Receipt: March 29, 2022
Acceptance: July 11, 2022
The video and text accompanying this article are based on a peculiar type of source: the monuments and statues in public spaces that account for three major and profound transformations in the Mexican rural world. On the one hand, the change in the axis of economic activities, a process that has given rise to specializations that have helped neighbors to remain in their communities or, at least, to mitigate the exodus that has led to depopulation in so many places. On the other hand, although closely linked to the above, the emergence of local actors with interests, resources and projects that have been able to appropriate the new development discourses. Finally, the monuments show the current ways of intervention of the public space by emerging collectives in traditionally agrarian societies.
praise of diversity: the new monuments of the rural world
The video and its accompanying text are based on a particular source -monuments and statues in public spaces- to account for three large and profound transformations in Mexico's countryside. On the one hand, there is the change in the axis of economic activities, a process that has given rise to specializations that have helped neighbors remain in their communities or at least mitigated the exodus that has brought about depopulation in so many places. On the other hand -although it is very much tied to this change- there has been an emergence of local actors with interests, resources, and projects who have learned how to appropriate the new language of development. Finally, the monuments bring awareness of the current methods of intervention in the public space through emerging collectives in traditional agrarian societies.
Keywords: monuments, rural societies, diversity, specialization, work.
There is no town without a statue,
and there is no statue without a message attached.
Carlos Monsiváis, 1992
Our objective is to make visible a modality of monuments that exist in several towns and that allude to some agricultural, agro-industrial or manufacturing product of which the neighbors are proud, so proud as to have promoted or sponsored the erection of a monument in the urban or landscape layout of their locality. Among the possible forms of public expression, they have chosen the monument. These, which we will call new monuments, have appeared and proliferated in medium-sized spaces and cities with nearby rural environments. They do not exist in urban neighborhoods or colonies, nor in large cities or metropolitan areas.
In recent years and in many countries we have witnessed protests and debates that have been unleashed against public monuments that have become epicenters of marches that have led to them being fenced off, removed, demolished or moved by the authorities (Rizzi, 2021). Symbols and the historical circumstances they represent have ceased to cause indifference to provoke indignation that, thanks to global interconnections, are known, amplified and replicated (Rizzi, 2021).
Paradoxically, the opposite is true for monuments dedicated to local products or activities, installations that began to appear at the end of the 20th century but which have multiplied so far this century. Since the 1990s, there has been an increase in the number of new monuments (see Graph 1).
The monuments, of figurative and realistic style, sometimes hyperrealistic, with diverse dimensions and made with very different materials, have been conceived by the communities and sponsored mostly by those who are dedicated to the activities that made them prosperous, that changed the destiny of them and their towns, that have allowed them to remain in their communities, that have provided them with new forms of organization, economic development, work and social solidarity; that have made them known beyond their borders and traditional spaces and have become their current seal of identity; that is to say, with which they identify and are recognized. They have arisen on the margins, even against governmental purposes and powers, as was the norm for sculptures in public spaces. Their artistic merits may be debatable, but the stories are original and exciting.
Although close to or nestled in rural environments, the sculptures do not allude to corn, but quite the opposite: they reveal what the neighbors did when corn production ceased to be enough to live in the countryside and they had to look for other ways to make a living (Arias, 2017). Through them, communities tell stories, their stories, that discover and vindicate diversity, a magnificent attribute of the Mexican rural world that the peasant paradigm insisted on veiling for decades. The proliferation of new monuments marks the break with that paradigm.
The monuments express a collective and new collectives' gratitude for what they were unable to do for a long time: the changes in the current interests of the communities and their actors to make visible the activities and products that modified their life options.
La selección de monumentos que se muestra en el video es limitada y arbitraria. La investigación fue realizada durante el año 2021 en lugares que conocemos, a donde acudimos a hacer registros fotográficos, tenemos o pudimos obtener información etnográfica que complementara las imágenes. Hay comunidades en las que hemos realizado trabajo de campo, por lo que contamos con información de primera mano, ya que pudimos preguntarles a sus habitantes acerca de los monumentos; en otros casos, acudimos a las localidades donde entrevistamos a las autoridades, en especial a los encargados de Turismo y a los cronistas, que era con quienes invariablemente nos remitían las autoridades. Con dicho conocimiento visitamos los lugares para realizar los registros fotográficos y hacer entrevistas con respecto a los monumentos.
Since what interested us was the version of the promoters, neighbors and visitors, we went to talk to them in squares and gardens, in the sidewalks and traffic circles. When we say neighbors and visitors we mean people, men and women of different ages, whom we asked about the monuments. We were interested in their knowledge, but also in their impressions and evaluations. We learned that the older the monument, the more difficult it is to recover its history. Some of them have had their plaques stolen, which, placed on the day of the inauguration, provided information that has been lost. There are monuments that are known by the names given to them by the people, not by the meanings or the denomination given to them by their sponsors. But that has always been the case.
So far we have information on 41 monuments, mostly located in the states of Jalisco, Michoacán and Guanajuato. For the audiovisual essay we have selected a few examples of new monuments classified in three groups: fruits, agro-industrial and manufactured products. We have others and surely there are more of this type in other localities of the country, as there must also be populations that, although they have an outstanding product, have not erected monuments to it.
As has been pointed out, monuments have always served to impose images and discourses that strengthen the power of those who hold it in each cycle of history (Eder, 1992; García Canclini, 1992). Traditionally, it has been the powers -religious first, political later- that have been in charge of proposing, promoting, imposing and financing the creation of sculptures, monuments and sculptural ensembles that contribute to amalgamate what once were conflicts and thus legitimize their vision and version of history. As happened in recent times in relation to the Christopher Columbus statue on the Paseo de la Reforma in Mexico City, sculptures and their location continue to be an arena of struggle where the values and interests of existing and emerging collectives confront each other over the imaginaries, discourses and uses of sculptures in public space. In this case, as in many others, removing them from the places where they generate conflict has been the way to save them from vandalism, destruction or disappearance.
