Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Art & Art History
Academic Program Adviser
In the history of architecture following the Mexican revolution, Yucatecan architect Manuel Amábilis (1889-1966) has often been passed over in favor of discussions of architects working in the nation’s cultural and political center, Mexico City, many of whom engaged in neocolonial and functionalist modern style to envision a modern Mexico transformed by the revolution. This omission is short-sighted, since Amábilis’s Maya revivalist architecture provides an iteration of postrevolutionary Mexican architecture that visually and ideologically manifests the socialist and proindingenous aims of the revolution while imagining a paradigm of modern nationalism that was not rooted in Western ideals. Amábilis’ neomaya architecture, a regional iteration of the indigenous revivalist architecture that proliferated in the center of the nation, may appear to be kitsch or pastiche—the simple placement of ornament on top of an otherwise modern structure. A close reading of Amábilis’s architecture in tandem with his extensive theoretical and ideological writings proves, however, that his engagement with Maya architectural motifs was not simply ornament or spectacle. Instead, his dialogue with the Maya civilization was calculated. He invested it with symbolic potential and aimed to create an architecture that would speak directly to the Maya people while affirming the importance of this cultural group within a postrevolutionary, modern Mexico. In short, through his engagement of the neomaya, Amábilis sought to evoke an indigenous modernity that countered the Westernized vision modernity that was promoted heavily in the years following the revolution.
Cocco, Emily A., "Building for a New National Body: The Architecture of Manuel Amábilis and Neomaya Modernity" (2022). CUNY Academic Works.