Zapotecs of the State of Oaxaca by Carlos Merida (1895-1984)
Zapotecs of the State of Oaxaca, 1941
From the Portfolio Mexican Costumes by Carlos Merida (1895-1984)
16" high x 13" wide paper size
Condition: this print has been cleaned and stabilized by paper restoration expert Elizabeth Chambers, Portland, OR
Text from Portfolio:
"In the text to Plate 20 we have already described the characteristics of the women of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, the grace with which they wear the elegant and colorful everyday attire which so admirably enhances their beauty.
Complementing this dress is the gran huipil. This garment, adorned with much fine lace, is sleeveless and completely covers shoulders, arms and torso. An opening, no larger than the oval of the face which it frames, is surrounded with a splendor of frills and ruffies. The gran huipil is starched and carefully ironed so as to stiffen it, yet it is worn with comfort in either one of two ways: for religious ceremonies, covering the head and shoulders, leaving only the face exposed; for pagan fiestas called olán, with the cowl attached at the back of the head and folded down over the shoulders.
The great Tehuana huipil has many points of similarity with that of the Maya-Quiche of Guatemala, with the basic difference that the lace of the Guatemala dress is embroidered in color and its cut is extraordinarily full. It is a beautiful spectacle to see a group of Tehuanas in their gran huipiles walking gracefully along the roads of the red earth of Juchitán, Ixtepec and Tehuantepec ."
Women from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, unlike many other women in Mexico, are typically the purse bearers as they are able to make good money selling their traditional textiles. As the breadwinners, they are financially independent so marriage is not a necessity and divorce is a very achievable reality. The respect afforded to women by men is therefore high, and has resulted in a much fairer society than in most of the rest of modern Mexico.
Guatemalan artist Carlos Mérida is best known for creating Modernist abstract art that integrated Latin American culture with 20th-century European painting. Born in 1891 in Guatemala City, Guatemala, Mérida was of Spanish and Kʼicheʼ Maya heritage, which would later become a significant influence in his work. He studied music as a child, but after experiencing hearing loss, began to study painting instead.
In 1910, at the age of 19, Mérida presented work in his first art exhibition. That same year, he moved to Paris, where he lived for four years, and met and worked with Pablo Picasso, Piet Mondrian, and Amedeo Modigliani, as well as several prominent Latin American artists residing in Europe at that time.
In 1919, Mérida returned to Latin America and lived in Mexico as the Mexican Revolution drew to an end. There, he worked with Diego Rivera and Rufino Tamayo.
In the decades that followed, Mérida expanded his practice to include graphic works, sketches, tapestries, stage sets and costumes for dance performances. He died in 1984 in Mexico City at the age of 93.
Mérida’s extensive and varied body of work fused aspects of Surrealism, Muralism, Cubism, and European Modernism with elements of pre-Columbian Mayan culture. He was known for integrating figurative elements into his abstract art, such as colorful organic and geometric representations of clusters of people, and employed a variety of media, including watercolor, oil, gouache and pencil, and parchment and plastic. He was the recipient of several prestigious awards, namely the Order of the Quetzal (Guatemala’s highest order) and the Order of the Aztec Eagle (Mexico’s highest order given to foreigners).