Part A: Critical Reflections and summary of two selected readings

Critical Reflection on “Writing on the Wall: Culture, Identity, and Politics”

In the essay “Writing Wall: Culture, Identity, and Politics” in “Faces of Latin America,” Green Duncan & Branford reviews various cultures, identities, and political orientations in the suburbs and shanty towns of Latin America. In the essay, the authors identify Latin America people by their love for telenovela or soap opera. In almost every household that owns a television set, it is not a surprise to find everyone settling down in front of the latest soap opera to enjoy the show. Besides, even those who do not own TV sets in the neighborhoods often drop by for the show and begin an animated discussion concerning the latest twist in the bewildering plot. Specifically, in the late 1980s, about 40 million Mexicans, which approximately a half of the country’s population regularly tuned in for “Cradle of Wolves” which was a lurid account of a ruthless heroine who had an eyepatch committed various gruesome killings. 

From the show, it can also be seen that the authors portray Latin American as being identified more by their literature and music than for soap. However, this fact does not reflect the actual views of the Latin American people because they are deeply rooted in the culture of soap opera. This fact reveals the misconception about the culture of Latin American people by the European and North American countries. Similarly, the authors recall that political practices of Latin America are characterized by traumatic events such as conquest and murder of other leaders, which are still happening today. Notably, Latin America’s music, costumes, and dances are unique and inseparable and often form part of their annual round ritual celebrations. In the essay, it can be seen that the cultural practices of the indigenous Latin American people such as religion were replaced with Catholic forms of worship to appease the colonial authorities. However, it is evident that some of the indigenous cultural practices like carnival brass bands and devil dance have since become tourist attractions in towns.

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Critical Reflection on “What do Mexicans Celebrate on the ‘Day of the Dead?”

In the essay, “What do Mexicans Celebrate on the ‘Day of the Dead?” by Salvador, the author gives an account of one of the most important festive holiday in Mexico. The author tries to find the meaning of the “Day of the Dead”. As a result, the author notes that it is an ancient festive that has been transformed throughout the years. Specifically, the author points out that in the pre-Hispanic Mexico, the festive was intended to celebrate children and the dead and has since transformed. According to the author, the festive allows families to remember their dead love ones and to allow for continuity of life (Carmichael, Elizabeth, and Chloe Sayer). As a result, one may want to know why the holiday is not a morbid occasion, but rather a festive time.

The authors claims that it has a complicated history thus, its observance slightly differs region by region and by degree of urbanization. For instance, the holiday has even been moved by Spanish priests to make it coincide with the Christian holiday of Hallows Eve, which shows how important the holiday is to the people of Mexico (Jance). This fact explains why the modern festive is characterized by traditional Mexican blend of ancient aboriginal and induced Christian elements. Overall, the festive entails families remembering and welcoming their dead loved ones back into their homes and also make visits to the graves of their close relatives (Carmichael, Elizabeth, and Chloe Sayer). During the celebrations, the families often believe that the souls of their dead close relatives return and hang out with them during picnic events, thus explaining the warm colorful and social environmental setting during this holiday celebrations. The families value the interaction between the dead and the living, which is a form of recognizing the cycle of life and death, which describes the nature of human existence (Jance). The decoration of the environment is also done to appease the dead to return to participate in their remembrance. In short, the “Day of the Dead” can be understood as a cultural event that has a definite social and economic obligations for the participants.

Part B: Essay:  The relationship between art and politics reflected in Mexican Muralism

Mexican muralism stems from the mural painting, which is the art of painting images on the walls or ceilings. Mexican Muralism provides an opportunity to represent Mexican cultural through the relationship between art and politics. Originally, Mexican Muralism was spawned by the Porfirio’s Regime as well as the conservative Mexican Revolution (Anreus et al). Originally, murals were utilized as a way of spreading visual messages to the illiterate population that opened up new possibilities in the inclusion and cohesiveness of community within people (Heidenry 122). Often, the relationship between art and political was represented in Mexican Murals in a form of drawings of political propaganda (Anreus et al). As a result, the murals bypassed more traditional forms of advertising and pamphlet printing to represent politics in art form so that the illiterate population could understand. Through art, murals ensured that everyone in the community was aware of the political issues happening in the society (Siqueira-Batista 149). Murals liberated art from art market and its elitism, thus making it free and available to all people and gave them greater political exposure.

In some cases, even the mural artist who were commission by the government and other authoritative bodies would reject the direction they were told to follow, and instead, create artistic works that included of their ideas and values, criticizing the governments or authoritative powers. Even though some of their artistic works proved to be controversial, they got away with them. Murals form of art would later influence the modern graffiti and street art scenes that people used to communicate their political points of view. As a result, art play an essential role in the revolution that lead to the liberation of Mexico. There is no doubt that Mexican Muralism was the driving force behind the revolution that saw the political powers handed over to the indigenous people.

In other parts of the globe such as the United States, Mexican Muralism, the art of painting political contents on walls developed as a tool for the Latino minorities who lived in the country to express their political dissatisfaction. Basically, Mexican Muralism depicted clear political messages (Heidenry 125). For instance, mural arts depicted working class, who were placed at the bottom of the mural to represent the position they occupied at the bottom of the social order (Siqueira-Batista 143). At the bottom, the arts depicts the working class busy fighting amongst themselves, while the rich enjoy their luxurious banquets. Some arts entailed distorted faces and bodies of the wealthy in the upper register of the murals, which represented their decadence and misuse of power. 

Works Cited

Anreus, Alejandro, Leonard Folgarait, and Robin Adèle Greeley, eds. Mexican Muralism: a critical history. Univ of California Press, 2012.

Carmichael, Elizabeth, and Chloe Sayer. The skeleton at the feast: The Day of the Dead in Mexico. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1991.

Green Duncan & Branford, Sue. Faces of Latin America, 4th Edition. New York: New York University Press, 2012.

Heidenry, Rachel. "The murals of El Salvador: Reconstruction, historical memory and whitewashing." Public Art Dialogue 4.1 (2014): 122-145.

Jance, Judith A., and Tim Jerome. Day of the Dead. William Morrow, 2004.

 Salvador, Ricardo J. “What Do Mexicans Celebrate on the ‘Day of the Dead’?” Death and Bereavement in the Americas. Death, Value and Meaning Series. Ed. J. D. Morgan and P. Laungani. Vol. 2. NY: Baywood Publishing, 2003. Web. 05 Jan. 2006.

Siqueira-Batista, Rodrigo, Mendes, Pinio M., Fonseca, Julia D., &Maciel, Marina D. “Art and Pain in FridaKahlo.”Rev. Dor. Sao Paulo, 15.2(2014): 139-144. Web, 21 March 2018