Monday, December 14, 2015

Professor Patricia Galeana in the Centro de Estudios de la Historia de México

You can now listen in anytime to Professor Galeana's talk (in Spanish) for the Centro de Estudios de la Historia de México in Mexico City on November 18, 2015. Dr Galeana is a leading historian of the second Empire and her talk should prove invaluable for anyone researching this tumultuous period.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Maximilian's Decrees in Nahuatl

Just out in Spanish: De la A a la Z: El conocimiento de las lenguas de México (Instituto Nacional de Antropologia y Historia, 2015) a collection of essays edited by Rodrigo Martínez Baracs and Salvador Rueda Smithers. There is no English translation, but should that come to pass, the title might be From A to Z: Knowledge of the Languages of Mexico.

The last chapter is by an author scholars of the second Empire will immediately recognize: Amparo Gómez Tepexicuapan: "Los decretos en náhuatl del emperador Maximiliano" or, Emperor Maximilian's Decrees in Nahuatl. Nahuatl is the language of the Nahuas, the largest group of indigenous people in Mexico and which includes the Mexica, also known as the Aztecs. 

Gómez Tepexicuapan also introduces us to Maximilian's translator, Don Faustino Chimalpopoca Galicia (1805-1877), a professor of the Nahuatl language in the University of Mexico and a supporter of the monarchy, as were so many other indigenous peoples. Of note, one of Carlota's maids of honor (damas de palacio) was Doña Josefa Varela, a descendant of Nezahualcóyotl.

From page 250 (my translation) Gómez Tepexicuapan writes:

"The publication of these decrees in Nahuatl shows Maximilian's great interest in the indigenous peoples. He knew from the beginning that using their language would be the surest way to communicate with his subjects, as in the deeply-rooted custom in the Austro-Hungarian Empire."

While the chapter is 11 pages, its importance makes this anthology an essential addition to any library on the Second Empire. You can find a copy from CONACULTA and also look for it in WorldCatISBN 978-607-484-646-1

See also:

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Carlota's Visit to Yucatán: VIAJE A YUCATAN por Carlota de Bélgica, prólogo de José N. Iturriaga

Por Carlota de Bélgica
Prólogo de José N. Iturriaga
CONACULTA, México, 2011
ISBN 978-607-455-680-3
[You should be able to find a copy on and/or look it up on World Cat.]

Ever since it was published in 2011 I have been meaning to post a note about this handsome little book-- little indeed at a mere 75 pages, but nonetheless a vital contribution to the literature on the period.

In November of 1865, for the monarchists, the political and military circumstances in Mexico had begun to deteriorate to such degree that Maximilian could not leave the capital for the few weeks his much-anticipated state visit to Yucatán would have required. In his stead he sent his empress, Carlota. 

Less than a year from when she would suffer a permanent psychotic breakdown, Carlota reported on this exotic, politically crucial and physically dangerous journey-- a report I had the privilege to read in her own remarkably clear and steady handwriting, preserved in the archives in Vienna and, by the way, in a copy in the Library of Congress in Washington DC [where you will find it there under "Kaiser Maximilian von Mexiko" in the Manuscripts Division]. 

It always seemed strange to me that Carlota's report on the Yucatán languished in the archives. I was glad indeed to see this edition brought out by Mexico's CONACULTA and with a thoughtful introduction by Mexican historian José N. Iturriaga

(Stranger still to me was a visit to Brussels about a decade ago, to an exhibition of Aztec and Mayan artworks where I found not a single mention of Carlota's visit, nor of her report.)

Here is my translation of the book's back cover:

María Carlota Amalia Agustina Victoria Clementina Leopoldina de Saxe-Coburg y Orleáns Boubon- Deux-Siciles y de Habsbourg-Lorraine, daughter of King Leopold I and Queen Louise of Belgium, was born on June 7, 1840. Carlota was the first cousin of Queen Victoria of English and, on her mother's side, granddaughter of King Louis Philippe of France. In 1857 Carlota married the Archduke Maximilian of Austria. She arrived in Mexico with him in 1864.
Summa Mexicana here presents a series of 24 texts written by Carlota between 1865 and 1866 in which she describes her visit as Empress of Mexico to the Yucatán peninsula.
In telegrams, speeches, reports, letters and notes, some to her husband and others to diplomats and family members, we discover the personality, at times simple, of a singular woman who is remembered in Mexico in myriad ways.
Carlota of Belgium died on January 19, 1927 at almost 87 years of age in the country of her birth.
More anon. 

