scholarly publications, and the digital humanities.

With these goals in mind, the seminar professor (Kathleen Myers) teamed up with subject librarians in Latin American Studies and the digital humanities (Luis A. González and Lino Mioni). Together they gave graduate students hands-on training in analyzing different types of archival material and their cultural significance today. The graduate course drew MA and PhD students from three very different disciplines (Cultural Studies, Anthropology, and Information and Library Science), which enriched discussions and underscored the benefits of decentering traditional boundaries among disciplines and encouraged us to think about new paradigms for collaborative knowledge production. In Posada and the Mexican Imagination, graduate students are co-authors who work across disciplines to bring a fresh eye to these materials. Our digital project showcases interdisciplinary approaches and how theories about the decolonization/decentering of knowledge production and collaborative authorship can be put into practice. The result is both an open access digital exhibition that ensures wide dissemination of scholarly work to a general public and a concrete professional development experience for young scholars as they develop their own working methods and theories.

December 2022


Kathleen Myers (Faculty), Luis A. González (Librarian), Lino Mioni (Senior Collections Reference Assistant)

Graduate students: Alex Wingate, Ari Plymale, Núria Alishio-Caballero, Cristian Ramirez, Mariah Cardenas