University of Illinois at Chicago

File(s) under embargo





until file(s) become available

Entre Pulque y Leche: Nourishing an Empire in Colonial Mexican Visual Culture

posted on 2022-08-01, 00:00 authored by Joshua Gomez-Ortega
The colonial understanding of fluidity within a social and racial context helped shape and reinforce the ideologies of a racial hierarchy in colonial Mexico. Examining the discourses about fluidity, through visual and literary representations, I underscore how colonial artists graphed these social constructs within Mexico’s visual culture. By investigating how artists depicted ideas of blood purity, breast milk, and the Indigenous alcoholic beverage known as pulque, I trace how artists en-coded colonial anxieties about interracial mixing, racial fluidity, and contamination through women’s bodies. Resultantly, it becomes evident that maternal ideologies were contingent on racial and class status, further complicating the historical understanding of casta paintings. Yet, the Spanish administration understood that social order went hand in hand with spatial order, requiring a strictly segregated populace to ensure a ‘divide and conquer’ system amongst their colonial subjects. While casta paintings outline how such segregation was not manageable, they emphasize how illustrating women’s spatial organization was just as imperative in establishing domestic bliss within these racialized visions. Yet, I argue these images intentionally conceal the political possibilities within these interracial social networks. The colonial representational practices of space silenced the opportunities for anti-colonial resistance movements by highlighting social deviance instead of the subversive qualities of this space. This M.A. thesis scrutinizes how the politics of ethnic and social fluidity was a significant concern in the elite Novohispanic imagination and, thus, required a complex system and set of tools to establish this hierarchical societal model throughout artistic production in Mexico.



Ortega, Emmanuel


Ortega, Emmanuel


Art History

Degree Grantor

University of Illinois at Chicago

Degree Level

  • Masters

Degree name

MA, Master of Arts

Committee Member

Finegold, Andrew Durbin, Nina

Submitted date

August 2022

Thesis type



  • en

Usage metrics


    No categories selected