René Arceo.”Carlos Cortez Koyokuikatl: The Man and Artist” Part 2.

René Arceo Publicado 2015-10-03 09:49:25

For René Arceo’s “Carlos Cortez Koyokuikatl: The Man and Artist (Part I),” see the link.The overall essay has been edited with Marc Zimmerman as a project of the LACASA Chicago Latino Art Series (CLAS). Thanks again to Carlos Tortolero, Cesareo Moreno and Dolores Mercado of the National Mexican Museum of Art (NMMA-PC), the family of Marianna Drogitis, represented by Theodora and Despina Katsikakis, as well as Carlos Cumpián, Director of MARCH for providing and allowing us permission to include the photos of key prints from the Cortez Collection which constitutes a “gift of the artist” housed in the Museum’s Permanent Collection (PC). Except for Figure 1, all NMMA-PC photo credits belong to Kathleen Culbert-Aguilar. For this publication, special kudos go to Dolores Mercado, who raced to find and send several of the images required for the article.



Cortez as Artist-Communicator

Cortez’s philosophy of life, his way of facing problems quietly and with knowledge, won him the respect and a special place in the hearts of all who knew him. Such people included local artists, those from other states where he has traveled, as well as those of the general public who had the fortune of meeting him and enjoying his art. Before anything else, philosophically he was an artist who produced art for the purpose of communicating. He considered himself a communicator who happened to utilize the artistic media to share his ideas on a number of issues. What he considered relevant were not numbered and signed edition of prints or to take extreme care while printing them but rather the content, the idea and the message of art.

I remember once while at a opening reception in Chicago’s Peace Museum for the show Committed To Print, Cortez’s wife Marianna came to me looking for my support and approval, as she asked me, right in front of Cortez, “Don’t you think Carlos needs to pay more attention to the printing process? Look at his works in the show; his pieces are the only ones not printed cleanly and clearly. Wouldn’t his work look better if it were well printed? I have always told him he must improve on this, but he never listens to me.”

While agreeing with her, I explained that it would be to his benefit to improve the printing quality but that an issue needed to be considered. Because Cortez had printed so many prints in a particular way most people were familiar with his way of printing. His collectors knew, appreciated and collected his works in that shape; with an uneven inking, not perfect, and with irregularities on texture and paper. It has become part of his work’s identity; it is now a characteristic the public has not only come to know, but to expect. This may be positive or negative, since many of his works are printed on the various papers he found and this adds a special touch to each work. Some papers were metallic and others had printed patterns. Other works were printed while he participated in producing portfolios and other collective projects. In such cases he worked with one or more other artists on printing that have a different print quality from his own individual work. Such joint prints are from the former Taller Mexicano de Grabado (Mexican Print Workshop) now known as Taller Mestizarte Carlos Cortez, Anchor Graphics and, most recently, the Taller de Gráfica Galigo (Galigo’s Print Workshop). He was involved with all these Chicago based printshops as a member or guest artist.


The Iconography

Posada, like Cortez, was able to communicate to the public a whole story making use of simple, but graphically strong, images. This quality proved to be valuable and effective during Posada’s time, at the end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century. From the 1950s on, it proved equally effective for Cortez. From his early works concerning farm workers, Day of the Dead and commemorative posters to his homage to heroes in the 1980s and 90s, Cortez’s works are evidence of the graphic power of communication that this artist developed. At the same time, many other Chicano-Mexicano artists from the Southwest were likewise influenced by Posada; for example, Louie “the Foot” González’s Despedida de un Revolucionario (1983) and José Montoya’s Pachuco: A Historical Update (1978).

