Archive for the ‘Mexico’ Category

Alice Dixon Le Plongeon. Governor's Palace, Uxmal, Yucatán. Selfie-1876. Courtesy of the Getty Open Content Program. http://www.blurb.com/b/6134743-a-catalog-of-the-19th-century-photographs-of-alice

Alice Dixon Le Plongeon. Governor’s Palace, Uxmal, Yucatán. Selfie-1876. Courtesy of the Getty Open Content Program.

This book by Lawrence G. Desmond is a catalog of 1,034 photographs taken by Alice Dixon and Augustus Le Plongeon in Yucatán, Mexico, and Belize from 1873 to 1885. Some of the photos are the first taken of Maya archaeological sites in Yucatán, and of the people of Yucatán during the 19th century.

The subjects in the photo are: Landscapes, Colonial and Ancient Maya Architecture, Portraits, and Ethnographic photos. The original photos are archived at: The American Museum of Natural History, the Donald Dixon album in London, the Getty Research Institute, the Peabody Museum at Harvard University, and the Philosophical Research Society in Los Angeles. In the 1990s, uplicates of the original photos were made with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities (Grant RT-20746). The duplicates can be viewed at the Wilson Library of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in the “Lawrence G. Desmond collection of Augustus Le Plongeon and Alice Dixon Le Plongeon Photographs.” Collection ID number: 5268.

To purchase a copy of the catalog as hardcopy, a PDF or just view all the pages go online to the web site of Blurb. Click on the link under the cover photo to go directly to the Catalog at the Blurb web site and view all the pages.

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Title page of doctoral dissertation.

Title page of doctoral dissertation.

Lorena Careaga V

Lorena Careaga V.

A new doctoral dissertation of note: “Invaders, explorers and travelers: Everyday life in Yucatán from another perspective, 1834-1906” by Dr. Lorena Careaga. Careaga, a professor and director of the library at the Universidad del Caribe in Yucatán, recently completed a multi-year study of how life was lived in Yucatán, Mexico during the Caste War that pitted the Maya against the central government of Mexico for more than a half century.

Bibliographic reference:

Lorena Careaga, “Invasores, exploradores y viajeros: la vida cotidiana en Yucatán desde la óptica del otro, 1834-1906” [“Invaders, explorers and travelers: Everyday life in Yucatán from another perspective, 1834-1906”], Ph.D. Dissertation, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, México, February 2015.


This doctoral dissertation summarizes and critically reviews the life and work of 30 men and 3 women from outside of Mexico who traveled through Yucatán between 1834 and 1906 as explorers, expeditionary photographers, war correspondents, mercenaries, government representatives, military officers, merchants, artists and naturalists, and who left published accounts of their travels, as well as their personal appraisal of everyday life during the revolt of the Maya against the government of Mexico called the Caste War of Yucatán. The dissertation also assesses the contribution of nineteenth century travelers in Yucatán to the then developing fields of archaeology, anthropology with special emphasis on Maya ethnography.

While there are numerous studies about nineteenth century foreign travelers to Mexico, in the case of the Yucatán Peninsula this dissertation fills two important research gaps. The first is travelers’ reports of everyday life in general, and in particular, how life was lived during the Caste War while under a permanent threat of attack. Analyzed and placed in historical context are travelers’ first hand descriptions of everyday life in times of conflict, and the effects of warfare on Yucatecan life.

Secondly, most bibliographic compilations list only fifteen foreign travelers to the Yucatán Peninsula from 1834 to 1906. Some important observers were left out because their theories and opinions were considered unacceptable, and others were overlooked because their writings were not translated. This dissertation presents a comprehensive and systematic study of all thirty-three foreign travelers.

Finally, Careaga compares and contrasts photographs, drawings, maps, engravings, vocabularies, and other documentary materials produced by travelers, explorers, and expeditionary photographers, and assesses their contribution to our knowledge of life in Yucatán during this period of revolutionary conflict.

