Student Opinion: Reconsidering Mexico in the Arts

By Sally King, CC BY-NC 2.0,

by Ian Bastida

LOS ANGELES — There seems to be a specific type of person that many envision as what an artist looks like. Gordon Ramsey is a chef’s blueprint and Michelangelo encapsulates the painter—both white. The Eurocentric standard does not only revolve around beauty but also prioritizes the art we consume. 

Nobody wants to recognize Mexico for its contribution to the expansive world of the fine arts, ranging from pottery, masonry, food and many other artistic mediums that deserve applause.

American media has created a harmful perception of its bordering country—portraying it as plagued with corruption and poverty. U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) shared with PBS New Hour that the misrepresentation of Latinos in the United States as criminals and drug dealers “invites politicians to exploit negative stereotypes for political gain.” Trump’s rhetoric of the “bad hombre” made matters worse.

Despite the large Mexican-American population in the US, the presentation of Mexico and its people are continuously skewed. Many fail to consider the nation as a land rich in arts and culture.

Mexican cuisine has some of the most complex and intense flavor profiles. Tacos are just the surface of some of the country’s finest cuisine.  Tamales, enchiladas, chilaquiles and many other dishes prove Mexico as worthy of recognition in the culinary world.

When prominent culinary schools stretch across various European countries, Mexico is often omitted in conversations of fine cuisine.

Aside from chicken mole holding the highest honor as my favorite food, the process to prepare such a rich and flavorful dish is beyond intensive. It involves frying various peppers with an array of spices as Doña Ángela from De mi Rancho a Tu Cocina illustrates.

Cooking requires great talent, knowledge, experience and skill, all of which Doña Ángela showcases on her YouTube channel—it is an art form. She and Gordon Ramsey do the exact same thing—the only difference is that he is a wealthy white British man with a platform.  

Doña Ángela proves that Mexican women can also participate in the arts and cook wonderful meals that showcase her talent. There is space for Doña Angela and many other Mexican cooks in the culinary world.

Of course, there is more to the country than just the food. Mexico is home to many great painters and potters.

Frida Kahlo has had her time to shine, but it seems that no other Mexican artist has had the time in the spotlight as various Renaissance painters have. Rufino Tamayo and Maria Izquierdo deserve to be on the same gallery walls as Leonardo da Vinci. There are still many other Mexican illustrators, sculptors and muralists that await their rightful praise.

The pottery scene is huge in Mexico. A short film by National Geographic details all the energy and effort that goes into creating such beautiful hand-crafted pottery. Because these Mexican artisans are not light-complected Parisian potters, they do not receive the recognition they deserve.

Eurocentricity remains at fault for this erasure. There is talent and skill all across Mexico, but when American media fails to accurately portray a rich and vibrant culture, it discounts and undermines such prominent creative geniuses.

Just like Italy or France, Mexico has contributed immensely to the world of arts and culture. The detailed intense flavor profiles of the country’s cuisine, Tamayo’s canvases, and such intricate hand-made pottery are all great examples of Mexico’s dedication to artisanship.

The failure to applaud such fine artistry and rich culture stems from the racist rhetoric of the United States and a post-colonial world. Many fail to view Mexico as an epicenter of fine artistry the same way they do with European nations.

The arts take many forms in food, painting, pottery, and much more. Praising Mexican art helps us move in a direction that embraces the talents of underrepresented and underecognized artists.

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