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Spectacular Mexico

Design, Propaganda, and the 1968 Olympics

2014
Author:

Luis M. Castañeda

Spectacular Mexico

How Mexico used modern design to announce its arrival on the world stage

Luis M. Castañeda demonstrates how design projects of the 1968 Summer Olympics were used to create a spectacle of social harmony and ultimately to guide Mexico City into becoming a powerful megacity. Through an examination of one of the most important cosmopolitan moments in Mexico’s history, Spectacular Mexico positions architecture as central to the negotiation of social, economic, and political relations.

An extraordinary piece of research and, more importantly, historical imagination, this book makes its points clearly, with crystalline and imaginative intelligence, and with massive empirical backing.

Mauricio Tenorio, author of “I Speak of the City”: Mexico City, 1880–1930

In the wake of its early twentieth-century civil wars, Mexico strove to present itself to the world as unified and prosperous. The preparation in Mexico City for the 1968 Summer Olympics was arguably the most ambitious of a sequence of design projects that aimed to signal Mexico’s arrival in the developed world. In Spectacular Mexico, Luis M. Castañeda demonstrates how these projects were used to create a spectacle of social harmony and ultimately to guide the nation’s capital into becoming the powerful megacity we know today.

Not only the first Latin American country to host the Olympics but also the first Spanish-speaking country, Mexico’s architectural transformation was put on international display. From traveling exhibitions of indigenous archaeological artifacts to the construction of the Mexico City subway, Spectacular Mexico details how these key projects placed the nation on the stage of global capitalism and revamped its status as a modernized country. Surveying works of major architects such as Félix Candela, Pedro Ramírez Vázquez, Ricardo Legorreta, and graphic designer Lance Wyman, Castañeda illustrates the use of architecture and design as instruments of propaganda and nation branding.

Forming a kind of “image economy,” Mexico’s architectural projects and artifacts were at the heart of the nation’s economic growth and cultivated a new mass audience at an international level. Through an examination of one of the most important cosmopolitan moments in Mexico’s history, Spectacular Mexico positions architecture as central to the negotiation of social, economic, and political relations.

Spectacular Mexico

Luis M. Castañeda is assistant professor of art history at Syracuse University.

Spectacular Mexico

An extraordinary piece of research and, more importantly, historical imagination, this book makes its points clearly, with crystalline and imaginative intelligence, and with massive empirical backing.

Mauricio Tenorio, author of “I Speak of the City”: Mexico City, 1880–1930

Castaneda makes an essential contribution by articulating the role that architecture and design, in all its variants, had in the expression, exertion of control, and propaganda of the midcentury Mexican state.

CHOICE

Spectacular Mexico does a wonderful job at describing the complex history of the design and events leading tot he 1968 Olympic Games.

Journal of Design History

Spectacular Mexico is unparalleled in its capacity to educate and enlighten the design and planning professions about the importance of symbolism in the built environment, and about the capacity of architects, planners, and urban designers to construct meaningful narratives and build monumental projects with long-lasting impacts on cities and nations.

Planning Perspectives

Spectacular Mexico is a work of noteworthy rigour, bound by way of the academic traditions of critical historiographic analysis, which ultimately offers a thoroughly detailed gaze into the historic fabric of mid-twentieth-century Mexico.

Journal of Architecture

In accessible and well-written prose, this is a complex and rich text that adds to the body of knowledge by positioning the multiple significances of modern architecture, design, and art within political culture and the state building and glorification of the Partido Revolucionario Institucional.

Hispanic American Historical Review

A marvelous contribution to Mexico City’s historiography.

H-Net/H-War

Luis M. Castañeda fills an important gap by. . . extending the list of architects and buildings much further than the traditional survey book. . . a rigorous analysis of the politics behind the design and construction of structures that helped define twentieth-century Mexico.

Mexican Studies

Spectacular Mexico

Contents

Abbreviations
Acknowledgments

Introduction: The Exhibitionist State

1. Diplomatic Spectacles: Mexico Displays Itself at World’s Fairs
2. Archaeologies of Power: Assembling the Museo Nacional de Antropología
3. Image Machines: Mexico ’68’s “Old” and “New” Sports Facilities
4. Total Design of an Olympic Metropolis
5. Subterranean Scenographies: Time Travel at the Mexico City Metro

Epilogue: Olympic Afterlives

Notes
Bibliography
Index

Spectacular Mexico

UMP blog: The continuing influence of the Mexico ’68 Olympics brand

A recent analysis of financial data provided by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) attempted to quantify how much the Olympic brand is worth today. The analysis, in many ways a problematic one, found it to be worth $47.5 billion dollars, which positions it above Google and second only to Apple, the corporate giants with which it shares the first three spots of the ranking. A question that arises about precisely what kind of value this analysis measures involves the urban dimension of the Olympics: the dilapidated remains of many Olympic sites, many of which become little more than ruins just after the temporary event isover, indicate that the value of the brand tends not to translate into financial gain for host Olympic cities.