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Photo by Agustín Víctor Casasola, 1940; courtesy of Museo

Learn About (Boozy) History with Museo de las Americas

Explore Mexico's relationship with alcohol through the lens of native photographers this month.

By |

Booze tends to be a hot topic, especially around the holidays. But a new exhibit at Museo de las Americas extends the conversation beyond what to pair with your Christmas ham (or how many glasses of whiskey is really OK to consume at your in-laws) to a historical perspective on drinking and the people involved.

El Brindis Remixed (on view through January 16) showcases black-and-white images (and some videography) by more than 20 Mexican photographers. Taking over almost the entire, single-floor museum are images exploring the production, consumption, and consequences of tequila, mezcal, cerveza, and pulque. (Pulque, for those unfamiliar, is a fermented milky drink made from the agave plant. It’s often considered the people’s drink and has been making a comeback in Mexico City in recent years.)

Meandering through the minimalist exhibit, visitors will view images of the fields and plants that are transformed into these liquids, the costumes and rituals that accompany trips to the pulqueria or cantina, as well as more somber looks at the consequences of over-imbibing. Among the captivating and playful collection—some photos date back as far back as the 1890s—is an image of women holding beers for the first time on camera; another of two cherubic-faced girls holding a sign warning about alcoholism during a protest in Puebla; and a laughable shot of a man peeing against a cantina wall (there were traditionally no bathrooms in these venues, which doubled as an excuse as to why women were not allowed entry).

The genius of the exhibit is that it helps viewers understand the evolution of a people and of a medium, as images turn from blurred, formulaic portraits to crisp artistic shots. It’s a quick journey, but a worthwhile one.

More: I suggest keeping the conversation going with a glass of tequila (or cerveza or mezcal). Check out these recommendations from National Tequila Day.

Big News: It was announced this week that Museo is among the recipients of a $10,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, which will support Chicano, the museum’s spring exhibit (opening February 12), a collaboration with the History Colorado Center.

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