Monday, December 26, 2005

Mexican Restaurant Calendar Art

"Along with pre-conquest glyphs and symbols, loteria cards, religious icons and popular art, the Mexican calendar became another source for Chicano artists to explore their cultural identity. These calendar images widely produced in Mexico after the 1920s, glorified its glorious prehispanic heritage as part of larger social effort to create a national identity."
-Romo Tere, The Chicanization of Mexican Calendar Art

It's that time of year -- the time when real Mexican restaurants give out free calendars for the upcoming year. At the top of each calendar is a work of art depicting some important historical event in pre-colonial Mexico. If you have ever seen one of these calendars, you know the art -- an incredibly buff Aztec warrior with massive pecs stands atop a pyramid holding his sword aloft with a look of anguish. At his feet is a scantily clad woman with impossibly large bosoms, lying in a swoon.

The best free calendars I have seen this year are at La Mexicana (see my review on 12/26/05). This year they had a special calendar with a different work of art for each month. This may be the best collection of Mexican calendar art I have ever seen -- lots of violence, 6-pack abs, marbled pecs, and young Mayan and Aztec girls with clothes falling off. (I never knew that the Mayan women wore leopard skin bikinis.)

If you miss getting a calendar this season, one good example of this particular school of art is the mural on the back wall of Teotihuacán in the Heights. A number of buff, shirtless warrior/priests smile smugly as they prepare to sacrifice several particularly buxom, nearly naked young women. The women do not look quite so happy as the men.

Why is there no American equivalent to this great art? Why doesn't the all-American Triple A Cafe have a mural with a shirtless, buff George Washington crossing the Delaware or a buxom, barely-dressed Betsy Ross in anguish as she sews the American flag?

No, to see this special kind of art in America, you have to go to a real Mexican restaurant. The art -- on calendars or on walls -- is part of what makes the restaurant Mexican. It is part of what makes it real.

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