In the second half of the 19th century, in the nascent republican state, especially during the Juarez and Porfirian regimes, an infinite number of monuments to the heroes of Independence were produced (Eder, 1992; Ibargüengoitia, 1992; Manrique, 1992). The images of the fathers Hidalgo and Morelos, of the Niños Héroes, but above all of Benito Juárez -in all possible dimensions and presentations- adorned plazas, gardens, promenades and premiered hemicycles throughout the country (Escobedo, 1992). With the monument to the head of Juárez, with Olmec reminiscences, the "cabezotismo" was coined, a sculptural style of enormous diffusion throughout Mexico (Eder, 1992).
The profusion of monuments undoubtedly honored the heroes who gave us our homeland and freedom. But they also contributed to generate a new urban spatiality. The monuments to the heroes were installed in gardens, promenades or avenues that embellished and legitimized unprecedented spaces in the cities (Ribera Carbó, 2018). Although several promenades and avenues were created in the late novohispanic times, it was during the convulsed 19th century when they reached their maximum splendor as public spaces that contributed in multiple ways to the maintenance of social order (Ribera Carbó, 2018). They arose from municipal initiatives with a clear political discourse of the republican nation (Ribera Carbó, 2018).
Gardens, promenades and avenues were built in separate and discontinuous spaces with the colonial plinths, loaded with religious and colonial legacies. At first, they were marginal, almost rural spaces, but very soon they acquired centrality and marked a milestone between the old colonial traces and the incipient urban expansion (Cabrales Barajas, 2018; Ribera Carbó, 2018). The installation of statues of heroes, political and military chiefs contributed to create the imaginary of a common past and a new identity (Martínez Assad, 2005; Rivera Carbó, 2018). They were part of the bronze history, as don Luis González used to say, to allude to the heroic narrative amalgamated and imposed by the victors.
As part of this nationalist and integrating discourse, the Porfirian State also sought to vindicate the pre-Hispanic past through the installation of statues that revalued the indigenous past in three ways: effigies to the tlatoanis such as Moctezuma and Cuauhtémoc, Itzcóatl and Ahuízotl (better known as the "Indios Verdes"), all originally on Paseo de la Reforma; as well as monuments, sometimes copies of pre-Hispanic sculptures, such as the Colossus of Tula, and those that exalted the indigenous phenotype in the form of heads and torsos (Eder, 1992; Escobedo, 1992).
The Mexican Revolution brought new heroes to bronze history through the multiplication of statues of Venustiano Carranza, Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata, and to a lesser extent of Alvaro Obregón and Francisco I. Madero. After them, Lázaro Cárdenas has been the most statuesque president of the Republic in post-revolutionary history.
But along with the bronze history in the form of monuments placed on plinths, squares and promenades, in the 20th century another phenomenon appeared: the recognition of the communities to particular epics and local characters, and a way to pay homage to them was to make their statues. An example of the persistence of the symbolic value of the center is the statue of Father Federico González that was placed at the exit of the temple and in front of the plaza, from where he observed and modeled the life of San José de Gracia, Michoacán. His sculpture was a nod both to his participation in the Cristero War, in which he and so many neighbors were involved, and to his quality of undisputed moral leader of that border region of Jalisco and Michoacán (González, 1979).
There are statues that have to do not so much with local microhistories, but with those who made their careers outside the community. Their merits are to have been born there. Such would be the case of politician and businessman Carlos Hank González, sitting in the garden of Santiago Tianguistenco, State of Mexico; of singers, such as Agustín Lara in Veracruz, Pedro Infante in Guamúchil, Sinaloa, or Cri-Cri, el Grillo Cantor in the Bosque de Chapultepec in Mexico City (Escobedo, 1992).
Statues of now very popular characters have emerged, such as Jesús Malverde in Sinaloa, a bandit killed in 1909, who has been adopted as devotion and protection by thieves, smugglers and, more recently, by drug traffickers and other groups from the dark side of history, who have disseminated his image in the form of a colored bust (Durand and Arias, 2009; Escobedo, 1992). The busts of Malverde, in an infinite number of formats, have migrated to multiple spaces: parks, boardwalks, streets, tombs and altars.
There are also statues to abstract entities such as peace, mother or work. Perhaps the closest to the ones we are interested in are those of labor. But they are symbolic representations of workers in emblematic activities of the post-revolutionary Mexican State: firemen, truck drivers, sugar cane workers, railroad workers, gamblers, miners, laborers, oil workers, fishermen, soldiers (Escobedo, 1992; Manrique, 1992).
In recent times, a sort of civic artifact has become popular in Mexico and in other parts of the world, with the letters of the names of towns that are placed in some emblematic place: a square, an avenue, a park, a boardwalk, a highway, a lookout point. These installations have displaced in the public taste to the monuments of heroes. Made of different materials, but invariably colorful and colorful, they have become the preferred place for neighbors to send recognizable images of their localities and for tourists to take selfies that show in social networks the places visited. They are attractive installations that serve to name the towns in an exercise of homogeneity that says nothing about the community in question, apart from the name, of course.
As can be seen in the images, in this study we are dealing with monuments that have to do with work and localities, but in another way. They are artifacts that refer to specific products and activities of the communities. Thus, we find monuments dedicated to agricultural products, such as avocado, biznaga, coffee, strawberry, lemon, apple, pineapple, pitaya, walnut, blackberry; agro-industrial, such as agave, egg, cheese, chili, quince paste; and manufacturing, such as pots, belts, equipales, guitars, molcajetes, pallets, bread, clothing, chairs, hats, shoes. Some of these activities, some very old, others not so old, arose or were strengthened to face the limitations, fragilities and inequalities derived from agricultural activities, systems and organization.
Until the 1990s, it was practically impossible to recognize that there had been drastic and irreversible changes that had modified the so-called peasant economy to its foundations (Warman, 1980). The post-revolutionary State built, with enormous success, an indissoluble symbiosis between living in the countryside and being a farmer that proved to be enduring and impervious to the changes that, slowly but surely, were taking place in the rural world.