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Metaphysical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution: Francisco I. Madero and His Secret Book, Spiritist Manual

As the title says, my latest book is about Francisco I. Madero's Spiritist philosophy and the Mexican Revolution, which he launched in 1910-- more than thirty years after Maximilian's infamous demise on the Cerro de las Campanas in Querétaro. So it might seem that this has zip to do with Maximilian and the so-called Second Empire. Au contraire.

Although Metaphysical Odyssey is nonfiction, and intended to represent a serious scholarly contribution to the literature of the Revolution,  it is also, to a degree, a personal memoir, for I write as a novelist, that is, as one who comes at the subject having written fiction about Mexico's Second Empire, and, as with my fiction, in this I attempt a work of literary art per se

I am happy to report that the reviews for Metaphsyical Odyssey into the Mexican Revolution have been good, including a lengthy one by José Mariano Leyva in Letras Libres, and that the book won the National Indie Excellence Award for History. 

I invite you to visit the book's website in English or in Spanish.  Both sites offer excerpts, links to find the book on amazon and Barnes & Noble, etc, as well as extensive resources for researchers. Among them are the podcast of my recent talk for UCSD Center for US-Mexican Studies and an interview with the leading esoteric podcast, "Occult of Personality", hosted by Greg Kaminsky.

Leyva, by the way, is the author of the excellent El ocaso de los espíritus. El espiritismo en México en el siglo XIX. Ediciones Cal y Arena, 2005. It seems that Kardec's books on Spiritism came to Mexico with the French Intervention of the 1860s. More about that anon. 

Also in the pipeline for this blog: a note about Empress Carlota's state visit to Yucatán in 1865 and an in-depth interview with Mary Margaret McAllen, the author of Maximilian and Carlota: Europe's Last Empire in Mexico.

Monday, February 2, 2015

An Interview with Mexican Historian Alan Rojas Orzechowski about Maximilian's Court Painter, Santiago Rebull

He was Maximilian's Court Painter, a leading figure in 19th century Mexican painting, and one of the important influences on Diego Rivera, yet few people have heard of Santiago Rebull until now.
Santiago Rebull: The Outlines of a Story
at the Museum of the Diego Rivera Mural in Mexico City
Through February 15, 2015

If you're anywhere near Mexico City, make the effort to come in and visit the Santiago Rebull show at the Museo Mural Diego Rivera. >> More information here. << For those aficionados of the history of the French Intervention, and in particular the brief reign of Maximilian von Habsburg as Emperor of Mexico, this is an especially important show not to miss, for Rebull was Maximilian's Court Painter and, interestingly, one of the few individuals close to the monarchy who managed to remain in Mexico and even thrive in subsequent decades under the Republic.
Herewith, my interview with the show's curator, Mexican historian Alan Rojas Orzechowski.

Santiago Rebull
Self-portrait, 1852
C.M. MAYO: What gave you the idea for the show?
ALAN ROJAS ORZECHOWSKI: The exhibitionSantiago Rebull: Los contornos de una historia (Santiago Rebull: The Outlines of a Story) presented in the Museo Mural Diego Rivera is our own way to pay homage to one of the most creative minds of the Academic Movement in Mexico, an illustrious painter and educator who molded the minds of pupils such as Roberto Montenegro, Ángel Zárraga and Diego Rivera.

As an outstanding teacher, he taught Diego Rivera as a young student in the San Carlos Academy of Arts. Rivera in return, always considered him as a mentor and guide, respecting him as both, as an instructor and fellow artist. Exploiting this connection, the Museo Mural Diego Rivera and external curator Magaly Hernández, thought suitable to present an exhibition which honored Rebull´s artwork, underlining his influence on Rivera and his generation.