Cortez assimilated Posada’s tendencies, and in his works this quality transcends beyond border and time. He applied them to his contemporary world utilizing the double property, just as Posada did, of images and text to take a snap shot of his time. Most often, Cortez’s graphic quality predominates over the complementary texts. The graphic tradition for social and political concerns that Posada passed down to the Taller de Gráfica Popular members, the Chicano Movement artists and Cortez were not unique. Other artists in other times and places had been equally enraged by injustices committed at the hands of those who have abused their power. Francisco Goya y Lucientes dedicated a series of works called Desastres de la Guerra (the war’s disasters). In the case of Posada, his was a response to the extreme conditions created by the regime of dictator Porfirio Díaz whose industrial modernization projects prompted the rural working class to rebel against the regime in what became known as the Mexican Revolution of 1910. In the 1960s and 70s, the Chicano Movement artists included graphic responses to the problems faced by rural agricultural workers throughout the U.S. — above all, the low wages and poor farmworker labor conditions. These issues, along with the Chicano civil rights and student movements, became a unifying cause for the resistance to injustice and the affirmation of a positive Chicano cultural identity. This identity as expressed through graphic art was defined, in the early stages, by artists who, like Cortez, were influenced by Posada and the TGP among others.

Cortez didn’t grow up in a Mexican cultural environment, as was the case with many artists involved with the Chicano Movement or, locally, with Chicago Mexicano-Chicano political resistance. Initially, he did not identify himself as a Mexican artist or Chicano for that matter. It was not until he received some recognition as a Chicano artist that he began associating and identifying more directly with the Mexican culture. Thus, Cortez decided to change his birth name Carl for Carlos and later adopted the indigenous name Koyokuikatl. In the mid seventies in Chicago, he began to participate in the Chicano Movement through the local organization MARCH (el Movimiento Artístico Chicano). He along with Mario Castillo, José Gamaliel González, Sal Vega, José Nario, Ray Vásquez, Victor Sorell, María Enríquez de Allen, Harold Allen, Ray Patlán, Efrain Martínez and others were among the initial active members. He felt this organization received him with open arms, even though, as he stated, “he was only half raza” alluding to the fact that only half of his heritage is Mexican. In spite of his half-and-half status, the images Cortez created throughout several decades became icons of the Chicano-Mexicano community. To better understand Cortez we need to see his works which, in many ways, reflect his own being. In particular we can discuss several of his works as a way of getting a closer perspective on Cortez the man.



The events and activities in support of ethnic causes, political and economic struggles and social justice constituted a large part of Cortez’s artistic mind. Within this subject he developed a number of images dedicated to the struggle and contributions of religious and farm worker leaders, the brotherhood between Native Americans and Chicanos, cries for justice in Central America, tributes to the unknown hero and to the farm worker. An example is the piece Braceros created in 1967 (fig. 1).

Fig. 1. Carlos Cortéz, Farm Workers / Braceros, 1956-66, linocut, N.N. / linóleoS.N., 8 1/2” x 11” (paper size), NMMA-PC PC, 2003.251, Photo credit: museum staff.


This is the first contemporary print I have come across that was created in recognition of farm workers and their contributions to U.S. society. Before César Chavez’s work became known and popularized in rural areas via the National Farm Workers Association later known as the United Farm Workers Union, Cortez had already identified this labor sector in his prints. Indeed, beyond identifying them, he had highlighted and paid homage to the human beings who produced the necessary crops for the society to have breakfast, lunch and dinner everyday. The print is a well deserved homage to those who have often been forgotten, who worked hard for long hours and little pay under extremely subhuman conditions. This is an example of how Cortez was not only a great graphic artist with a strong nexus to his community, but a visionary as well. He had a sharp eye to identify aspects of our history and particular experiences which have proved to be iconic and timeless like the Braceros piece. It is as relevant now as it was in the 1960s.

Many of our parents or grandparents came to participate in the long history of thebracero program during this century by growing and harvesting the U.S. farmers’ crops under temporary “guest worker” contracts. Two historic needs created this ever crossed bridge: the high unemployment in México causing Mexican citizen’s willingness to work in the U.S. and the lack of sufficient U.S. farm workers. Many of the bilingual and bicultural experiences in rural life, influenced by César Chavez and the farm worker’s struggle and the Chicano Movement, shaped the identity and consciousness of individuals who claimed Mexico and the U.S. as their homeland and identified themselves as Chicanos.