That symbiosis would seem to have been coined or strengthened during the presidency of General Lázaro Cárdenas (1934-1940). The objective of the Agrarian Reform, it was said, had been to create "a new producing class, whose members can achieve complete economic independence" and live off what they produce in their plots (Arias, 2019). The ejidal endowment assumed the dedication of ejidatarios to agricultural activities and excluded the possibility that they would engage in other chores (Arias, 2019). The indisputable principle was that small-scale agricultural production in the hands of peasant families was efficient and sufficient to guarantee self-sufficiency, i.e., food self-sufficiency, and to generate a marketable surplus with which peasant households could buy the other products required by the family, which, in principle, it was assumed, was composed of very few.
Economic homogeneity was also sociocultural. Mexican rural society was similar in all contexts and spaces of the national geography, so that its transitions would also be similar. Over the years, ethnographies of rural communities began to mention, time and again, that the peasant economy required other activities, other incomes. This range of activities was assigned, without further discussion, the quality of complementary.
Complementarity became a diffuse and confused explanation. It was pointed out, but no one asked questions such as the following: when had complementarity emerged in the communities being studied, did it mean the same thing in all communities, how were agricultural production and "complementary activities" articulated within families and over time, and did non-agricultural activities not tell another story of work in the fields? Didn't non-agricultural activities make it possible to tell another story of work in the field? Didn't complementarity hide, for example, the female trajectory of work? Wasn't the need for wages evidence that one had to stop and study the "complementarities" that crept into the ethnographies?
For a long time, a veil woven with many ideological threads was responsible for hiding the drastic changes that peasant economies had undergone. This situation had consequences for the development of the countryside because with this hegemonic and homogenizing discourse, government resources and successive rural support programs were only and invariably destined for agriculture. Thus, for decades, rural people were unable to say what they did or receive recognition (advice, training, assistance) for those other activities with which they were redefining ways of earning a living in order to remain in or return to their communities.
Despite the strength of the hegemonic discourse, the diversity of stories and trajectories was making its way and gaining meaning in local narratives and one way to manifest it has been through an unexpected language: the installation of monuments and sculptures to the products that have helped them change so much, which highlights the heterogeneity of ways they invented or reinvented to achieve it.
Perhaps the oldest monuments that show the diversity of paths that the communities had followed are those that were erected to fruits: the pineapple of Huimanguillo, Tabasco; the coffee of Xicotepec, Puebla; the apple of Zacatlán, Puebla; the orange of Álamo, Veracruz; the sugar cane of El Higo, Veracruz; the walnut of Flores Magón, Chihuahua; products that became economic specializations of those communities. They are sculptures to plantation tropical fruits, a modality of commercial agricultural growth in the hands of entrepreneurs and large farmers that developed, first, in rural micro-spaces in states of the center-south of the country (Hewitt de Alcántara, 1978). They have in common that they are fruits that are produced, but not processed in the localities, destined for the national and, later, the international market. In total we have identified eleven monuments to agricultural products (see Map 1).
These products and their sculptures are part of what we can define as the first phase of agricultural diversification, when the Mexican State, after the Cárdenas presidency, changed its intervention in the countryside in favor of new products and rural actors (Hewitt de Alcántara, 1978). Such monuments are also found in western Mexican states: the lemon of Tecomán, Colima; the avocado of Tancítaro, the blackberry of Los Reyes and the strawberry of Jacona in the state of Michoacán (see Map 1).
Another modality are sculptures dedicated to items produced and also processed in the localities: the agave that is turned into tequila in Amatitán, El Arenal, Tequila and Arandas in Jalisco; the egg that is produced in the poultry farms of Tepatitlán, Jalisco; the cheeses and dairy products of San José de Gracia, Michoacán; the chili, raw material for sauces, of Yahualica, Jalisco; the quince paste of Ixtlahuacán de los Membrillos, Jalisco. We have identified thirteen monuments to agroindustrial products, of which only four are located in the central gardens. It is worth mentioning that eight of the monuments correspond to the Tequila micro-region (see Map 2).
These are old products and productions, some of them very old, which, thanks to the great transformations they have undergone, have become widely recognized specializations, valued and identifying the communities.
In the city of Tepatitlán in 2011, the monument to the egg was erected, an activity that has made this micro-region of the Altos de Jalisco prosperous. Egg production has been developed since the end of the 19th century. When the passage of the railroad allowed both products to be taken to Mexico City for sale (Arias, 1991). It must be said that it was mainly women, in ranches and towns, who were dedicated to raising chickens and producing eggs. Today, the municipality of Tepatitlán, which has more than fifty poultry companies, ranks first as a producer of eggs for dishes, that is, for eating. In fact, more than a quarter (27,17%) of Jalisco's production is generated in this municipality.
The sculpture, made of mirrored steel and bronze, has a height of approximately five meters and is placed on a concrete pedestal of ten meters, which makes it visible and recognizable from anywhere in the city. It was sponsored by the Tepatitlán Poultry Farmers Association and made by the artist Octavio González Gutiérrez and a group of students. The plaque that was placed on the day of the inauguration (and that disappeared) read: "Poultry farming without limits". It is located in the middle of a wide traffic circle at the exit of the city that redistributes traffic from the urban area and marks the beginning of the free highway to Guadalajara and other municipalities in the Alteña region. People know it as the "glorieta del huevo", "the winged egg" or the "turboglorieta".
Another activity that has been recognized by the neighbors with a sculpture is the chile de árbol in the municipality of Yahualica, in the highlands of Jalisco. The cultivation of this species was developed during the first half of the 20th century in the ranches of Manalisco, Río Colorado and Río Ancho, where the abundance of water made it possible to start planting seedlings before the rains. In the 1950s, cultivation was extended to the entire municipality (Rodríguez Ramírez, 2012). Women, as day laborers, have played a key role in chile production. The chile is sold fresh and dried but, above all, bottled as hot sauce in different presentations. There is a wide variety of brands sold throughout the country and exported to the United States, where migrants are the most loyal customers (Rodríguez Ramírez, 2012).
