As a Mexican, whenever someone asks me what I think our biggest asset is as a nation and culture, I always claim that, beyond our ancient culture, great folklore, amazing food, and intense history, our sense of humor is what has always characterized us for centuries. No matter how hard life hits us (and boy, have we been hit), we always find a way to make things better through our witty, sassy, and most of the time, dark humor.
You just have to take a look at how we all reacted when Donald Trump said we were going to pay for his wall. To put it briefly, social media became filled with tons of hilarious memes, including my favorite, which said that we had gone to war with France to avoid paying them for some cakes (which, funnily enough, is partly true). Humor is part of our resilient spirit and identity, and it has always been that way, so when I first heard about the propaganda program of our country during WWII, I was almost certain they were going to be amusing. And I wasn’t wrong.
It’s often believed that Mexico played a neutral role in the conflict, but the role wasn’t that neutral nor unimportant. As one of the closest neighbors to the US, Mexico had a crucial geographical position since WWI, to the point that since then Germany had tried to plot against the US through the fail attempt known as the Zimmerman Telegram. Long story short, and back to WWII, most people don’t really know that Mexico actually declared war on the Axis when a German U-boat sank a Mexican oil tank in 1942.
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Their most famous war effort was the sending of their 201st Fighter Squadron to fight over the Philippines. The threat of a greater involvement in the war definitely took over the country’s spirits, and the government knew that their best move was to fully support the Allies and break all ties with the Axis. One of the ways to do so was coming up with strong propaganda to encourage the population to jump onboard on any possible government decision regarding war, and as we mentioned before, one of the best ways to do so was by adding some of our beloved and well-known sense of humor.
Most of these posters and images were commissioned to an art collective known as “Taller de Gráfica Popular” (Popular Graphic Workshop). The collective created hundreds of these posters and tons of political cartoons that were published at some of the most important newspapers and gazettes. As you’ll see below, some of them are just hilarious and some others have a solemn vibe that helped foster patriotic feeling in the population.
Propaganda posters were one of the most powerful weapons during the war on both sides. So, even when Mexico ended up not being as involved as they had foreseen, their visual efforts were full of powerful patriotic messages and imagery that are still part of our folklore and identity.
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Propaganda from the Secretary of Public Education: “Wisdom of the years may have smothered the creative genius of youth” Adolf Hitler
“Religious freedom, one of the four freedoms for which Allies are fighting for.”
“Mexicans! Dictatorships hurting us. A free country willing to keep its civic integrity has only one choice but to bravely face reality and declare a state of war. Our weapons: Ideals, rightfulness, and love for freedom.”
“To your positions.”
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