Before the Disappearance (fig. 2) works with a different subject. It responds to the situation in Central America where, during the 1980s, violence became an every day experience. This woodcut print came about in 1993 when a Chicago based association in solidarity with the people of Guatemala proposed a project to the Mexican Printmaking Workshop members, which included Cortez. The project consisted of artists graphically illustrating the experiences and crisis situation of Guatemalan refugees in Chicago. Artists based their works on autobiographical narratives written by Guatemalan women who, as war survivors, had been tortured or were related to torture victims. Cortez did this print as a response to the woman’s experience of having retired for the night with her husband and children, was awakened by hard knocks on the door. A group of soldiers, known as death squads, abruptly force their way into the house with a campesino neighbor. While his face is covered, the campesino points the finger to the woman’s husband in an accusatory manner. Her husband was then taken prisoner never to be seen again. He came to be one more of the tens of thousands of dead or disappeared victims of the Guatemalan civil war.


Fig. 2. Untitled (Before the Disappearance) / Sin título (Antes de la desaparición), 1993, woodcut, N.N./ xilografía, S.N., 22 1/2” x 31” (paper size), NMMA-PC, 1993.44

The well known and popular 1984 print of 4th Anniversary of Monsignor Romero’s Assassination is another example of calls for justice while paying homage to another Central American people devastated by war in El Salvador. Monsignor Romero, a loved and respected leader by his people was brutally assassinated because of his incursions into the democratic processes and for his commitment to social justice. This social, religious and political experience was made the subject of a powerful film entitled Romero which was shown in several U.S. cities and included the performance of Puerto Rican actor Raúl Juliá as Monsignor Romero. The slogan on the upper part of Cortez’s print reads “If I am killed, I will resuscitate through the people’s struggle” and comes from one of Monsignor’s public pronouncements. In this print, Cortez captured a series of intense and expressive faces, some filled with sorrow and others with the daring look of rebellion in their eyes, while the air of an uncertain future pervades.


Labor Issues

The Joe Hill Portrait (fig. 4) is one of the most popular images among Cortez’s collectors, judging by the response he had during community festivals where he exhibited. Hill was one of the multi-talented IWW union organizers. Cortez, through this print, contributes to maintaining Hill’s memory for the benefit of subsequent generations. At the same time, it gives him the stature of a hero. There are two poster versions of Joe Hill. The first version was done as a linocut from which Cortez pulled more than seven hundred prints. The second version was also a linocut from which Cortez pulled thousands of prints. Cortez wanted to do something about Hill since he had become an icon among the leftist groups who saw him as a martyr. Cortez, however, wanted to show him as more than that; as a songwriter, composer and labor organizer who had in fact, became a martyr because he was such a good and effective union organizer. Hill was originally from Sweden, where there is now a museum in his old home. Cortez actually visited this house-museum in 1971; and, to his surprise, he discovered his original print of Hill hanging in Hill’s bedroom. A couple of years later Cortez came across one of the poems he had written for Hill, but translated into Swedish. This pleased him a great deal.


Fig. 4. Joe Hill, linocut / linóleo, 33” x 23 1/8” (paper size), MARCH Collection. Photo: José Gamaliel González


La Lucha Continúa (The Struggle Continues-fig. 5) is a photographically inspired work. The original photo published in the U.S. shows a group of Bolivian workers marching on the streets with a large banner. In his print Cortez reproduces most figures from the original photo while changing some to convey his message. The woman in the original became a pregnant woman, a new slogan, “the struggle continues,” and three skeletons were added. The mother-to-be represents a hope for the future; the slogan indicates the commitment of those participating in the march. Finally, the skeletons represent the community’s past, present and future. Cortez also makes his print in two colors; instead of black and white, he uses red and black — the traditional colors of the anarchist movement, also used in Latin American labor strikes and struggles and also the colors used on UFW banners, buttons, flags and hats.


Fig. 5. The Struggle Continues / La lucha continua, 1986, woodcut, N.N. / xilografía, S.F., 17 5/8” x 22 5/8” (paper size), NMMA-PC, 1997.1.



Cortez’s work in the genre of self portraits and portraits of heroes stands out from the rest of his work, because of the images’ qualities depicting outstanding campesino, industrial labor and migrant farm workers. Some of the images in this series have so inspired young workers from all over that they have invigorated their commitment to the labor movement. This has helped in recognizing and recapturing the contributions of labor leaders.