CMM: How did Santiago Rebull, so close to Maximilian, manage to remain in Mexico and continue working as a successful artist for decades afterwards?
Santiago Rebull
La muerte de Marat, 1875
ARO: I personally think that it was his undeniable talent as an artist which enabled him to continue teaching in San Carlos Academy during three more decades. In the immediate years after Maximilian's fall he did receive severe reproaches from fellow artists and local newspapers as a monarchist and “afrancesado” (pro-French), but he carried on painting members of the political, economic and cultural elite. As a testament of this, the portraits of Presidents Benito Juárez and Porfirio Díaz are shown in the exhibition. Both pieces are dated in the 1870s, less than a decade after the monarch´s disgrace.
He retained his position as a teacher in San Carlos and also imparted drawing lessons to female pupils in the Colegio de Vizcaínas which was the only female and secular school in Mexico throughout the XVIII and XIX centuries. Along with his academic career, he remained a prolific painter, authoring remarkable pieces such as La muerte de Marat (Marat's Death) and several portraits.

CMM: What has been the reaction from art historians and historians of the Second Empire?
ARO: The Academic reaction towards the Second Empire, from both, historians and art historians, has changed through time. During the first half of the XX Century, the posture was very much aligned to the official history, characterized by a nationalist stance in which Maximilian was portrayed as an invader and many of his actions as an imposition to Mexicans. Nevertheless, this has shifted to a fascination for both, Maximilian and Charlotte, partly thanks to literature. En example of this, the book Noticias del Imperio(News from the Empire) by Fernando del Paso or The Last Prince of the Mexican Empireby C.M. Mayo. 
Historians have now a much more benevolent gaze to the Second Empire, emphasizing on Maximilian's liberal measures that assisted the indigenous groups and regulated Ecclesiastic influence on civilianswhich certainly made him unpopular with his original supporters.
Art historians tend to be cautious with their judgments, stressing the continuity on San Carlos Academy trough its curriculum, academic cluster and board, all of them dramatically modified with the Republic's restoration. For instance, Eduardo Báez Macías, in his volume History of the National School of Fine Arts (Old San Carlos Academy), mentions Maximilian's patronizing attitude towards Mexican art, believing it to be provincial to what he was used to in Europe.  
My personal view is the opposite. Maximilian was a very intelligent ruler, he was aware of the necessity of his government's legitimacy, and knew that the main way to achieved it was through art and Court protocol. In the first case, he arose from the liberal vs. conservative´s discussion over national heroes and entrusted several talented young artists to create a portrait gallery of the libertadores, including characters such as Hidalgo and Iturbide along. Also, in several Imperial projects he preferred to employ talented Mexican students over well-known established European teachers as Eugenio Landesio or Pelegrín Clavé.

CMM: Which of all the 68 pieces do you consider the most essential for understanding Rebull and his place in Mexican art?
Santiago RebullLa muerte de Abel, 1851
ARO: Santiago Rebull is one of the most relevant XIX century painters in Mexico's history. He is a fundamental artist of the Academicism generation, and keystone to understanding the shift in the Art Scene towards the Vanguards and the Mexican Painting School of XX century, since he was an inexhaustible teacher to many of its participants. 
One of Santiago Rebull's anchor pieces isLa muerte de Abel (Abel's Death). It was painted in 1851 and earned him a scholarship to travel to Rome. He there attended the San Lucas Academy, a conservative catholic art school that followed the principles of the Nazarene Movement, specially influenced by the German painter Johann Friedrich Overbeck.
Rebull studied under the guidance of Academic artist Thomaso Consoni, who molded and perfected his technique through a careful series of exercises consisting on copying masterpieces from Renaissance maestros
Therefore, La muerte de Abel best represents the Academic ideals of trace, color use and proportions so faithfully followed by Rebull. 

