King's College London
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Ploughing the sea: Latin America observed

Art and representations of mixed heritage

Carlos Mérida (1891-1984) was a Guatemalan artist of mixed Maya and Zapotec heritage. His work blends the eclectic heritage and traditions of 'pueblos indígenos' culture with 20th century artistic techniques. 

Mérida's work Carnival in Mexico: ten original colour lithographs (Mexico, 1940) is held in the Canning House Library Collection and is available for consultation in the Foyle Special Collections Library.

In the introduction, Mérida discusses how pre-and post- conquest traditions in Latin America mix to positive and intriguing effect:

If the miracles of the saints gave native painters magnificent opportunities to express themselves, the European carnival, in Mexico, became a picture of native Mexican feeling intertwined with European tradition ... carnival time in Mexico, best expresses the soul of the people ... mingling both European tradition and native zest.

Many people in modern Latin America are of mixed heritage and Mérida wishes the culture of the mestizo and mestiza (the feminine form of the Spanish term for those of mixed heritage) to be celebrated and embraced. Each lithograph in this collection is signed by Mérida and is from number 147 of a limited edition of 500 copies.

A brightly coloured lithograph shows two elaborately and brightly clothed figures from a Mexican carnival, their costume a blend of Iberian and indigenous traditions. Another set of prints by Mérida is also held in the Foyle Special Collections Library. These are equally as colourful and attractive and show regional dress within Mexico.

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