Smithsonian Center for Lation Initiatives
The Interpretation and Representation of Latino Cultures: Research and Museums Conference Documentation
 home background presenters presentations highlights resources contact sitemap

Limon, Jose

Challenging Traditional Curatorial Practices

Historicizing Narratives

Borders and Diasporas

Aesthetics Beauty

The Body: The Real and the Symbolic

All Abstracts

Discussions

Bibliography


Have We Arrived?: Class, Museum Class and Mexican-America

In this paper I argue that the relatively new social formation of a Mexican-American middle and even an upper class offers an unprecedented opportunity for the expansion of a Mexican-American public culture with a concomitant opportunity for the institutional development of museums and exhibits keyed on such a culture.

After this initial introduction, the paper opens by recalling Tomas Rivera's classic short novel, y no se Lo Trago la Tierra and its poignant and political refrain repeated by its farm worker protagonists "when we arrive.. when we arrive" speaking to their difficult arrival at their labor sites but metaphorically to their dubious arrival as full citizens in American society. Rivera's novel offers a point of departure both to note the image of the farm worker and its encompassing representation of Mexican-America but also to raise the question: have Mexican-Americans arrived"? I suggest that in some real sense we have with the dramatic emergence of a Mexican-American middle and upper class in our time. The paper then offers an historical and sociological economic but also a literary description and delineation of this new social formation. From this interdisciplinary description alone, one may already begin to fashion an argument for the potentially creative nexus between this new class and the public culture of museums. But as a cultural anthropologist, I also substantially base my informed speculation on fieldwork conducted among members of such an upper middle class in south Texas with specific reference to the arts. These Mexican-American upper-middle class professionals, mostly MDs, offer telling evidence of the potential importance of this new class to the development of a Mexican-American "museum culture" by which I mean a public culture that places some emphasis and value, perhaps often ethnically marked, on a patronage of the arts, historical and science exhibits, and thereby on museums.

Copyright © 2003 Smithsonian Institution