In Cortez’s print of Libertad y Justicia/Freedom and Justice: Zapata (fig. 6) the accompanying text reads as follows:

Let us fight against them, those who arande not good people, (president) Carranza who has been a torment to everyone. Let us build our unity to reach our great mandate: the principle’s of land, freedom and justice. Let us achieve our revolutionary work in a concrete way and we shall know what to do with what is great in favor of our mother earth. To all of you goes the invitation from the Liberating Army Headquarters.


Fig. 6. Zapata-Liberty and Justice / Libertad y Justicia, 1999, woodcut, N.N./ xilografíaS.N., 80 1/2” x 42 1/2” (paper size), NMMA-PC, 1999.38



This is a portrait of one of the most revered heroes from the Mexican Revolution among both Chicanos and Mexicans. The print makes a triple statement dealing with three core issues relevant to Cortez. The first one has to do with bringing the popular image of Emiliano Zapata to the attention of the Chicano community. Zapata is a truly Mexican hero, whose goals and principles these communities still hold high. Secondly, these words clearly evoke Zapata’s core concerns and objectives while illuminating his philosophical roots and understanding. Finally, Zapata’s statement is presented in his native language, Nahuatl — the Aztec language — along with the importance he places on mother earth as a deity that provides all sustenance, speak to the artist’s pride in his indigenous roots.

Along with his print of Posada, Cortez considered the print dedicated to the Mexican revolutionary leader Ricardo Flores Magón as one of his most important works. Shown imprisoned in a Leavenworth (Kansas) Federal Penitentiary cell, standing behind bars, Flores Magón holds a pen in his right hand and a piece of paper in his left. The paper contains a signed manifesto criticizing the “arts for arts sake” motto. It reads as follows:

The issue of “arts for arts sake” is an absurdity and those who defend it have always gotten on my nerves. I feel for art such a reverent love and admiration that it hurts to see it prostituted by individuals who, not having the power to make others feel nor to make them think what they themselves think, hide their impotence under the motto of “arts for arts sake”.

Ricardo Flores Magón (1873-1922) was a writer and an organizer in México during the Porfirio Díaz regime. In México he published a controversial paper calledRegeneración (regeneration) which he could no longer freely published. Forced to moved to the United States in order to publish his paper he was then able to smuggle it back into México. This paper was read by Emiliano Zapata and his followers among others. Zapata actually borrowed Flores Magón’s slogan “Tierra y Libertad” (Land and Freedom) and turned it into his own battle cry. Because of the political problems Flores Magón’s activities brought between México and the U.S. governments, Flores Magón was arrested for seditious activity and jailed. While in jail he mysteriously died.

Cortez’ print is considered to have had a specific objective. It was directed to Chicanos and the Chicano Movement, which by the time this print was produced, had grown considerably. Its objective was to link the Chicano Movement of the 1960s and 70s with Flores Magón’s activities and followers who were key players in the 1910 Mexican Revolution. Likewise, this print had the intention of inspiring the contemporary Chicano movement by helping its followers recapture and understand its roots from previous struggles. Chicanos may not have known who Ricardo Flores Magón was, but the power of the printed image and the force of his statement moved them to research who he became. They proceeded to acknowledge and honor him as one of their own cultural leaders speaking directly to them from the past.


The Skeletons

This is probably the branch of Cortez’s work where he generated the most prints and that has identified him as a calavera artist. This is also the area with has elicited the most positive public reactions among diverse audiences. His calaveras are prized and sought after by his collectors. The production of celebratory posters for the Day of the Dead tradition in Chicago has transformed itself into a tradition. Cortez created at least one calavera every year, almost always to announce celebrations in different cultural spaces and galleries. In some cases, the calaveras turned out to be portraits of artists like Diego Rivera and Frida Khalo (fig. 8), David Alfaro Siqueiros and other heroes from the Mexican Revolution, including Pancho Villa along with Zapata (fig 9).


