The San Francisco Main Library is currently displaying portions of “Celebrating Mexico: The Grito de Dolores and the Mexican Revolution,” a joint exhibition between UC Berkeley and Stanford University commemorating the centennial of the Mexican Revolution and the bicentennial of the War of Independence from Spain, two of Mexican history’s most important events.
The physical layout of the current showing enhances it in a number of ways. Spread out liberally over a relatively large area, tables are covered by glass and the walls behind them contain illustrations, documentation, gigantic posters, and miniature and large photographs, with categories such as “Struggle for Independence from Spain,” “Mexican Revolution,” “Emeliano Zapata” (one of the revolution’s major heroes) and “Women of the Revolution.”
The way the events inspired Mexican culture up to the present day (literature, film, and folk and popular music) fill the remaining space, providing an in-depth, historical perspective for visitors.
Also, whichever way you turn as you’re walking through the exhibit, you’re confronted by a different aspect of the subjects. As a result, a constant awareness of the historical events is maintained.
In addition, artifacts on the tables and walls bring the various categories to life for the viewer. For example, in the “War of Independence” section, a color drawing by major contemporary Mexican artist Pablo O’Higgins depicts the storming of a fort in which Spaniards were hiding. A woodcut by Mexican artist Sara Jimenez in the Zapata section illustrates soldiers firing upon Zapata.
Although the exhibition as a whole is impressive for what it covers, it’s disappointing that important aspects of the revolution have been completely ignored. One was its instrumentality in the creation of contemporary Mexican art and the process by which that art came about.
The exhibition also offers very little recognition of the importance of Pancho Villa, whose role in the revolution cannot be underestimated.
Lastly, the reason for the Mexican Revolution — the revolt against President Porfirio Diaz’s tyrannical rule and Zapata’s call for land reform — is not given nearly as much space as the slaughter and maiming that resulted. One might be suspicious of bias taking place.
IF YOU GO
Celebrating Mexico: The Grito de Dolores and the Mexican Revolution
Where: Main Library, 100 Larkin St., third floor, San Francisco
When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesdays-Thursdays; noon to 6 p.m. Fridays; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays; noon to 5 p.m. Sundays; through Sept. 15
Contact: (415) 557-4400, www.sfpl.org/exhibitions