More than 75 Mexican comic books from the 1940s to the present are featured in the new Special Collections exhibit, “¡Viva México! A Comic Book History of Mexico.” Visitors are offered a rare look inside the rise of comic books in 20th-century Mexico, their literary, cultural and entertainment value, and influence by the Mexican government.
The Golden Age of the Mexican comic book, known in Spanish as historietas, began in the 1930s with the publication of comic book digests that serialized U.S. strips like Superman, Dick Tracy and Betty Boop, combining them with strips by Mexican creators. “¡Viva México!” features historical Mexican personages Cabeza de Vaca, Emiliano Zapata and Pancho Villa; Westerns; and depictions of world figures such as John F. Kennedy, Josef Stalin, Eva Perón and Gandhi. Other subjects include immigration, race, and the triumphs and tragedies that have defined modern Mexico.
The exhibit also highlights women important to Mexican history such as La Malinche, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz and La Virgen de Guadalupe.
The comic books are part of a collection assembled by Christopher Conway, associate professor of Spanish and chairman of the UT Arlington Department of Modern Languages.
“The comic books were at one point more widely read in Mexico than any other form of print,” he said. In addition to inspiring national pride and entertaining millions of readers, comic books promoted literacy. Conway said Mexico’s government sponsored literacy campaigns in the 1930s and comics helped the less affluent learn to read.
“¡Viva México!” is on view through August.
The University of Texas at Arlington Library offers a rich and diverse collection of materials on the history of Texas and the Southwest. Each week, readers get a glimpse of the past with an image from Special Collections. 817-272-3393; library.uta.edu/special-collections.