Fig. 8. Frida and Diego – A Pair / Frida y Diego – una pareja , 1987, linocut, N.N. / linóleo N.N., 22 1/2” x 17 3/4” (paper size), NMMA-PC, 1997.15


Fig. 9. The Day of the Dead- Zapata and Villa Live! / Día de los Muertos, Zapata y Villa viven!, 1985, linocut, N.N./ linóleo, S.N., 28 1/16” x 22 1/16” (paper size), NMMA-PC, 1990.30.


Cortez started this particular series in 1983[1] with the print With apologies to Rembrandt two years after the first Chicago celebration of the Day of the Dead took place in the West Hubbard Street Gallery under the leadership of carpenter, Clay Morrison. One of the most artistically successful images was Tlazolteotl which in the upper area includes the phrase “life is the roulette where we all bet.” As the central figure, Cortez has combined a life and death image of a woman at childbirth. The birthing baby is shown in the same fashion as the skeletal-flesh mother. This work is based on Aztec beliefs regarding childbirth symbolically represented as life and death. In the pre-Hispanic pantheon Tlazolteotl was the goddess of childbirth.

As a sort of historical summary, Cortez created the image Day of the Dead: From Cuauhtemoc To Us. His own interest in indigenous cultures motivated him to do several works evocative of spiritual beliefs and informing today’s public about the contributions of these native cultures to U.S. society. This print doesn’t only position the indigenous dancer in a prominent way, but it gives him the same proportional value as the other figure representing the mestizo, the latter who is represented by atacuachero or musician from Mexico’s northern border, playing accordion. Cortez’s intention was to interpret the crossbreeding of two cultures as a process in which they equally contribute. From Cortez’ perspective one musical tradition did not influence more than the other; on the contrary, both contributed to create contemporary mestizo music. Cortez also believes there is continuity from the indigenous music to the norteño or Tex-Mex music. The figures in this print seem to communicate and understand each other through the use of the spoken word symbolized by the Mesoamerican speech glyph. This pair concretely symbolizes the unity and identity ofmexicanidad in a concise way. Created at the suggestion of local cultural activist and cofounder of MARCH (Movimiento Artístico Chicano) José Gamaliel González, this print attempted to capture a sense of continuity in the Day of the Dead celebration — from a Mesoamerican or indigenous period to modern Mexican times.


Female Nudes

Depictions of female nudes is one of the other areas where Cortez developed a significant body of work rooted in his respect and admiration for women. Many of the women, especially during the last two-plus decades of his life, who acted as his models included his wife and visitors from Germany, Mexico and elsewhere, as well as others residing in Chicago. All his models were people with whom he had had a long standing friendship. In most cases, he captured a certain atmosphere that tended to transcend everyday life. Included are objects of particular relevance to their friendship—especially the model’s likes, preferences or her ideology. Cortez’s use of models appears only in the nude genre. Within this subject we find a special publication Cortez himself printed as a graphic story. The Bear and the Berry Picker(fig. 10), a folk tale from the Haida Indian Nation borrowed by Cortez, is told only through images and it deals with the encounter and love affair between an amorous bear and a beautiful young woman.


Fig. 10. The Bear and the Berry Picker / El oso y la recolectora, 1990, linocut, N.N./ linóleo, S.N., 12 1/2” x 19” (paper size), NMMA-PC, 1992.106.


The looseness and rhythmic fluidity characterizes the forms in these images. Humor and a sense of playfulness are also present in most images, an uncommon treat for Cortez’s fans. In the print Otomí You Are Lovely (fig. 11)he depicts Denhí Donis, daughter of Mexican painter Roberto Donis and niece of well-known photographer Rafael Donis. Denhí lived in Chicago for several years and developed a close friendship with Cortez and his wife.


