“The African Presence in México: From Yanga to the Present” Opens at the Anacostia Community Museum Nov. 8

“The (‘African Presence in

Mexico’)exhibition illustrates the depth and reach of African culture

(in México)…Through paintings, photos, lithographs and historical texts, the

visiting exhibition tries to dispel the myth that blacks had a minimal

influence on the culture of our southern neighbor, a myth held by many…either

through ignorance or prejudice. If ignorance is the problem and art the

solution, then this exhibit should be a required field trip for schools from

now until it closes.” – Agustin Gurza, staff writer, LA Times, Feb. 2, 2008.


The Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum

will host the critically acclaimed traveling exhibition, “The African Presence

in México: From Yanga to the Present,” from Nov. 8 through July 4, 2010.

Through paintings, photos, lithographs and historical texts, the visiting

exhibition highlights the indelible impact that Africans have on Mexican

culture and examines the complexity of race, culture, politics and social

stratification. “The African Presence in México” is a bilingual exhibition that

includes text panels, tours and various educational and public programming in

both Spanish and English. The companion exhibition, “Who Are We Now? Roots,

Resistance and Recognition,” examines the relationships between Mexicans and

African Americans in the United States  and African Americans in the United

States and the country of México.


“We are delighted to bring

this important exhibition to the Smithsonian through its engagement at the Anacostia Community Museum,”

said Camille Giraud Akeju, director of the museum. “The exhibition and the

stimulating public programs that accompany it will highlight another

significant yet little known aspect of the African diaspora.”


Organized by the National

Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago, this traveling

exhibition has been presented in Chicago, New Mexico, California

and Philadelphia, as well as Monterrey

and Veracruz,

México. No exhibition has showcased the history, artistic expressions and

practices of Afro-Mexicans in such a broad scope, with a comprehensive

collection of artwork from historic pieces to contemporary artistic

expressions. The Smithsonian presentation at the Anacostia Community

Museum includes two rare

18th-century colonial “casta” paintings not seen on display since

the exhibition originally opened in 2006. The exhibition also features important

historical figures, like Yanga, an African leader and founder of the first free

African township in the Americas

(Jan. 6, 1609).


Curated by Sagrario

Cruz-Carretero and Cesáreo Moreno, “The African Presence in México,”

illuminates the often overlooked contributions of Africans to the artistic,

culinary, musical and cultural traditions of Mexican culture from the past

through the present day. Elena Gonzales developed the companion exhibition,

“Who Are We Now?” to offer a basis for discussion on contemporary U.S.

relationships between people of African and Mexican descent. “At so many

levels, ‘The African Presence in México’ project is a landmark undertaking and

the most important cultural presentation ever organized by the National Museum

of Mexican Art,” said Carlos Tortolero, president and founder of the National

Museum of Mexican Art.


The National Museum of

Mexican Art notes that “The African Presence in México” serves as a catalyst

for a more positive dialogue between African Americans and Mexicans, offering

México the opportunity not only to reveal its African legacy, but also actively

embrace it as an important element in its national cultural heritage. “Visitors

will learn that México is a diverse country, that it has had its own struggle

with slavery, race and class and that Africans in México participated in the

country’s seminal events as well as made important contributions to the

nation,” said Portia James, senior curator at the Anacostia Community



The museum has worked with

several Mexican and Latino civic, cultural leaders and organizations to

collaborate on programming and promotional efforts and to generate ongoing

dialogue in the Washington

metropolitan area. The Smithsonian presentation received federal support from

the Latino Initiative Pool, administered by the Latino Center.

Exhibition programs and special events are presented in collaboration with the Smithsonian LatinoCenter, the National Museum of African

Art, the Mexican Cultural Institute and the Smithsonian Center

for Folklife and Cultural Heritage.


The national sponsor for the

traveling exhibition is Chase. Additional sponsors include Sara Lee Foundation,

Boeing Co., Wallace Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts, Polk Bros.

Foundation, Ford Foundation, Nathan Cummings Foundation, Kraft Foods, Woods

Fund of Chicago, Joyce Foundation, Albert Pick, Jr. Fund, Chicago Public Schools,

Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and the Illinois Arts Council.

The exhibition schedule is

subject to change: DuSable Museum of African American History, Chicago, fall of 2010.


About the National Museum

of Mexican Art

Formerly, the Mexican FineArts Center,

the National Museum of Mexican Art is the largest Latino Arts organization in

the United States

and the only Latino museum accredited by the American Association of Museums.

The NMMA presents visual arts exhibitions, performance festivals, and education

programs to more than 200,000 annually including 60,000 K-12 students. 90.5 FM

Radio Arte is the museum’s youth-driven bilingual public radio station

committed to advancing the voices of a multilayered society through socially

conscious journalism, media literacy, training and programming. For information

call (312) 738-1503 or visit the NMMA’s Web site: www.nationalmuseumofmexicanart.org.


About the Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum


Anacostia CommunityMuseum opened in southeast Washington in 1967 as

the nation’s first federally funded neighborhood museum. Adopting its current

name in 2006, the museum has expanded its focus from an African American

emphasis to examining the impact of contemporary social issues on urban

communities. For more information on the museum, the public may call (202) 633-

4820, (202) 633-1000 or (202) 633-5285 (TTY); for tours, call (202) 633-4844.

Web site: anacostia.si.edu

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