Made in Mexico: Souvenirs, artisans, shoppers and the meanings of other "border-type-things"
AdvisorParezo, Nancy J.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractIn spite of their ubiquitous presence, the artisans who make serialized souvenirs for the tourist markets in the US-Mexico border and the people who buy these objects are invisible to the academic communities on both sides of the national divide. Simultaneously ignored by the Mexican folk arts canon; borderlands studies; Mexican historiography; and the anthropological literature interested in signs and symbolism, these allegedly low-grade and marginalized objects and people are nonetheless integral to the development of capitalism in Mexico. This work is an ethnography of the system of objects known as "Mexican curios" from the point of view of those who make the objects and those who consume them. It focuses specifically on one family of artisans that makes plaster figurines in Nogales, Sonora and shoppers at a Flea Market in Tucson, Arizona. The ethnography seeks to answer the questions: "Why is the most visible invisible?" and "How does invisibility become socially-installed and contested?" The study argues that instead of considering Mexican curios as the degenerate rear-guard to standards of good taste, or, as affronts to state-sanctioned ideas about folk art, these objects and the meanings attributed to them by makers and consumers must be read "in reverse." That is, as subtexts of fragmented projects of nationalism and social distinction. Curios distort by negation and playful inter-cultural negotiations dominant intellectual ideas about national patrimony and "worthiness." Plaster curio artisans and shoppers invent their own narratives to counter perceptions about their value as human beings and citizens. They appropriate, exppropriate, transform, and invent discourses about aesthetics, work, class, gender, and historical memory to invest meaning into their practices and their identities. The study stresses the importance of vernacular social histories as a mean through which subordinated people can regain a sense of empowerment when they interact with structures of power over which they have no control. In addition, the ethnography attempts to open a dialogue about the limits and the opportunities afforded by the disciplines of Folklore and Anthropology when they are wielded by research participants for their own goals.
Degree ProgramGraduate College