Collection 1880s–1940s

Carlos Mérida. Mayor of Almolonga. 1916-19 526

Oil on canvas, 70 1/2 × 35" (179 × 88.9 cm). Bequest of Janice H. Levin (by exchange) and gift of Ramiro Ortíz Mayorga in honor of Patricia Gurdián de Ortiz through the Latin American and Caribbean Fund

Curator, Beverly Adams: I am Beverly Adams and I am the Estrellita Brodsky Curator of Latin American art here at MoMA.

Carlos Mérida is from Guatemala and he identifies as Maya Quiche-Spanish. Mayor of Almalonga is a powerful image of an indigenous man with his staff of office—his traditional staff that says, “I'm the mayor of this town.” He’s wearing a tunic that is related to the traditional textiles of Almalonga. But also, it looks like he's wearing machine-made, contemporary trousers. And then the backdrop is colonial architecture.

Indigenism in Latin America is this broader cultural movement that is in defense of indigenous populations. This is one of the first works of art made in Latin America that is concerned with a depiction of a contemporary, indigenous person, not a folkloric image, not an image of the ancient past, but a person in the present.