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The Surrealist Wave in Mexico and Latin America

By Tim Hazell

“Everyone is a little bit mad and a little bit a poet.”

- Anonymous


The word “vision” for artists has been defined as the ability to capture the secret life of forms seen in external reality. A painter or poet consolidates the experience of such an encounter with an imaginative attitude, possibly because it coincides with a powerful psychological state or event. A constant serial interaction of visual stimulus with mental image ultimately produces a transformation. The act of creation that follows stands symbolically for the protagonist and the object of attraction. We might say that every masterwork is inevitably a self portrait.

The Surrealist movement of the 1920s and 30s extended to poetry, sculpture, literature, film and the kind of spectacle that took place at social gatherings, exhibitions and “happenings.” Its intention was to undermine the fabric of comfortable bourgeois society through an anti-art that championed the “logic of illogic.” Surrealists gave credence to poetic and symbolic discovery, exposing their private worlds of chimera and apocalypse.

French avant-garde developments of the first two decades, Dadaism and Cubism, gave rise to the surrealist wave, spearheaded by André Breton and the poetry of Paul Eluard. Its influence upon Mexican and Latin-American poets began in the 1920s. Promoted by Xavier Abril and Cesar Moro in Peru, Latin-American surrealist poetry appeared in French and Spanish. Surrealism in Argentina grew out of Ultraism and first surfaced in the magazines “Que” (1928-30) and “A partir de O” (1952-56).

In México, Carlos Pellicer, Xavier Villaurrutia, Jaime Torres Bodet and José Gorostiza, were important spokesmen for “la vanguardia.” These writers worked in established surrealist traditions of automatic writing and used non-chronological time. “Desire” by Carlos Pellicer added distinctly Mexican nuances of solitude and pessimism.


Tropics, why did you give me these hands burning with color?

Whatever I touch brims over with sunlight.

I’ll pass through the delicate afternoons of other lands with the sound of a glass sunflower.

Let me for one moment stop being all noise and color.

Let me for one moment change the climate of my heart,

Soak up the half-tone of some solitary thing…

Oh, for one moment not to be field adjutant to the sun!


This recipe for Roasted Peruvian Potatoes, courtesy of Aarón Sánchez, uses the purple variety, but can be prepared with Mexico’s excellent medium potatoes as well.



2 lb. Peruvian purple or regular medium potatoes, scrubbed

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 tbsp. Mexican oregano

1 tbsp. minced garlic

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tbsp. chopped coriander



Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Halve the potatoes and place them in a bowl. Cover them with water if you cut them ahead of time. In another bowl, combine olive oil, oregano, garlic, salt, and pepper. Mix well. Drain the potatoes thoroughly, add them to the oil mixture and toss. Spread the potatoes on a sheet pan. Roast for 30 minutes until the potatoes are tender. Sprinkle with coriander and serve.


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