The sculpture of the chili tree includes the letters of the name of Yahualica and the pedestal. It was made of steel with the technique of cold rolled and painted bright red. It measures three meters long by two meters high and sixty centimeters wide. It was installed for the first time in 2018 to celebrate the obtaining of the denomination of origin "Chile de Arbol Yahualica", managed by the Civil Association of Producers of Chile de Arbol Yahualica before the Mexican Institute of Industrial Property. It was elaborated and donated to the municipality by the engineer Ignacio Álvarez Rodríguez, owner of the Álvarez Blacksmith shop, where it was designed, molded and painted. He says that the inspiration came when he learned that the denomination of origin was being processed and that the proposal was going well. When the recognition was obtained, the figure of the chili was already finished, only the commemorative plaque needed to be engraved.
Engineer Álvarez made it and donated it as a thank you because he had been awarded several blacksmith jobs, among them the kiosk-shaped stalls around the municipal market to enhance the colonial image of the place. But, above all, he explains that it was a donation to his town because the work he was commissioned to do was paid for with resources from all the citizens. Usually, he pointed out, gifts are offered to the public officials who hire them; however, he preferred to make a contribution to his town through the sculpture of the chile de árbol.
The chili, which forms a unit with the colorful letters, is usually located in the main square of the municipal capital so that neighbors and visitors can take a selfie on both. What makes it unique is that it is a mobile sculpture, that is, it is removable, so it can be moved to accompany celebrations or activities in different places, return to the center or be stored in the warehouse of the Directorate of Tourism. It has been in different points of the square: in front of the municipal presidency and in front of the statue of Jesús González Gallo, in the space of the festival "Fiesta de todos los chiles de México", where artistic and cultural presentations take place, inside the municipal presidency when there is an event allusive to chili and in the Juárez Theater.
The municipal administration that took office in 2021 found the monument in an obstruction and decided to relocate it to the north side of the plaza, the one facing the parish. The reason for the new location is, according to the director of Tourism, that "it should not compete with another monument as important as that of the maximum benefactor of the municipality, the illustrious Yahualiquense Jesús González Gallo, who was governor of the state of Jalisco and who during his mandate brought great benefits to his people". Surely the chile de árbol has brought greater benefits to the municipality, but the illustrious sons are still important in the imagination of politicians.
Finally, there are the monuments, perhaps the most numerous -fourteen-, which are dedicated to manufactured products, based on craftsmanship and traditions. Based on them we identify three great moments of diversification of activities that gave rise to the current productive specializations: one, artisan traditions of pre-Hispanic-colonial origin; two, the Porfiriato that brought the railroad to many rural populations, which facilitated the exit of local products; and the 1940s, when the great migrations to the cities began and the urban need for products from the countryside increased.
Before continuing with the count, we must mention an atypical case: there are three monuments dedicated to products that are neither traditional nor produced in the communities, but which have had an enormous impact on local trajectories and destinies. So far we only know of two cases and both correspond to the same product: the ice pop. In the 1940s, neighbors from Mexticacán, Jalisco, and Tocumbo, Michoacán, migrated to small but dynamic cities in Mexico in search of new livelihood options, where, as fate would have it, they dedicated themselves to the popsicle business in establishments and with street carts. The establishments grew and reproduced with the successive migratory waves of relatives and neighbors from Mexticacán and Tocumbo who came to work in the paleterías, many of them becoming, in turn, independent entrepreneurs (González de la Vara, 2006; Rollwagen, 2017) (see Map 3).
The paleterías of the Mexicaquenses were recognized because they placed in the most visible place the image of the Sacred Heart, an invocation of which there is a very popular sanctuary in the municipality.
The paleterías of the tocumbeños used to be called La Flor de Tocumbo, but, above all, La Michoacana. Grateful entrepreneurs have made multiple contributions to the image, services and urban layout in their respective communities (González de la Vara, 2006). In both cities, the Paleta Fair is held every year, a social and commercial event that brings together paleteros scattered throughout the country and the United States. It is an opportunity to meet, do business, get to know each other and interact with new generations of neighbors and migrants.
These are the exception because the other monuments dedicated to productive activities correspond to chores carried out in the communities. Although these are ancient trades and chores, the installation of monuments is a recent phenomenon, when it was possible to make known the non-agrarian histories of the Mexican countryside and associate them with new narratives.
One of the most versatile is the monument to the guitar that was placed in 2006 in the municipal capital of Paracho, Michoacán. It was sponsored by the municipality and was commissioned to artisans from Santa Clara del Cobre, a town known for its copper work, although the piece is made of bronze. The sculpture is a tribute to the manufacture of guitars, the main craft of the residents of Paracho.
The manufacture of guitars in Paracho is a very old labor tradition that organizes and defines the economic life of the town. Paracho is the most important epicenter of guitar manufacturing in the country. This instrument has accompanied the dreams of many people from the countryside who went to the United States and Mexico City, where they found in music their vocation and way of life.
The teaching of the trade is attributed to Bishop Vasco de Quiroga, as part of his project of specialization in various trades in the towns along the shores of Lake Patzcuaro. In the middle of the 20th century, thanks to the road and electric light, guitar making underwent major changes in terms of products, models, techniques, tools and wood, explains Erica Padilla, the municipality's tourism coordinator.
The sculpture is ten meters high and is placed on a stone pedestal measuring 2.60 meters high and 1.95 meters wide. It is located in the center of the traffic circle at the intersection of the Uruapan-Zamora highway, better known as the exit to Uruapan. It was previously located in a garden on a median, but in 2017 it was moved to its current location. In this case, it was decided to move it to a busy intersection so that the sculpture would not go unnoticed by travelers on the road.
The gazebo has two staggered entrances for the public to climb up to see the guitar up close. It is surrounded by a sidewalk and a small grassy garden in front of which the colorful letters with the name of Paracho were installed. The gazebo with the guitar has become a reference point for the annual Corpus Christi parade, the International Guitar Fair and for school, patron saint and cultural celebrations. For a time it was decorated in black and white as a tribute to the luthier Germán Vázquez Rubio, who designed the guitar for the movie Coco but it has returned to its traditional copper color. In 2021 it wore motifs alluding to the Day of the Dead and the letters were covered with marigold flowers.
In 2018, a sculpture of a molcajete was installed in San Lucas Evangelista, a town in the municipality of Tlajomulco, Jalisco. The sculpture, which is also a fountain, was placed on one side of the small square of the town, very close to the cemetery and the temple of San Lucas Evangelista. The basalt stone, raw material of the molcajetes, is a volcanic material that abounds in the skirts of the nearby hills. It used to be worked in the traditional way, that is to say, with chisel and hammer; at present saws, polishers and drills are used.
