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Exhibition: ‘In the Shadow of Cortés: From Veracruz to Mexico City’

Monday, September 12, 2016


LAWRENCE — Surrounded by rhetoric of border security and trade issues between the U.S. and Mexico, a singular identity of Mexico and its people often permeate through politics and popular culture.

The Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, CLACS, in partnership with KU Libraries, will host a traveling exhibition from the Mathers Museum of World Cultures that challenges that singular perception through photographs, voices and historical documents.

CLACS will feature “In the Shadow of Cortés: From Veracruz to Mexico City,” a photographic exhibition designed and prepared by Indiana University Professor Kathleen Myers and with photographs by fellow Indiana University professor and renowned National Geographic photographer Steve Raymer.

The multimedia exhibition, supplemented by materials and artifacts curated by Kenneth Spencer Research Library, retraces the route of Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés’ 1519 invasion of central Mexico. Myers’ research portrays the diverse tapestry of voices, ideas and emotions that populate the region related to Mexico’s complicated past of conquest and cultural identity.

“‘In the Shadow of Cortés’ proposes a visual and cultural history of the legacy of contact between the Spanish conquistadors and indigenous groups of Mexico. It visualizes the route by showing cultural traditions, landscapes and glimpses of the historical archive resulting from these early colonial encounters,” said Santa Arias, professor of Latin American literatures and cultures and director of CLACS.

Reflecting the indelible cultural and political shadow on Mexican history left by the conquest, this exhibition presents a visual narrative of cultural memory and collective identity retold and reinterpreted differently by individuals and groups along the route.

“This project is not a celebration of Hernán Cortés or the Spanish Conquest, but a close examination of its pervasive legacy, surviving traditions and of places and landscapes shaping people’s identities and daily lives,” Arias said.

The traveling exhibit includes 30 photographs, 24 by Raymer and six images reproduced from other sources. The photographs depict the storytellers, scholars and townspeople interviewed and of commemorations of Cortés' conquest, including festivals and locations that give prominence to Spanish and Catholic influences. Other images show resurgent celebrations of indigenous cultures dating back 500 years and archeological efforts that reveal pre-colonial architecture and artifacts systematically supplanted by Cortés’ invasion.

In conjunction with the traveling exhibit, the Spencer Research Library will showcase original materials, including some modern editions and facsimiles of books and maps related to Cortés and the conquest. The exhibit uses these materials to provide glimpses into the pre-Hispanic world in Mexico, the Spanish in the Americas from Columbus to Cortés, accounts by participants in and eyewitnesses to the conquest, histories of the conquest by other authors and Spanish post-conquest colonization efforts.

“In the Shadow of Cortés: From Veracruz to Mexico City” will be featured through Dec. 10 on the third-floor exhibition space at Spencer Research Library. Library hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday and 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday. For more information, please visit spencer.lib.ku.edu or call 785-864-4334.

CLACS and KU Libraries, with additional support from the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, Department of Spanish & Portuguese, Department of History, Hall Center for the Humanities and the Indigenous Studies Program, will host a series of events throughout the fall 2016 semester in connection with the exhibit:

  • Opening exhibition reception Sept. 28 at Spencer Research Library. Viewing begins at 5:30 p.m. with remarks to follow by John Schwaller, professor of History at University at Albany. To attend, RSVP to Jennifer Muse by Sept. 23 at 785-864-8961 or libevents@ku.edu.
  • A roundtable discussion with Kathleen Myers at Spencer Research Library at 10:30 a.m. Nov. 4. The event is free to the public.

For more information and a schedule of events, please visit latamst.ku.edu or contact Aron Muci at 785-864-4213 or amuci0915@ku.edu.

Image: Exhibition photo by Steve Raymer.


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