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Scholars in dark glasses. Photos of the MMARP symposia, 1982 to 1994. To preview the book click on: http://www.blurb.com/b/5731589-scholars-in-dark-glasses-photos-of-mmarp-symposia

   Scholars in dark glasses. Photos of MMARP symposia, 1982 to 1994.                                To preview the book click on: http://www.blurb.com/b/5731589-scholars-in-dark-glasses-photos-of-mmarp-symposia

After almost 30 years, the photos I took of scholars who participated in the ground-breaking annual symposia sponsored by the Moses Mesoamerican Archive and Research Project (MMARP) are now available in my book: Scholars in Dark Glasses. Photos of MMARP Symposia 1982 to 1994.

The photos are documentary in style, and are of the archaeologists, anthropologists, ethnographers, historians of religions, art historians, historians, archaeo-astronomers, and many others from Mexico, the US, Japan, UK, and Europe who contributed to the development of a new direction in the study of the life and religious practices of the Aztecs, Maya, and other ancient civilizations of Mesoamerica.

Photos selected for the book are from the Lawrence Gustave Desmond Mesoamerican Archive and Research Project Photographs collection archived by the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles (GRI Special Collections accession number 2014.R.16).

Book metrics:

An Introduction illustrated with 9 photos

Symposium photos: 165

Pages: 196

Presentation: 10×8 inch Landscape

Paper: Premium Matt

Available from Blurb in Paperback, Hardback, and Image Wrap or as a PDF.

Lawrence G. Desmond, Palo Alto

To learn more about the Moses Mesoamerican Archive and Research Project click on this link: http://mmarp.com/

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Photo Books by Lawrence G. Desmond

Blurb is an online platform for creating, and printing independent books. By going to Blurb’s Internet web site, and searching for Lawrence G. Desmond you can see all the photos in each of the below books. Or, just click on this link: http://www.blurb.com/search/site_search?search=Lawrence+G+Desmond

Growing up in California, 1947-1959. Toy Racers and Giant Salamanders. San Francisco: Blurb. 8×10” Landscape. 142 pages. 123 photos. 2014

2012 Blue Water and Rocky Lights. My life in the Coast Guard, 1957-1960. San Francisco: Blurb. 8×10” Landscape. 66 pages. 120 photos. 2012

The John Muir Trail. From Florence Lake to Cedar Grove, 1962. San Francisco: Blurb. Co-authored with Kenneth L. Parker. 8×10” Landscape. 94 pages. 70 photos. 2009

The San Francisco Peace March– Vietnam War Moratorium, November 15, 1969. San Francisco: Blurb. 8×10” Landscape. 48 pages. 44 photos. 2013

An Unintentional Photographer, 1968-1970. Mirrored Rooms and Chain-link Fences. San Francisco: Blurb. 8×10” Landscape. 162 pages. 143 photos. 2014

Tepetzintla, Sierra Norte de Puebla, 1972. San Francisco: Blurb. 8×10” Landscape. 128 pages. 119 photos. 2013

Santo Tomás Jalieza, Oaxaca, Mexico, 1973. San Francisco: Blurb. 8×10” Landscape. 76 pages. 65 photos. 2013

Mexico as it was. Photographs of life in the 1970s. San Francisco: Blurb. 8×10” Landscape. 144 pages. 139 photos. 2013

Mexico- Landscape and Architecture. San Francisco: Blurb. 8×10” Landscape. 124 pages. 114 photos. 2014

Scholars in dark glasses. Photos of MMARP symposia, 1982 to 1994. San Francisco: Blurb. 8×10″ Landscape. 195 pages, 165 photos. 2014


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An Unintentional Photographer. 1968-1970. Mirrored Rooms and Chain-link Fences. By Lawrence G. Desmond. 2014. Mirrored showroom, San Francisco, 1970. (Cover)

An Unintentional Photographer. 1968-1970. Mirrored Rooms and Chain-link Fences. By Lawrence G. Desmond. 2014. Mirrored showroom, San Francisco, 1970.                      (Front cover jacket)

Most of the photos in this book, An Unintentional Photographer, 1968-1970. Mirrored Rooms and Chain-link Fences are of the people, landscape, and architecture of San Francisco, the Sierra Nevada, and Arizona. Those photos were taken just before I left for Mexico and photographed its people, landscape, and architecture.