Changes in culinary habits and customs reduced the market for molcajetes. The artisans reacted by proposing new products. Since the 1990s, says don Nacho Cocula ("Nacho Flintstone", as he likes to be called), the most renowned local artisan, they have ventured into the manufacture of utilitarian objects with decorative or ornamental elements. Don Nacho says that fashion, which has given rise to new uses for molcajetes, has helped young people become interested in continuing in the trade. When many industries arrived in the municipality of Tlajomulco, the young people went to work as laborers, but finally realized that as artisans they could earn more and develop better. The return of young people to the trade has strengthened and improved the artisan tradition of San Lucas Evangelista.
In the artisans' homes and shops, a wide variety of articles are offered: in addition to molcajetes, some of which are highly decorated, there are animals, spheres, candles, trays, nativity scenes, religious figures. The artisans receive orders from hotels, restaurants, decoration stores and designers that have broadened the spectrum of objects made with stone and have allowed them to meet the changing market trends.
The molcajete sculpture was part of a project of the municipality of Tlajomulco, an urbanized municipality that is part of the Guadalajara Metropolitan Area, to "pull tourism" to rural localities where there were artisan traditions of the towns on the shores of Lake Cajititlán. The molcajete was made with cement by Víctor Cocula García, a member of one of the most renowned artisan families, and is placed on a small base. It measures approximately 1.5 meters in diameter by 2.20 meters high. The hand of the molcajete is made of basalt and serves as a distributor of water from the fountain.
Another sculpture of a molcajete is the one installed in August 2021 in the Doctor Mora plaza in Comonfort, Guanajuato, which is perhaps the most recent sculpture. In 2012, Comonfort received the Vive Grandes Historias tourism brand granted by the state government with the "objective of reactivating Guanajuato's tourist municipalities and creating identity," and, in 2018, the city obtained the Pueblo Mágico designation. The distinction was accompanied by the installation of a large g in the plaza and the beginning of a series of urban improvement works in the center of the city (Gto.-Government of the State of Guanajuato, web page, November 18, 2021).
It must be said that the construction of freeways in the state of Guanajuato had a negative impact on the towns where handicraft activities took place. With the freeways, visitors stopped entering the centers and gardens where the workshops and stores selling these products were located. The Pueblos Mágicos and Vive Grandes Historias programs seek to revitalize the affected centers, towns and collectives. The manufacture of molcajetes is due to the existence of banks of andesitic basalt rocks (which form the white dots of the pieces), which is the raw material for its elaboration. The molcajete is accompanied by a grinding stone called "tejolote".
The molcajetero trade is one of the oldest in the region. At present, it is estimated that there are 150 artisans dedicated to the elaboration of this basic vessel of Mexican cuisine. The molcajete is part of a commercialization circuit of handicrafts thanks to its proximity to two towns of great tourist dynamism: San Miguel de Allende and Dolores Hidalgo, and they are distributed in regional and national markets, as well as in the United States. Countless molcajetes are taken to Texas, a destination for many migrants. The uses of molcajete have expanded and today we find them as decorative and serving pieces in Mexican food restaurants in Mexico and the United States.
The piece is located outside the parish church of San Francisco de Asis, to the left of the colorful letters of the name of Comonfort. It was handmade from basalt rock, measures 1.20 meters high and 1.50 meters wide, has a capacity of 500 liters and weighs 2.5 tons.
The idea for the monument came from a group of molcajete workers, led by Juan Manuel Quintero Salazar. When Comonfort received the designation of Pueblo Magico, they saw the opportunity to "sell" the project to the municipality. The idea was to recognize the economic activity that has been the livelihood of many families and as recognition to the artisans and the pieces that have given identity to Comonfort and its people. The city council "bought" the idea and financed the manufacture of the monument. The molcajete was made by several workers in a workshop located on the Cerro de las Coloradas hill and from there it was moved to the place where it is currently located.
Finally, we have distinguished another modality of monuments dedicated to a manufacturing activity: those that highlight the workers of the industry in question. The three examples we know of are from the state of Guanajuato: the shoemaker of León, the hat weaver of San Francisco del Rincón and the baker of Acámbaro (see Map 3).
The oldest seems to be that of the shoemaker, located in León, Guanajuato. As is well known, the city of Leon is the epicenter of a long, vigorous and renewed tradition of shoemaking in establishments of very different sizes, but with a predominance of small businesses, domestic workshops and home-based work, in which women have always participated (Bazan et al., 1988). The shoe industry in Leon was able to overcome the crisis of the national footwear industry as a result of the commercial opening of the nineties and became a modern, technified activity, with quality products and very diversified, serving multiple market niches: men's and women's footwear, clothing, bags and leather goods. Currently, the dynamism of the national footwear industry is undoubtedly located in this city, the most populated in the state of Guanajuato.
The work was sponsored by the City Hall in recognition of footwear as León's main economic activity. Architect Rodolfo Herrera, an official of the Historical Archive of Leon, points out that in 1979 the sculpture of the shoe worker was placed in Conexpo (Convention Center) and was unveiled by Governor Luis H. Ducoing. Fifteen years later, in 2004, it was relocated outside the premises of the Chamber of the Footwear Industry of the State of Guanajuato (Cámara de la Industria del Calzado del Estado de Guanajuato).ciceg) on Adolfo López Mateos Boulevard in the city. It was the work of sculptor Víctor Manuel Gutiérrez. The sculpture, made of bronze, weighs almost a ton and measures two meters high and 1.60 meters wide. The cobbler is on a base of tubes. ptr filled with concrete.
The sculpture represents a shoemaker in the traditional pose, that is, when they worked sitting on chairs and the shoe was placed on a "finishing" bench, as they called it. The plaque embedded in the pedestal reads: "To the men and women forgers of the footwear industry of Leon".
