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Arts and Entertainment

African influences south of the border
 
Published Friday, September 19, 2008
by Sandy Seawright, For The Charlotte Post

Afro-American Cultural Center
401 North Myers St.
(7th at N. McDowell Streets)
Black Mexicans. This is the subject of these two shows from very different time periods both championed by Dr. Wendy Phillips of Atlanta.


All of Romualdo Garcia’s  photos were made in around 1910. He worked in Guanajuato, Mexico from 1887 through the 1920s. They are on loan from the Museo Alhondiga de Granaditas in Guanajuato, Mexico.


The black Mexicans in Garcia’s photos are presented very formally. They are wearing their best clothes, they stand very straight and show minimal expression.  These pictures are more about one’s image and social class than about one’s personality. In these images it seems that the clothes are as important as the person’s character.


Michele Parchment, director of education and outreach at the Afro-American Cultural Center said, “Garcia’s portraits can be compared to the work of the black American portrait photographer James Van Van Der Zee.”


Two of Garcia’s photos are a little less formal. In one  a woman is photographed with her large dog, and in another two very young boys who look like twins stand on a bench  flanking their sister while their mother leans in to the picture from the left.


Hector Alvarez Santiago, director of the Guanajuato Museum, shares in an exhibit brochure that “...Today we know about the presence and historical effects of the black population in the coastal regions of the two oceans, on one side Veracruz and on the other side the Costa Chica between Oaxaca and Guerrero states.


Santiago continues:   “As a consequence of the need for workers in the haciendas and the mines, blacks were an important sector of the population among the working class that was exploited during the colonial period and continued after independence.”


In Dr. Phillips own photographs here that were made in the last two years she is documenting the daily life of black Americans west of Acapulco.


 In “Fruits of the Sea” we see that the young fisherman has a catch where the size of each fish is much larger than the fisherman’s feet.


There is more humor. In “The Lobsters,” the boy fisherman sucks on a sucker while exhibiting his bounty.
 So often in an exhibit there is one picture that stands out. Don’t miss “Dancing on the Beach.”  This lady here has found her place in the world and is abundantly happy.


While looking at Dr. Phillips photographs, I felt much spiritually. There is a healthy quality in this black Mexican community. In addition, the exhibit includes a documentary about black Mexicans who live in Winston-Salem.

On Sept. 20, from 10 a.m.-12 p.m., there will be a program about the Mexican Underground Railroad. These exhibits continue through Jan. 29. Hours are Tuesdays - Saturdays from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. and on Sundays from 1 p.m.-5 p.m. On Sundays, admission is free. For more information, call (704) 374-1565.

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