Mexican Animation, American Propaganda, and the Cold War (1952-56): Block Museum - Northwestern University
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Mexican Animation, American Propaganda, and the Cold War (1952-56)

Animated color image with a row of synchronized dancers wearing leotards with red stars on their chests.
Viaje Interplanetario (Pat Matthews, 1952-56, 7’)
7 PM

Event Details

Date & Time:

Thu November 2, 2023
7 PM


The Block Museum of Art
40 Arts Circle Drive
Evanston, IL 60208


Open to the public


Mexican Animation, American Propaganda, and the Cold War - A Showcase of Cartoons from Dibujos Animados S.A. (1952-56)



From 1952 to 1956, a little-known anti-communist propaganda project was started in Mexico with support from the United States government. The project, headquartered by the company Dibujos Animados SA, brought together many of the most important talents in Mexican animation at the time (most of whom were unaware of the propaganda purposes), along with important animation directors from the United States, and even musical talents such as Juan García Esquivel.

The resulting cartoons are fascinating for demonstrating the blurred line between political propaganda and maquila, for manifesting the convergence of Mexican animation and UPA's mid-20th century abstract style of animation, and for the lingering mysteries that surround them. For example, although the production of the cartoons received significant coverage from the Mexican film press at the time, they never saw a mainstream release or distribution.

 This presentation will be the first known public screening in the US, long thought lost. It will draw on recent digitization of cartoons by the National Archives in Washington DC, as well as new findings by researchers about their production and propaganda uses by the United States Information Agency (USIA).

The presentation will include a panel discussion moderated by Derek G. Larson (Purdue), animation researcher Dan Bashara (DePaul), film philosopher Byron Davies (Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow), and philosopher Carlos Oliva Mendoza (UNAM).


Films include:

El Hombre Y El Poder (Gerald Ray, 1952-56, 17’)

Manolín Torero (Emery Hawkins, 1952-56, 8’)

Vice Versos (Tom McDonald, 1952-56, 7’) 

Mucho Macho (Pat Matthews 1952-56, 7’)

Maíz Para Las Masas (Pat Matthews, 1952-56, 7’)

Pravda Prado (Gerald Ray, 1952-56, 7’)

Viaje Interplanetario (Pat Matthews, 1952-56, 7’)


Films courtesy of The National Archives in Washington DC, Juan Manuel Aurreocochea, Centro de Cultura Digital Mexico City, General Archive of the State of Oaxaca.


About the speakers:

Derek G. Larson, graduate of the Yale University School of Art, is an artist and animator at Purdue University with previous experience at PBS television. He produces the animated documentary series Très Mall with researchers on philosophy, the environment and the Anthropocene. Recent guests include Noam Chomsky, Michael Hardt, Graham Harman, and Priyamvada Gopal. The series has been screened at Kunsthal Charlottenborg in Copenhagen, Tranen, Times Square in New York, MoCA Atlanta, and the Yale School of Architecture. 

Byron Davies is a philosopher, visual artist, and translator. In 2024 he will be a María Zambrano fellow and, from 2024 to 2026, a Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellow, with the Aresmur research group in aesthetics and art theory at the University of Murcia in Spain, where he will be developing philosophy of film projects. He was previously a postdoctoral research fellow in philosophy at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), following his PhD in philosophy from Harvard University. He has spoken at and collaborated with various film festivals and exhibition projects in Mexico, including FICUNAM, Ambulante, ULTRAcinema, Fisura, SACIMU in Oaxaca, CEART in Tijuana, and “Cine Más Allá” at the Centro de Cultura Digital. His writings have appeared in Screen, Millenium Film Journal, The Baffler, Desistfilm, and Los Experimentos.

Carlos Oliva Mendoza is a writer and doctor of philosophy. He works as a full-time professor at UNAM's Faculty of Philosophy and Letters and is a member of the National System of Researchers (SNI). Among other recognitions, he has obtained the International Narrative Award, Siglo XXI; the National Award for Young Essay and the National Award for Literary Essay. He is responsible for the research projects "Critical Theory in Latin America" and "Baroque Modernity and Mexican Thought". His latest published books are Mexican Cinema and Philosophy; Space and capital; Semiotics and capitalism.

Dan Bashara received his Master's and Ph.D. from Northwestern University's Screen Cultures program. He teaches courses on animation, media and cultural theory, science fiction, the city in film, and the weird and fantastic. His work explores animation with other fields of visual culture, including architecture, graphic design, and cartography. His main academic interest is modernism in all its forms, particularly as it relates to issues of vision, perception and abstraction, and he is currently developing a project exploring modernism and horror in literature and visual culture. He is the author of the book Cartoon Vision: UPA Animation and Postwar Aesthetics (University of California, 2019).


The image is courtesy of The National Archives in Washington DC.

Co-presented with support from the Department of Spanish & Portuguese, Department of History, and Latin American and Caribbean Studies Program at Northwestern University.

Contact The Block Museum of Art for more information: (847) 491-4000 or email us at