Nearby, in the city of San Francisco del Rincón, also in Guanajuato, is the sculpture of the hat weaver. The hat weaving activity detonated in San Francisco del Rincón with the installation of a railroad station nearby at the end of the 19th century. The San Francisquito station, on the outskirts of the small town, made possible the connection between the warm micro-regions where palm was produced in Michoacán, with which hats were woven in San Francisco and from there they were taken to be sold, also by railroad, to different parts of the Republic.
Women, in particular, became expert weavers of the palm threads used to make the hats. The men, on the other hand, were in charge of selling the hats and thus learned to know the tastes and hat-making needs of distant and diverse populations (Arias, 1991). Although there was a long period of time in which the demand for hats decreased a lot, in the 20th century a great turnaround occurred when fashion brought back the use of hats, now for men and women, which has revitalized the manufacture and modernization of companies with new and varied products, not only of palm, but especially of paper and synthetic fibers. Today, a hat seller anywhere recognizes that one of their star products are the hats of San Francisco del Rincón.
The renewed hat specialization has benefited from a new purpose: the hat as a tourist attraction. Jesús Zamora Corona, director of the Historical Archive of San Francisco del Rincón, commented that in 2021, the Flower of the Hat Festival was held for the first time, which served to launch the Hat Route. The dissemination on social networks brought visitors not only from the state, but from all over the country.
The idea of having the weaver as an emblematic sculpture of San Francisco del Rincón is ancient and was the initiative of a well-known milliner, Mayo del Moral Vázquez, who commissioned it to a local sculptor: Francisco Pacheco Salamanca. The features of the weaver are very well detailed: the sculpture shows a worker seated on a chair in the action of weaving a hat. The city council was responsible for providing the space and financing the costs of the civil work. In 1991 the pedestal of the gazebo was put in place. The newspaper am San Francisco broke the news and extended the invitation:
The City Council of San Francisco del Rincón 89-91 and the companies delmo (Del Moral) have the honor to invite the citizens in general and especially the hatters to the unveiling of the monument "To the weaver" this Sunday at 8:00 pm. at the traffic circle of the same name located in the vicinity of the fair and thus pay tribute to the precursor of the industry in San Francisco del Rincon.the hatter”.
At the time of the inauguration, the effigy did not have a hat. Years later, "this iconic distinctive" was added (amOctober 5, 1991).
The sculpture gave its name to the traffic circle that was known as "El tejedor" (The Weaver). In the 2009-2012 administration it was moved to a median over two avenues. Later, in 2018, it was relocated and again unveiled, at the entrance to the city, in the place known as Camino Viejo. The director of the Historical Archive of San Francisco del Rincón commented that, indeed, the sculpture has been moved to different points of the city, but it is now in the ideal place: anyone arriving from the city of León can see it and it will not be exposed to vandalism, as happened when it was between two dimly lit avenues.
The sculpture, made of fiberglass, is on a square quarry pedestal measuring two meters high and two meters wide. The plaque refers to the modernization of Camino Viejo and alludes to the weaver as part of the history of San Francisco del Rincón. The traffic circle is surrounded by plants and grass and the sculpture is located in the center of a garden that covers a large part of the traffic circle. The garden is sponsored by Gujama Industries.s. a. of c.v., a company that manufactures raw materials for the production of hats in the locality.
The most recent sculpture to a trade and its worker is the bread sculpture of Acámbaro, municipality of Guanajuato. It was installed in July 2021. The famous bread of Acámbaro began to be recognized as such during the second half of the 1940s, according to information from Don Antonio Silva, owner of the bakery La Reina del Refugio and president of the Unión de Productores de Pan Grande de Acámbaro. That bakery started working in 1946 and is one of the oldest in the city. The manufacture of Acámbaro's bread has been the livelihood of several generations of neighbors and an important generator of employment. At present, it is estimated that about 600 families are dedicated to the bakery.
Something very symbolic in Acámbaro is the famous "Rain of Bread" that takes place every July 11 for the pilgrimage that leaves from the church of Santo Ecce Homo to the parish of Nuestra Señora del Refugio; on the way, the bakers throw pieces of bread and people catch them, that is why it is called that way. In 2019, the last year that there was a rain of bread, it is estimated that approximately 200 thousand pieces were thrown. The rain of bread is a tradition that has attracted tourism from municipalities in Guanajuato and Michoacán, which has contributed to it becoming known and appreciated both in the country and in the United States, where it is taken and distributed through the networks of the migrants themselves.
The sculpture was donated by Carlos Antonio Silva Cuevas. Although the idea came from the bakers' guild, it was financed by Mr. and Mrs. Silva, owners of La Reina del Refugio bakery. The sculpture represents a baker on a bicycle with a basket of bread on his head. It is made of epoxy resin with a bronze-type paint finish. It was made by the sculptor Jerson Castillo Aguado, originally from Morelia. The pedestal was designed and built by architect Alberto Hernandez Serrano. The sculpture has a height of 2.10 meters and weighs 80 kilograms. The pedestal is 1.5 meters long, 2.10 meters wide and one meter high.
It was placed on a concrete pedestal in front of the city's Expiatory Temple in one of the gardens of the plaza known as the parish atrium, in the historic center of Acámbaro. This location was chosen for three reasons: first, because it is a very busy pedestrian walkway next to one of Acámbaro's main streets that connects the south and north of the city; thus, the monument attracts the attention of neighbors and tourists who often take a picture. But also because the parish priest of the temple, Fray Javier Gordillo Arellano, gave that space as recognition to the baker's trade in Acámbaro. Finally, it was considered that this was the appropriate place, since the Union of Bakers makes its annual pilgrimage from there to the parish of the Virgin of Refuge, patron saint of the city. At some point it was considered to place it in a traffic circle located at the exit to the municipality of Salvatierra, but the donors thought that it would go unnoticed due to the speed with which vehicles travel.
The monuments that we have presented here have differences that show a resounding rupture with the logic, symbols, discourses, spaces, and donors with which they were erected in not so remote times.
The tour of monuments and sculptures in the video, undoubtedly incomplete, somehow shows that in medium-sized cities, small towns and rural localities in Mexico there is a renewed interest in erecting public monuments. This trend contrasts with what is happening in the big cities, where they have become an arena of socio-political confrontation that has led, in the best of cases, to their removal and safeguarding in search of other moments and spaces. Although this is not a strict calculation, 25 of the new monuments have been placed since the beginning of the millennium.