CMM: Was it difficult to find these 68 pieces, and were there any you couldn’t get for the show that you wish you had?
Santiago Rebull
El sacrificio de Isaac, 1859
ARO: Unfortunately there was a piece we were unable to obtain, El sacrificio de Isaac (Isaac's Sacrifice) painted in 1858 during his sojourn in Italy and displayed in the Centennial Exposition of Philadelphia and later shown in New Orleans. The image is almost 118 inches tall and it’s a flawless sample of Rebull´s work during this formative voyage under Consoni's guidance. Alas, it was a crucial piece in the National Museum of Art (MUNAL), therefore, they were unable to lend it.
It was relatively unproblematic to secure the greater part of the assortment since it belongs to the painter's descendants, most of them eager to promote their ancestor's work. The rest of the pieces were graciously provided by significant institutions such as the San Carlos Academy, the National Museum of Art and the Colegio de Vizcaínas.
CMM: Was the museum at Il Castillo di Miramar involved in any way? (The original of Rebull's portrait of the Emperor Maximilian was sent there, is that right?)
Joaquín Ramírez
Portrait of Emperor Maximilian I, ca. 1866. 
ARO: The original full length portrait of Maximilian was painted by Santiago Rebull in 1865. The Emperor took such pleasure on it that resulted on the appointment of Rebull as court painter; he was also awarded the Order of Guadalupe, the Empire's uppermost honor. 
The monarch relocated the painting in Miramar Castle in Trieste, Italy that same year. Nonetheless he commissioned Joaquín Ramírez, another Academic painter to produce an exact copy of his portrait. Currently, the latter is part of the National Institute of Fine Arts collection and it's shown at Chapultepec Castle. We exhibit a contemporary reproduction of Ramírez painting.

CMM: The decorative bacchantes that Rebull painted for Chapultepec Castle-- were these Maximilian's idea or the artist's? What do you think was the message of such decorative paintings?
Santiago Rebull
Bacante para la terraza 
del Alcázar de Chapultepec, 1894.
ARO: The decorative bacchantes of Miravalle (Chapultepec) Castle were the Emperor's idea but Rebull only painted four of them during Maximilian's reign since the remaining two were created later, during President Porfirio Díaz administration when he occupied the castle as his summer residence.
The message behind the bacchantes is clear: the ideal of graciousness that courtesan life implied. Maximilian was convinced that through art and elaborate court rituals his regime would gain the legitimacy and acceptance of Mexican elites. The creation of new titles, honors and reinstated old colonial titles were strategies followed by the sovereign. Thus, art and protocol were undeniably intertwined in the imperial residences. In the words of art historian Justino Fernández “Rebull planned six bacchantes figures […] the romanticism of the epoch finds here one of its classical expressions, these women, or better said, demigoddesses, highly idealized, wear the magnificence of their figure, in a movement attitude.” *

*Justino Fernández. El arte del siglo XIX en México, Mexico, Imprenta Universitaria, 1967,  p. 77.

CMM: What do you consider Rebull's most essential achievements as an artist?
Santiago Rebull
Portrait of Porfirio Díaz, 
ARO: His personal career is bound to the history of San Carlos Academy; we may consider him as a founding painter of Mexican art of the first decades of independence, when the elite and middle classes were shaping an identity of their own, which they found in the expressions of Academicism and Neoclassic Art. 
He perfected his education with the European sojournnot remaining solely in Rome, but traveling extensively through Spainand returned with a refined paintbrush imbibed by Purism and Nazarene precepts. The preparative drawings are a testament of Rebull´s expertise of trace and copying, the two cornerstone of a XIX century Academic education. 
Upon his return he grew as a prolific portraitist, the most important being that of Emperor Maximilian. But his talent was enjoyed not only by royals; both Presidents Benito Juárez and Porfirio Díaz were also depicted by the artist. The latter, is embodied as a young aspiring president, unlike later representations where an elderly and heavily ornamented military men is shown. Furthermore, common and quotidian characters were also portrayed by him.

Santiago Rebull
Portrait of an unknown man, undated

CMM: Why is the show in the Museo de Diego Rivera? Can you talk a little about Rebull's influence on Diego Rivera?

Santiago Rebull
Profeta Elymar, 1853
Diego Rivera
Cabeza masculina, 1900
ARO: Since the Museo Mural Diego Rivera has the commitment of preserving Diego Rivera's legacy, promoting the artistic expressions created during the XX century and especially those influenced by Rivera himself, we thought there was a great breach with his predecessors. Who were they? Who particularly influenced him?
Rivera was educated at the San Carlos Academy of Arts in Mexico City where he was an accomplished student, tutored by the great artists of the XIX century Academic movement. He received a refined instruction from painters such as José Salomé Pina, José María Velasco and Santiago Rebull. Diego always felt in debt towards the latter, recognizing him as his mentor.


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