The Visual Culture of Water in Early Twentieth-Century Mexico

Collaborative Group

Dr. Jeffrey M. Banister, Dr. Stacie G. Widdifield


Southwest Center & School of Geography


How can we see the relationship between humans and water? Banister and Widdifield address this question by combining their respective expertise in geography and art history to analyze the visual culture of water control and provision in Mexico City from 1880 to 1920. This is an interdisciplinary investigation of the capital’s large potable water system constructed at a crucial phase of modernization. This system, with its ornate and monumental structures above ground and its state of the art engineering below, knit Mexico City to its water-rich hinterland and was an expression of emerging modern conceptions of water itself. The project explores three primary aspects of this system: a series of decorated, monumental pump houses; documentary photographs and plans; and archival documents on water control. These embody and open onto a number of tensions operative between representation, landscape change, and the politics of water control and provision in Mexico’s capital – historical-geographical processes that continue to shape the course of daily life in this global megacity. The result will be a co-authored monograph as well as a website encouraging further interdisciplinary research on water. Award period: July 1, 2014 - Aug 31, 2015