The tour concludes with the certainty that the monuments certify the strength of diversity, dynamism, the capacity to react and face adversity that has always existed in the Mexican rural world. Diversity, capacities and wills that were overshadowed by a homogenizing vision of rural societies and their chores. Through monuments and sculptures, the communities have begun to bring to light the microhistories of the work that allowed them to face the crisis of traditional agriculture that was felt since the 1950s in different regions of the country.
These are recognized and practiced trades in the localities that, at different historical moments, became the activity that saved their lives, of which little was known and, even less, boasted. This situation changed in recent decades. Economic diversification was successful and generated new and diverse social actors with their own agendas, interests and resources that decided, among other things, to recognize, publicize and thank those activities, products and workers that had made them prosperous and well known in their business niches, inside and outside their micro-regions. These are monuments of gratitude to objects, something very unusual in the monumental genre. They have been made to pay homage to products and articles of agricultural, farming or manufacturing origin that modified the economic base of the localities.
We can understand them as a kind of collective gratitude insofar as the neighbors explicitly recognize that thanks to this productive specialization they have benefited. Perhaps the most remarkable thing is that it is a recognition and appreciation of themselves because it was them, the neighbors, regardless of governmental speeches and support, who invented or reinvented tasks to make their economies viable and that is also what they thank with statues and monuments.
They are secular monuments that break with the cult of established religious or civil epics. The monuments do not recognize religious images, heroes of national epics, or even local heroes. The lack of religious references, search for support or participation of the parishes, shows the loss of power of the Church and the advance of secularization, even in traditionally very catholic communities.
One fact is striking: the new monuments may be somewhat neglected, some fountains do not work, their plaques have been stolen (for the material to sell them), but they have not been vandalized, that is, they have not been graffitied, altered or had parts of them cut off, as we have seen in so many places. In fact, only in San Francisco del Rincón was it alleged that the weaver had been vandalized, which led to his removal. None of the new monuments has been so badly received or had such an ephemeral life (less than three days) as that of Andrés Manuel López Obrador in Atlacomulco, State of Mexico, whose immediate destruction made evident, among several possible readings, the popular disaffection with the traditional monuments to politicians, so welcome at other times.
The new monuments have broken with the aesthetic and chromatic canons and the materials with which the traditional monuments were made. The creators are usually local artists or artisans who understand the tastes and share the senses of the neighbors regarding the monuments. As the donors are the ones who finance them, they decide on sizes and characteristics, always very figurative and increasingly colorful and grandiose. The monuments are made in local workshops and nearby places with inexpensive or locally available industrial materials: basalt, cement, fiberglass, metals, stone, resin.
Almost all the activities that have been the subject of monuments share a characteristic: the existence in the localities or their vicinity of knowledge or products that, at some point, they learned to use as raw materials for domestic consumption or small-scale commerce. Some are very old trades that have to do with natural resources, whose trajectory goes back to pre-Hispanic or colonial times, such as the manufacture of guitars in Paracho, or the molcajetes of San Lucas Evangelista and Comonfort. Others were learned or developed thanks to the opportunities generated by the passage of the railroad during the Porfiriato, such as the manufacture of hats in San Francisco del Rincón and poultry breeding in the Altos de Jalisco, which generated the ability and networks to promote poultry farming.
Later, there are those that developed from the 1940s onwards to diversify activities in the face of the insufficiency of agriculture as the basis of the family economy. There are two atypical cases: the paletas of Mexticacán and Tocumbo; but also the bread of Acámbaro, the chili of Yahualica; and surely the commercial fruits like the pineapple of Huimanguillo, the coffee of Xicotepec, the apple of Zacatlán, the orange of Álamo, the sugar cane of El Higo; later, the lemon of Tecomán, the avocado of Tancítaro, the blackberry of Los Reyes, the strawberry of Jacona.
In several of these activities, women's work was always present and indispensable, even if it appeared as an invisible or complementary activity, always altruistic and embedded in the notion of peasant family economy that has traditionally been assigned to women's work. Without insisting on the arduous domestic tasks they performed on a daily basis, they have been day laborers, breeders, gatherers, weavers, home workers, and later workers in factories and workshops, whose income, in cash or in kind, has contributed to building budgets that were increasingly deficient through agriculture.
It should be noted that one of the most notable characteristics of the new monuments is that they have ceased to fight and compete for the central space, for the square, which was the preferred area for civic-religious monuments. Only thirteen of the 41 monuments we have studied, that is, one third, are located in the main gardens of the localities. The central gardens have been left for sculptures corresponding to other moments in history.
As we know, rural communities lacked alternative public spaces, i.e., promenades, gardens or avenues, such as those that could be used in the 19th century for the installation of monuments, sculptures, fountains and hemicycles in accordance with the proposals of the nascent republican state. But the neighbors knew how to take advantage of a great change in the spatial dynamics of the localities in the 20th century. The necessary modernization of access to towns. The intensification of traffic, accidents, the difficulty of parking, circulating and maneuvering in the centers made it necessary to widen and diversify the accesses with the creation or enlargement of alleys, roadways and freeways that avoided the previously indispensable passage through the centers. The location in medians and traffic circles has favored monumentality, either by increasing the size of the statues or by raising the bases that support them.
Modernization favored the entrances and exits to other municipalities, regions and metropolitan areas. The process has had unexpected consequences for the social and economic dynamics of the centers, which have lost important establishments and transit. The situation has been especially complicated for the communities that sold their products in the center.
For this reason there are conflicting views. In some cases, the municipal authorities denied permission for the installation of new monuments in the center with the argument that there were already many elements, but, above all, because it was necessary to "respect" the space of the heroes. However, there are some authorities and merchants who consider that the new sculptures, together with the letters, allow, once again, tourists to visit, use and consume in the center.
