Visualizing mole poblano as heritage process in Mexico City’s Café de Tacuba

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Abstract

This paper provides the first study of an untitled, large-scale painting, which the author refers to as The Creation of Mole (1946), by Mexican artist Carlos González. Commissioned for Café de Tacuba, one of Mexico City’s oldest and most well-known restaurants, this painting was part of an aggressive rebranding campaign for the café, which sought to legitimize claims of Mexican culinary authenticity through evocations of Pueblan colonial heritage, including the fictive legend of the invention of Mexico’s national dish, mole poblano. The paper demonstrates how and to what ends The Creation of Mole, which has been precluded from scholarly inquiry due to its commercial status, engages in meaning making at the nexus of national identity and aspirational modernity. It is argued that the labor rendered invisible in The Creation of Mole nonetheless amplifies an important kind of civic “making” present in, and perpetuated by, the painting. The confluence of mole poblano’s popularized mythic invention coupled with the colonial historicity of Café de Tacuba encodes mole poblano, and Café de Tacuba’s menu writ large, as foodstuffs of a collective Mexican mestizaje—an invisible but powerful phenomenon that could be consumed, absorbed, and digested.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)618-636
Number of pages19
JournalFood, Culture and Society
Volume21
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 20 2018

Keywords

  • Mexico
  • art history
  • café
  • consumption
  • mestizaje
  • modernity
  • mole poblano
  • painting

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