An Unintentional Photographer, 1968-1970. University of the Americas, 1970. (Rear cover)

An Unintentional Photographer, 1968-1970. University of the Americas, 1970. (Rear cover jacket)





To illustrate my transition to Mexico, I have also included in this book some of the photos I took during my first few months at the Universidad de las Americas in Cholula. What struck me right away were the guards, and a barbed wire topped chain-link fence that created an isolated university for foreigners, and Mexicans with enough money. I tried to show the exclusion, isolation, and privilege by my photos. Fortunately, since the 1980s the university has changed, and it now fosters community inclusiveness that was absent in the early years.

The book has four parts: 1) Cityscapes and other Elements- San Francisco; 2) People- San Francisco, Sausalito and south to Ladera, and Cholula, Mexico; 3) Natural Abstracts, Landscapes, Flora and a Frog- The Far West, and 4) Outside and Inside the Universidad de las Americas, Cholula, Mexico.

Recently, I donated my Mexico photos from the 1970s to Harvard University’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology where they are now archived.

Selected photos from that collection were published in the following books:

Tepetzintla, Sierra Norte de Puebla, 1972

Santo Tomás Jalieza, Oaxaca, Mexico, 1973

Mexico as it was. Photographs of life as it was in the 1970s

Mexico- Landscape and Architecture

            The following link will take you to the current book, and to the others available from Blurb. http://www.blurb.com/search/site_search?search=Lawrence+G+Desmond

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Growing up in California, 1947-1959. By Lawrence G. Desmond.

Growing up in California, 1947-1959.                                        By Lawrence G. Desmond.

Strictly speaking, this book, Growing up in California, 1947-1959. Toy Racers and Giant Salamanders, is not about archaeology. It’s about the photographic skills I acquired over a period of 12 years that led directly to the more professional-level photography of later years in support of my archaeological and ethnographic projects in Mexico, and work with the 19th century photos of Alice Dixon and Augustus Le Plongeon.

A few years ago I began making my photos publically available. I began by publishing a co-authored book about backpacking in the Sierra Nevada of California, then a book about my four years in the Coast Guard, another of my photos of the 1969 San Francisco peace march, and finally four books of photos of Mexico.

But, Growing up in California brought me back to 1947 when I started taking photos as a pre-teen living at home where I was influenced by the family album photos of people and the environment taken by my mother and other family members. In choosing the photos for this book I looked closely at my photography for those first 12 years, but then extended my review to 1970. During the first 12 years my skills improved quickly, but there were a few years when the learning curve was much less steep. Then, beginning around 1968 my photographic output suddenly increased ten fold, and my photography matured with the help of photographers Ansel Adams and Pirkle Jones.

The following summarizes my photography through 1970:

“Looking back at my first 12 years of photography, I consistently documented the people and environment in my life, and that pattern has continued even to this day. My sense of design and technical expertise had its greatest gain in the two years prior to my departure for Mexico to study archaeology. Those gains were due to the training I received from masters of photography such as Adams, Jones and others, a ten fold increase my photographic output, and careful review of my camera work. By 1970, I was prepared to take on the photographic challenge of Mexico, and while my studies in archaeology at the university were invaluable, photography took me far beyond the classroom to villages and archaeological sites where I learned directly about Mexico’s ancient history and culture.” (Growing up in California, 1947-1959, 2014.Page 102)

Growing up in California, 1947-1959 is organized into two parts. The first part has photos taken from 1947 to 1953, and the second has those taken from 1954 to 1959. Part I begins with photos of students and activities in the 7th grade, and ends when I graduated from high school. Part II includes photos taken during my university years of dorm life and some family photos, and ends with photos of Coast Guard shipboard life.

