Portrait of a Young Painter: Pepe Zúñiga and Mexico City’s Rebel Generation
TEN YEARS AGO, historian Mary Kay Vaughan set out to research the learning experiences of youth who became involved in the 1960s student demonstrations in Mexico City. These were the same demonstrations that culminated in the infamous 1968 Tlateleloc Massacre. Then she met Pepe Zúñiga, and the subject—if the not the broader focus—of her research changed. Zúñiga is a Mexican painter whose work received particular acclaim during the 1970s and 1980s. Born in Oaxaca, he moved with his family to Colonia Guerrero in Mexico City as a child, in 1943. There he grew up, worked as a radio technician and took night classes in drawing and painting, then switched his vocation to paint full time.
Portrait of a Young Painter: Pepe Zúñiga and Mexico City’s Rebel Generation is Zúñiga’s biography, though biography, by Vaughan’s description, is a shifting form. “Unlike traditional biography,” she explains, “new biography is less interested in a person for his or her unique contribution to history or the arts and more interested in how an individual life reflects and illuminates historical processes.” Vaughan uses Zúñiga’s life as a narrative through-line to structure a wide-ranging recreation of twentieth-century life in Mexico City. The book explores how Pepe’s education formed his subjectivity —”the cognitive, active, feeling, experiencing self.” Vaughan uses his story as a case study for what she posits were shared trends in subject-formation within the Mexico City youth of his generation. >>READ MORE