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Portrait of a Young Painter: Pepe Zúñiga and Mexico City’s Rebel Generation

Mary Kay Vaughan
Mary Kay Vaughan

Mary Kay Vaughan is Professor of History Emerita at the University of Maryland. She is the author of Cultural Politics in Revolution: Teachers, Peasants, and Schools in Mexico, 1930–40, winner of both the Conference on Latin American History's Bolton Prize and the Latin American Studies Association's Bryce Wood Award, and a coeditor of Sex in Revolution: Gender, Politics, and Power in Modern Mexico and The Eagle and the Virgin: Nation and Cultural Revolution in Mexico, 1920–1940, both also published by Duke University Press.

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In Portrait of a Young Painter, the distinguished historian Mary Kay Vaughan adopts a biographical approach to understanding the culture surrounding the Mexico City youth rebellion of the 1960s. Her chronicle of the life of painter Pepe Zúñiga counters a literature that portrays post-1940 Mexican history as a series of uprisings against state repression, injustice, and social neglect that culminated in the student protests of 1968. Rendering Zúñiga's coming of age on the margins of formal politics, Vaughan depicts midcentury Mexico City as a culture of growing prosperity, state largesse, and a vibrant, transnationally-informed public life that produced a multifaceted youth movement brimming with creativity and criticism of convention. In an analysis encompassing the mass media, schools, politics, family, sexuality, neighborhoods, and friendships, she subtly invokes theories of discourse, phenomenology, and affect to examine the formation of Zúñiga's persona in the decades leading up to 1968. By discussing the influences that shaped his worldview, she historicizes the process of subject formation and shows how doing so offers new perspectives on the events of 1968.

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