The only magazine serving the collector of Mexican antiques

Current issue
Past issues
Fol-art Artesania
Bulletin Board
Related Links

Sarape with portraint of President Calles, ca 1927. Mead Art Museum. Gift of the children of Dwight & Elizabeth Morror's son in law, Charles Lindbergh, was also a popular figure feautured on sarapes from this period. Image from the book Casa Manana

Casa Mañana, the Morrow Collection of Mexican Popular Arts


Casa Mañana, the Morrow Collection of Mexican Popular Arts

What political purpose could Olinalá lacquered wood trays, Michoacán water jars, Saltillo serapes and a houseful of vintage Mexican popular arts possibly serve? If it's the late 1920s and you're the United States Ambassador to Mexico Dwight Morrow, you'd be surprised how useful these items can be.
In 1927, Mexico-U.S. relations were at an all-time low. Morrow needed to call upon all resources available to stave off disaster. Mexico, still recovering from a decade of revolution and in the midst of a bloody religious civil war (the Cristero wars), saw its northern neighbor as an aggressive nation of imperialists determined to economically and politically dominate the country. The United States, on the other hand, believed Mexico was a festering cesspool of violence with unfit leadership unfit, especially, to do Washington's bidding. A U.S. military invasion to protect its oil interests was believed, by many in Mexico at least, to be inevitable.
Fortunately, a third U.S. military incursion in Mexico in less than two decades (the United States had invaded in 1914 and 1916) was avoided.
Historians generally credit this to Morrow, U.S. President Calvin Coolidge's U.S. Ambassador to Mexico from 1927 to 1930. Morrow's personable manner, and reputation for respecting national sovereignty, won the trust of Mexican President Plutarco Elías Calles and, albeit temporarily, improved the climate for U.S. oil interests. Morrow's brief tenure also set the groundwork in Washington for a lasting goodwill policy toward Mexico.
Morrow, however, wasn't content to just smooth things over between the nations ruling classes. He was also concerned about the perception U.S. citizens in general had of Mexico and Mexicans. That's where his wife's extensive collection of Mexican popular art comes in. Gathered over three years to decorate the Morrow's Cuernavaca weekend home, the Morrow collection helped inspire the ambassador to stage the extremely successful Mexican Arts exhibition of 1930. The 1,200-piece, 21-venue exhibition was the most comprehensive of its time and was an early step toward projecting an image of a quaint, underdeveloped, pacified Mexico that persists in the collective U.S. imagination today.
Casa Mañana, The Morrow Collection of Mexican Popular Arts is a series of five essays on Morrow's ambassadorship, the Morrow's popular arts-laden Cuernavaca getaway and the historical role foreigners have had on shaping the way Mexican popular arts are viewed in the present day. The essays also examine Mexico's post- revolutionary cultural Renaissance, led by figures such as muralist Diego Rivera.
The volume was compiled as part of recent research into 159 pieces of the Morrow collection that were donated to the Amherst College Mead Art Museum in 1955, after the death of Elizabeth Cutter Morrow. It is considered one of the most important period collections of Mexican folk art to survive today.
Casa Mañana, is clearly much more than a flashy exhibition catalogue. It attempts with great success to explain an aspect of Mexican popular art and art in general that is often overlooked: its role in political agendas. After reading Casa Mañana, you may never look at a collection of Mexican popular art the same way again.