Marco Antonio Cruz, Edificio Nuevo León, Tlatelolco, 19 de septiembre (1985)

Periodizing the Mexican 1980s: Art, Crisis, and Capitalism

41st International Congress of the Latin American Studies Association
Vancouver, Canada
May 25, 2023

Organized by Ian Erickson-Kery (Duke) and Maggie Borowitz (U. Chicago)

Panelists:  Maggie Borowitz (U. Chicago), Ian Erickson-Kery (Duke), Roselin Rodríguez Espinosa (UNAM)

Discussant: Jennifer Josten (Pittsburgh) 

A series of crises colored the Mexican 1980s, eroding the hegemony maintained by the Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) since 1929: a default on sovereign debt obligations in 1982, followed by a catastrophic earthquake in the capital in 1985. Dominant narratives have pointed to an ostensible resolution of these crises in the rise of civil society organizations, the democratization of the political system, and the liberalization of the economy. This panel proposes a reevaluation of the period through a closer look at artistic responses to the crises and contributions to ensuing social uprisings. How did artists and other cultural producers articulate radical politics not only against the state and party structure but also in the face of both formal and informal processes of market liberalization, entrenched gender and racial subordination, and urban and environmental crisis? What came to constitute political art in a period where historical oppositions (i.e., those between traditional party and class structures) were unsettled? How did artists grapple with problems of autonomy, criticality and political commitment amidst discourses favorable to the opening of markets both in and out of the art world? The panel aims to probe the historical shifts often imposed on the period: from modernism to postmodernism, collectivism to individualism, corporatism to civil society, authoritarianism to democracy, and so on. In scrutinizing assumptions made about recent cultural history, it furthermore looks to question the inevitability and finality of Mexico’s turn to neoliberal “common sense” (Emmelhainz 2016) in the late 1980s.