"Thousands of desperate people die en route, before they can complete the crossing to the promised land, where even the poor are rich and everyone lives in Hollywood. The illusions of many who manage to arrive do not last long." (Hunter of Stories/Eduardo Galeano)
The Gilded Age was a time when vast wealth was accumulated in America. The era ran between the late 1800's through the onset of World War I.
Chicago provided many opportunities to amass wealth during the Gilded Age. Fortunes were made in manufacturing and industry, assembly line slaughter, butchery and meatpacking, transportation, real estate and commodity speculation, retail and wholesale operations, distilleries and breweries, traction lines, banking, utilities, and a host of other businesses.
Chicago was a city on the make making money. Men like Palmer, Field, Yerkes, Nickerson, Cable, Armour, McCormick, Swift, and others made fortunes through hard work, shrewd speculation, or inventing better ways to do things.
Chicago, being the transportation hub of the country, made fortune-hunting easier for many. Raw materials and finished goods were transported in and out of Chicago by rail and ship.
Immigrants flooded into Chicago in droves during the Gilded Age. During the late 1800's over 80% of the city's population was foreign-born. While a few immigrants prospered, most were relegated to hard work in factories, slaughterhouses, infrastructure projects, and any menial dirty jobs no one else wanted.
The first Mexican immigrants came to Chicago sometime after the Great Chicago Fire. Their journey was made easy due to railroads connecting the city with border towns.
During the 1893 World Columbian Exposition, Mexico had and pavilion on the Midway Plaisance. Their exhibition won over 1100 awards. They were exposed to the world, generating interest in Mexican arts, crafts, and other capabilities.
23 people million from all over the world visited the World Columbian Exposition over its six-month duration. Every country with a pavilion was on the world's stage.
The World's Fair boosted Mexico's prestige in the art and economic worlds. As hoped, many foreign economic investments were made in Mexico after the fair.
At the turn of the 20th Century, many Mexicans were attracted to Chicago by the success of labor organizing and collective bargaining. They came to work or learn. Many political artists visited the city. Artisans and craftspeople set down roots in neighborhoods near factories.
Many Mexicans settled in the Pilsen neighborhood. As one historian put it, they were mostly ignored, there was no outside push to assimilate, and no one told them they could not be Mexican. Pilsen became Mexico to them. They brought their art and rich artistic culture with them.
Many American and Chicago artists, architects, designers, curators, and gallery owners became obsessed with Mexican art and artists. Americans were traveling to Mexico to learn about Mexican art and artists.
During the Civil Rights era, Chicago's Mexican art turned political and propagandistic. Many traditional artists turned to political art.
Arte Diseno Xichago is an exhibition at the National Museum of Mexican Art in Pilsen. It is part of Art Design Chicago.
"Art Design Chicago is a spirited celebration of the unique and vital role Chicago plays as America’s crossroads of creativity and commerce. Led by the Terra Foundation for American Art, this citywide partnership of cultural organizations explores Chicago’s art and design legacy with more than 30 exhibitions and hundreds of events throughout 2018."
The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation is the Presenting Partner of Art Design Chicago.
The exhibition covers Chicago's Mexican artwork from the Gilded Age through the Civil Rights era. It is a combination of classic, modern, and political artworks.
There are paintings, photographs, prints, sculptures, drawings, and other artwork on display.
The National Museum of Mexican Art is located at 1852 W. 19th Street adjacent to Harrison Park. Hours are Tuesday through Sunday, 10:00 A.M.-5:00 P.M. Admission is free.
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