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Gringos in Mexico (2005)


JUNE 14—SEPTEMBER 12, 2005

American Writers & Photographers South of the Border
An Exhibition at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport

Travelers passing through the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (ABIA) are getting another good look at the cultural treasures housed at the Southwestern Writers Collection and Wittliff Gallery at Texas State University-San Marcos.

Newly installed, Gringos in Mexico is the third Texas State exhibit featured at ABIA, offering passengers an interesting way to fill their time before or between flights.

Last spring, the Southwestern Writers Collection (SWWC) presented Texas Music Archives, in multiple displays of materials that included Jerry Jeff Walker’s cowboy boots, a fiddle played by Bob Wills, and a small songbook of original lyrics made by Willie Nelson when he was eleven years old.

In the fall of 2001, travelers were engaged with costumes, props, set designs, and photographs from the making of Lonesome Dove, courtesy of the SWWC’s major production archives of the CBS miniseries.

Now through August 29, Gringos in Mexico gives Austin airport visitors a view of ten American authors and photographers who have journeyed south of the border in search of insight and inspiration.

The line-up of Pulitzer Prize winners and stellar notables places particular emphasis on Texans, who share a common history and border with Mexico: J. Frank Dobie, Cormac McCarthy, John Graves, Elithe Hamilton Kirkland, Katherine Anne Porter, Dick J. Reavis, Sam Shepard, Bud Shrake, and Bill Wittliff. Also included is award-winning photographer Keith Carter, whose major work is collected by the Wittliff Gallery of Southwestern & Mexican Photography, counterpart to the Southwestern Writers Collection.

The exhibit’s books, photographs, personal artifacts, manuscripts, unpublished memoirs, and journal entries reveal the range of perceptions these artists have held about Mexico, which, like their experiences, are as varied as the country itself.

Katherine Anne Porter wished to travel to Paris and join the literary expatriate community forming there with Ernest Hemingway in the 1920s. But the journey was too expensive, so she went to Mexico City instead. There she fell in with a group of revolutionary artists including Diego Rivera, and Mexico became the source of her first published fiction.

In the 1930s, folklorist J. Frank Dobie traveled through Mexico on a mule, collecting experiences for his most personal book, Tongues of the Monte, while also interviewing survivors of Pancho Villa's army.

In the 1960s, Edwin “Bud” Shrake lived in a cave with the Tarahumara Indians of Chihuahua as he researched his novel Blessed McGill. In the 1990s, playwright and actor Sam Shepard went to Mexico to act in a Japanese film. Along the way he collected tales in his journal, eventually turning them into his 1996 book of short stories, Cruising Paradise.

Exhibit highlights include a bronze head of Katherine Anne Porter by renowned sculptor Glenna Goodacre and Porter’s recipe for Mole Poblano, a page from Dobie's Saltillo Diary, kept during his 1932-1933 journeys through Mexico, and raw manuscript material from Shepard’s Cruising Paradise.

Gringos in Mexico will be on display at the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport through August 29, 2005. The exhibit was curated by Steve Davis, Assistant Curator of the Southwestern Writers Collection, with the support of Carla Ellard, Assistant Curator of the Wittliff Gallery.