sotero lemus Sotero Lemus and one of his eagles.Photos by Manuel Curiel, INAH

Exhibition highlights the place of the eagle in Mexico’s history

The eagle has long had a prominent role in the history of Mexico and has been an important part of the national identity from prehispanic times through to the current day.

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With that in mind, the National Institute of Anthroplogy and History has organized an exhibition that features the majestic bird using an art form similar to paper mache, called cartonería.

The two-meter sculptures, fashioned from a mixture of reed grass, paste and cardboard, are the work of Sotero Lemus, a master of the art of cartonería, and 1,500 children who participated in Saturday workshops to learn the process.

While Lemus and his students created the sculptures, museum staff chose the eagles that would best represent the important stages in the history of Mexico. The result is an exhibition called Where Did the Eagle Land?, which opened today at the history gallery in the Museo del Caracol.

The first of the 10 pieces is the prehispanic eagle of Teocalli of the Sacred War, the stone sculpture that is a miniature of an Aztec temple, on display in the museum. An eagle is depicted on the back.

From there, explains museum director Julieta Gil, the exhibition moves to the viceregal era, with two representations of the eagle of Mexico City, then another pair on flags from the war of independence and several others, concluding with the national coat of arms.

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Lemus gave the course in cartonería, in which the eagles were created, from May through July. His students learned not only about the eagle’s place in the country’s history, but the process and the history of the art form.

Lemus is from Celaya, Guanajuato, birthplace of cartonería, and his family have been cartoneros for four generations. For the past nine years he has dedicated himself to creating artisanal games, calaveras, alebrijes and other sculptures, and has had 40 exhibitions in Mexico, the United States and Spain.

Where Did the Eagle Land? will run for the next month at the Museo del Caracol.

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