Accepted paper:

Science and technology as key shapers of modernity: illustrated advertising in Mexican magazines and newspapers (1920 - 1960)


Ricardo Lopez-Leon (Autonomous University of Aguascalientes)

Paper short abstract:

The main goal of this paper is to present how science and technology were taken as the ideal way to develop products in Mexico. It analyses illustrated advertising in newspapers and magazines between 1920 and 1960, a period of modernization after a ten-year armed struggle known as the Mexican Revolution.

Paper long abstract:

In the early 20th century Mexico experienced a major armed struggle - known as the Revolution -against longtime autocrat Porfirio Díaz. Once it ended, an opportunity to restructure the country presented itself in many fields. Mexican society could then spend time and income attending social events and in the consumption of goods. Because of this, illustrated advertising in printed media became a profitable way to present new products, playing key roles in the adoption of modern ideals. Soon hygiene products appeared in newspapers and magazines claiming, firstly, the importance of hygiene for the new modern society; and secondly, the value of science and technology in the innovation of products. Illustrations showed two ways of living: the pre-revolutionary way emphasized as rural, naïve, ignorant, and unsanitary; and the post-revolutionary modern way as urban, cultured, literate, and hygienic. To be healthy meant to be modern, idea promoted by vitamins, nutritional supplements, medicine and so on. A modern woman should take pills to avoid menstrual cramps: pain, sickness and malnourishment were problems of the past and grandma's remedies were antiquated. Instead, if a product was developed thanks to scientific and technological innovations, it was accurate, precise, harmless and effective. These dichotomies presented the machine as a higher level of efficiency and manual labor as old-fashioned and risky, submitted to human mood changes and to "human error". Illustrated advertising became a protagonist in the transition of the country ideals, from the traditional and armed, to the modern, democratic Mexico in the 20th Century.

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Visuality, illustrated popular magazines and modernity in Latin America