A link to all DesmondBooks, including this new book available from Blurb of San Francisco is below. Photos in all the books can be viewed standard size or full screen by using the Preview command.


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Mexico- Landscape and Architecture. Jacket cover.

Mexico- Landscape and Architecture.

Preview book: Mexico- Landscape and Architecture by Lawrence G. Desmond

Hot off the press: Mexico- Landscape and Architecture. After publishing three books that feature the peoples of Mexico, I have just finished my first book of photos that highlight the landscape and architecture. Most of the photos were taken in the 1970s when I was living in Puebla, and attending the Universidad de las Americas in Cholula. The photos are now archived at Harvard University’s Peabody Museum.

I took advantage of days off from classes at the Universidad de las Americas to travel around Mexico with family and friends. We were graduate students in art history and archaeology, and that required a stop at nearly every Colonial church and archaeological site. The trips, along with my photos, were pretty much unplanned.

I was seldom without my camera because, for me, the Cholula-Puebla region is one of the most photogenic in Mexico. To the west are the snow capped volcanoes of Popocatepetl (17,802 ft, 5,426 m) and Iztaccihuatl (17,343 ft, 5,286 m); and scattered throughout the region are small farming villages and, some say, 365 Colonial churches. True or not, the churches are architectural jewels, and a photographic challenge.

Of course, Mexico has many landscapes — the dry and open spaces of Oaxaca that are reminiscent of Northern California, the damp-steep mountains of the Sierra Norte de Puebla, the rugged western mountains near Tepic, volcanoes both dormant and ready to erupt, deserts in Northern Mexico and Baja California, the flat limestone plain of Yucatán surrounded by the blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and the thick humid tropical rainforest along the Gulf Coast that penetrates inland for hundreds of miles.

Most everywhere you travel in Mexico you are likely to see the remains of an ancient civilization. One of the most spectacular, near Mexico City, is Teotihuacan (popularly known as “The Pyramids”), but equally spectacular are the great cities of the Maya such as Uxmal and Chichén Itzá in Yucatán, and in Oaxaca is Monte Alban built on a mountaintop by the Zapotecs, and further south is Mitla with its delicate stone work made by the Mixtecs.

The photos in the book were selected from my Kodachrome transparencies and black-and-white negatives. With a few exceptions, they date from the early 1970s, and were taken with a 35mm Leicaflex SL camera using 35mm, 50mm, and 90mm lenses. The 35mm Kodachrome film was processed by Kodak labs in Palo Alto, California and Mexico City, and I processed the black-and-white Kodak Tri-X film at the Universidad de las Americas in Cholula using Edwal FG7 developer mixed with sodium sulfite.

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Heaven and earth in ancient Mexico: Astronomy and seasonal cycles in the Codex Borgia.

Milbrath- Book cover            This book by art history Professor Susan Milbrath is a breakthrough interpretation of the Codex Borgia. Published in 2013 by the University of Texas Press.

            Heaven and earth in ancient Mexico: Astronomy and seasonal cycles in the Codex Borgia is major new interpretation of the enigmatic middle section of the Codex Borgia. Milbrath demonstrates that this ancient painted text is the most important historical record of pre-Columbian astronomy and natural history in central Mexico.

Her innovative interpretation incorporates a reappraisal of the dates and imagery in a unique narrative passage that has been the subject of scholarly debate for generations. Decoding the imagery in the Borgia narrative allows a new understanding of the way astronomy was integrated with annual cycle of the festival calendar. Reading the Calendar Round dates in companion almanacs as historical records, the author sets the narrative in historical context.

These dates are associated with imagery that are related to changing seasonal rainfall and the festivals celebrated at different times of year to ensure rainfall at appropriate times of year. The book includes an analysis of the seasonal cycle of rainfall and maize, and its relationship to the late Postclassic (1325-1520) festival calendar shared throughout Central Mexico.