The spaces that opened up -sidewalks, avenues, roadways and traffic circles - unburdened by meaning or interests became the favorite places for the placement of new monuments. And so they began to appropriate, identify, name, give meaning, new meanings, to that kind of non-places that emerged with urban expansion. At the same time, they contributed to distribute the circulation, to expand the settlement, the activities, the services towards the peripheries. The location of the new monuments, although casual, is not irrelevant. They have been installed in key places in terms of connections that help to organize traffic and connect with other populations, in particular with large cities and other entities. The community has to be well connected to the outside world.
As we have seen, several discourses have been elaborated to legitimize these locations: the excess of statues in the gardens would make the new monuments lack "visibility"; in the traffic circles and traffic circles they can be seen from far away and from moving vehicles (hence the elevated bases). In this way, visitors will recognize and remember, forever, the place they are visiting or passing through; also, they can be admired from the benches located on the sidewalks and gardens; in addition, they have improved safety on the banks, those lonely and poorly lit spaces that had become dangerous. In some cases, the location of the new monuments has favored the circulation and maneuvering of the enormous vehicles of the sponsors' companies.
Because of their location, amplitude and plasticity, monuments in traffic circles have become emblematic spaces for celebrations, tributes, commemorations and meetings. They can be colored or intervened according to the activity in question, something unthinkable with the monuments of heroes and heroes. In addition, although at first they were peripheral locations, they have soon become references for locals and strangers, as is the case with the Huevo traffic circle and so many others.
The new monuments have become part of the new senses with which the communities are to be favored, especially with the tourist attraction. The combination of new monuments and letters with the name of the town is attractive in this sense. The example of the Yahualica chili bell pepper on top of the letters is a masterful example of the possibility of taking a single photo with both.
The new Monuments have also been associated with the scenarios and projects that are promoted at the national level and that have been taken up in the discourses: the creation or recreation of elements that have been given value, even if fictitious, due to the policy of Pueblos Mágicos, the valorization of local heritage, the search for social development through tourism, the creation of a "brand" for the products, the association of the products with the vague but omnipresent idea of identity. People, many people, know them and, in some way, they serve as a model for what they seek to promote in their localities.
The variety of formats, reasons and justifications are undoubtedly related to the diversity of donors who, as never before, exercise their right to freedom of creation and expression. The sponsors and supporters of the new The monuments are mostly local businessmen or beneficiaries of these enterprises; to a lesser extent, some neighbors or enthusiastic and determined civil servants. The businessmen promote the monuments as a personal or union task. The Church is on the sidelines and the participation of the municipalities is usually minor: the civil works of the traffic circles, the widening of the walkways, the base of the monuments, the concession of the site. Some companies are even in charge of the maintenance of the space where the monument is located, as is the case with the weaver's roundabout in San Francisco del Rincón.
And they do so because they can, that is, because they have the resources to finance what they consider important. It should be remembered that during the last century the State or the entities were the ones who financed and, therefore, the ones who decided the places and the characters to pay tribute to, always from the perspective of the bronze history and the sacred spaces that the authorities still claim today. The neighbors were not consulted in this regard and could not sponsor alternatives. The rural world, as we know, had been impoverished in resources and discourses, a situation that made it dependent on official looks and money. This position has changed drastically. What we see now is a range of local actors with sufficient resources, experience and relationships, but also with the enthusiasm and will to propose, finance and project the image that interests them, motivates them and has allowed us to confirm, once again, the strength and vigor of Mexican rural diversity.
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Patricia arias D. (New Regime) in Geography and Territorial Planning from the University of Toulouse-Le Mirail, France. Emeritus Researcher of the sni. Recent publications: (2021) From agriculture to specialization. Debates and case studies in Mexico (with Katia Lozano, coords.). Guadalajara: Universidad de Guadalajara. (2020) "De las migraciones a las movilidades. Los Altos de Jalisco", in Social Interstices, year 10, no. 19, March-August. (2021) "Una revisión necesaria: la relación campo-ciudad", in Hugo José Suárez, "Una revisión necesaria: la relación campo-ciudad". et al. Towards an agenda for rethinking urban religious experience: issues and instruments. Mexico, unam(2021) "La migración interna: Despoblamiento y metropolización", in Jorge Durand and Jorge A. Schiavon (eds.). Jalisco: land of migrants. Diagnosis and public policy proposals. Guadalajara: Jorge Durand Chair of Migration Studies, cideKonrad Adenauer Foundation and the Government of the State of Jalisco.
Julio César Castro Saavedra is a civil engineer from the Universidad Veracruzana and a student of Geography at the Universidad de Guadalajara. National Research Assistant sni. Building and road works in the state of Guanajuato.
Martha Muñoz Durán D. in Geography and Territorial Planning from the University of Guadalajara; she is a research candidate for the sni. Recent publications: (2021) "La producción de queso en los Altos de Jalisco y sur de Zacatecas. Una especialización dispersa", in Patricia Arias and Katia Lozano (coords.). From agriculture to specialization. Debates and case studies in Mexico. Gudalalajara: University of Guadalajara; (2017) "The evidence of success. Residencias y mausoleos en Santiaguito, Arandas, Jalisco" (with Imelda Sánchez), in Patricia Arias (coord.). Successful migrants. Social franchising as a model business. (2019) (with Patricia Arias and Imelda Sánchez). "Debajo del radar. Women's jobs in the Altos de Jalisco," in. Regional Economic Charter123, year 31.
Imelda Sánchez García is an engineer in Livestock Systems and holds a master's degree in Sustainable Animal Production from the Centro Universitario de los Altos of the University of Guadalajara. Recent publications: (2021) "Conservando el sabor con tradición: Panificadora La Alteña (with Elia Rodríguez), in Cándido González Pérez (comp.). Production of identity food from the southern highlands of Jalisco. Tepatitlán: Universidad de Guadalajara; (2021) "La producción porcina en La Piedad, Michoacán, y los Altos de Jalisco", in Patricia Arias and Katia Lozano (coords.). From agriculture to specialization. Debates and case studies in Mexico. Guadalajara: Universidad de Guadalajara; (2021) (with Martha Muñoz Durán) "La venta de hierba blanca y verde: los taqueros de Santiaguito de Velázquez", in Cándido González Pérez (comp.). Production of identity food from the southern highlands of Jalisco. Tepatitlán: University of Guadalajara.