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José Guadalupe Posada: Audio-Visual Artist

Jose Guadalupe Posada (1852 - 1913) produced an estimated 20,000 images as chief illustrator for the publisher Antonio Vanegas Arroyo in Mexico City. His prints appeared in many journals and on thousands of broadsides, and are recognized even today. He illustrated thousands of songs, news events, stories, legends, games, love letters, school books, card games, and commercial advertisements. Posada satirized and glorified people of all classes in his work; his most popular images are the calaveras, or satirical skeletons produced for the Day of the Dead, celebrated in Mexico on November 2.

The Mexican corrido, or popular ballad, was one of the forms by which Posada's work was circulated. Distributed as hojas volantes, or "flying leaves," Posada's prints accompanied the rhymed verse of the corrido, illustrating a current event such as a revolutionary's farewell, the capture of a bandit, the death of a bullfighter, the introduction of the bicycle, or a train wreck. Posada's broadsides were distributed by corridistas, or musicians who travelled from one market to another, singing the corridos and selling the cheaply printed copies of the lyrics illustrated by Posada's engravings.

During the Mexican Revolution, the corrido represented the heartbeat of the Mexican community. Histories of the revolution were written, in a sense, in the forms of these traditional songs. In one way or another, many of the corridos still sung in Mexico today relate to the revolution. Posada's death in 1913 came toward the beginning of the Mexican Revolution. However, plates that he had made were used by his publisher years after his death to illustrate new corridos.

The broadsides in the forms of corridos were a method of distribution which allowed Posada's work to reach a variety of people in Mexico. As Posada's images, the text, and the music combine, these parts interrelate to form a language understood by Mexicans of all classes. The corrido served as an "audio-visual" method of communication; people heard the music while looking at the art and lyrics of the broadsides. Not only did text, image, and music rely upon each other in the corridos; the artist, writer, printer, and musician also were intrinsically related.

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