The author demonstrates that this account records actual observations of astronomical events and observations of seasonal cycles on earth involving plants, animals, and rainfall.  The interpretations focus on Post Classic imagery of the three most important astronomical bodies in Mexico: the Sun, Moon, and Venus as manifested in the Borgia Group codices and the broader sphere of Aztec iconography. The narrative focuses on the transformation of Venus in relation to the solar cycle, tracking Venus events in concert with the equinoxes and solstices, and the periods when Venus made its underworld journey in conjunction with the sun. Significantly, the narrative records a time when Venus was seen to go through its phase transformations at key points in the solar cycle in a year (1496) of a solar eclipse, the  only total eclipse recorded in late Postclassic Aztec sources.

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Maya musicians playing at the Gran Museo del Mundo Maya de Mérida in Yucatán, Mexico. 2013. Pic: Milbrath

Maya musicians playing at the Gran Museo del Mundo Maya de Mérida in Yucatán, Mexico. 2013.      Pic: Milbrath

           Professor Susan Milbrath, curator of Latin American Art and Archaeology for the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida, presented her paper, “Agro-astronomical evidence among the ancient Maya” at the colloquium “La relación sociedad- naturaleza entre los mayas” held in the Gran Museo del Mundo Maya de Mérida in Yucatán, Mexico on October 18.

           Prof. Milbrath’s paper is a new exploration of the role of Venus and solar eclipse cycles in Maya agronomy. Maya agricultural cycles today indicate that observations of the sun and moon, and the Pleiades remain important, but her study also documents observations of Venus and solar eclipses in relation to agricultural cycles in the Madrid Codex, suggesting a sophisticated form of agro-astronomy in ancient Maya agricultural almanacs.

Abstract of the paper–

“La Evidencia Agro-astronómica Entre los Antiguos Maya”

En los c6dices mesoamericanos, Venus está estrechamente vlnculada con el ciclo solar, en almanaques que integran cinco ciclos de Venus, con ocho años solares, en los que este planeta vuelve a la misma posición en eo relación con el añio solar, cada ocho añios. El uso de este almanaque se extiende desde el centro de México hasta el área maya, y al parecer se originó en el período Preclásico Tardio.

Es evidente que las fases de Venus y eventos de esta naturaleza, fueron seguidos de cerca, en re!aci6n con el ciclo de siembra, lo que refleja una forma de agro-astronomía que sólo estamos empezando a comprender.

Article in the Diario de Yucatan

An article about Prof. Milbrath’s paper was published in the Merida newspaper Diario de Yucatán on October 19, 2013. The article can be accessed by clicking on this link: Diario de Yucatán- Valoran el sistema agroastronómico maya 19 Oct 2013

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Santo Tomás Jalieza, Oaxaca, Mexico 1973

Santo Tomás Jalieza, Oaxaca, Mexico 1973

The photos in this book were taken in the village of Santo Tomás Jalieza (latitude 16º51′ north and longitude 96º40′ west) that is located in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, and about 17 miles (28 Km) south of Oaxaca City in the Zimatlán Valley, at an elevation of 5000 feet (1500 meters).

With my family living with me part time, I spent the first half of 1973 taking photos and learning about village life for my MA thesis in anthropology: Santo Tomás Jalieza: A Community of Cooperation. If you would like more information about the village as I saw it in 1973, a copy of the thesis is in the library of the University of the Americas in Cholula, Mexico, the University of Florida-Gainsville, and the Reitberg Museum in Zurich, Switzerland.

The photos for this book were selected from the many photos that I took for the thesis project. The color photos were taken using Kodachrome 64 transparency film, and the black-and-white photos were taken using Kodak Tri-X negative film. The camera was a 35mm Leicaflex SL with 35mm, 50mm, and 90mm lenses. The color film was processed by Kodak de Mexico, and I processed the black-and-white film using a developing formula of Edwal FG7 and sodium sulfite.

If you would like to look at the photos in the  book, click on this link to the Blurb web site: Santo Tomás Jalieza Oaxaca, Mexico 1973

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