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‘Gringos in Mexico’ Examines American Writers South of the Border

Date of release: 02/12/01

SAN MARCOS, TEXAS — “Gringos in Mexico,” the new exhibit at Southwest Texas State University’s Southwestern Writers Collection, tracks several generations of American writers who have traveled south of the border in search of insight and inspiration.

On display now through July 31, “Gringos in Mexico” uses books, unpublished memoirs, raw manuscripts, journal entries and other memorabilia to show the entire range of perceptions American writers have held about Mexico. Curated by Steve Davis, assistant curator for the Southwestern Writers Collection, and highlighting the archives of the collection, “Gringos in Mexico” compositions often reveal as much about the authors and their attitudes as they do about Mexico itself. Particular emphasis in the exhibit is placed on Texas writers who share a common history and border with Mexico and have been much more likely to travel through the country.

The authors’experiences in Mexico are as varied as the country itself. Katherine Anne Porter originally wished to travel to Paris and join the literary expatriate community forming there in the 1920s. But the journey was too expensive, so she traveled 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 book Cruising Paradise.

The Southwestern Writers Collection is a major archival repository focusing on the literature, film, and music of the Southwest. The collection is located adjacent to the Wittliff Gallery of Southwestern & Mexican Photography on the campus of Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos. The collection is housed on the seventh floor of SWT’s Albert B. Alkek Library. Hours are 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday (until 9 p.m. Tuesdays), 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, 2-6 p.m. Sundays. Call 512-245-2313 or visit the website at: www.library.txstate.edu/swwc for more information.