Otomí, You Are Lovely / Otomí, tu eres hermosa, 1989, woodcut, N.N./ xilografía, S.N., 36 1/8” x 29 1/4” (paper size), NMMA-PC, 1992.120


This work was done during Denhí’s first pregnancy. Otomí refers to one of the 56 Mexican indigenous groups from which Denhí is a proud descendent. The print was a tribute to life, motherhood, fertility and to the indigenous woman. Captured in half body and facing forward, the figure — full of life and vigor — looks directly at the artist who draws her on a wooden board. With a relaxed countenance, her face contrasts with the shape of her long black hair and a white circle resembling a full moon, in the background. Cortez drew a simple and direct figure which highlighted her advanced pregnancy, and her relation to the natural world.

Cortez considers I am the Maker Not the Maid[2] (fig. 12)a feminist statement:

This is a work which attempts to combat the machismo stereotype anglos have of us. Anglos do not consider the antonym of male machismo. That is, the female qualities embodied in the male. Both qualities are important to one another in both males and females. Women from rural families have had to be especially strong and in addition, a woman who gives life to a new being has to be stronger than a man. She is stronger and capable of enduring more pain and adverse conditions. Can we imagine a body that splits open to give way to a new life? This demonstrates which is really the stronger sex.


Fig. 12. I am a creator I am not a caregiver/Soy creadora ¡No soy criada, 1986, woodcut, N.N./ xilografía, S.N., 30 1/4 x 24 1/8” (paper size), NMMA-PC, 1992.113.


He refers to the inherent duality every human being has, namely the male-female genes. He is pointing out that even macho men have softer, female characteristics which balance and neutralize machistic attitudes. This is not to say that women are weaker or can’t be stronger. For Cortez, it is obvious; though he knows that m any choose not to admit it.



Over the years, music was one of the subjects which had a special place in Cortez’s heart. From the years when his father was sought after to enliven a labor, cultural or community celebration with his music to the years when Cortez sold records, music has been an important part of his life. In his last years, he became a connoisseur of popular traditional music, its interpreters and diverse musical genres. In some instances his prints were inspired by specific events where he had had the opportunity to listen to and meet the musicians, yet in other cases, he was inspired by musical phrases or verses from the lyrics. The print of musical group Tlen Huikanicame about in this manner During the group’s 1994 performance in Chicago, Cortez decided to dedicate one of his prints (fig. 13) to his favorite musical genre, the son.


Fig. 13. Tlen Huikani Band / Conjunto Tlen Huikani, 1994, woodcut, N.N./ xilografía S.N.,16 1/2” x 23 1/4” (paper size), NMMA-PC, 1997.10.


In other instances the works have been commissioned, such as the case of María Asunción’s Wedding (fig. 14), done for the publisher Scotts Foresman Company to illustrate a storybook


Fig. 14.María Ascención’s Wedding / La boda de María Ascención, 1991, woodcut, N.N. / xilografía, S.N., 22” x 12 5/8” (paper size), NMMA-PC, 1997.3.


One of the most important works in this area must be Mariachi Skeleton Band (fig. 15)which he produced for the Day of the Dead exhibition in 26th Street’s former Kalpulli Gallery. Cortez took the central figure from an earlier mural he painted in Milwaukee.


Fig. 15. Mariachi Skeleton Band / Mariachi calaveras, 1984, woodcut N.N. / xilografía, S.N., 30” x 36” (paper size), NMMA-PC, 1997.


This print transports us to a common Mexican experience which, iconographically translated by this printmaker of genius, turns into a timeless work. The print is evocative of the scenes we come across in a Mexican cantina or popular film. In addition, the famous Guanajuato composer, José Alfredo Jiménez, contributes his intense and emotional compositions. The print has as its central figure a Mexican seated in a cantina accompanied by a skeletal mariachi band. He is shown in an obviously depressed and drunken state. While this central figure is deep in thought, physically present but mentally somewhere else, the band sings. They do not seem to be physically present either. The text accompanying the print comes from a Mexican popular musical piece — the huapango son style called “White Lily” which reads as follows: “Nobody should lament the death of a loved one; rather one must accept it, knowing that even the flowers sprout to wither.”

This work is symbolic of the existing tension and complexity in Mexican society between machismo, loss of a loved one and drunkenness. Cortez’s graphic dexterity shown in works like Mariachi Skeleton Band can only be compared with artists, at times like Posada, and more frequently like Kollwitz.

Concert Break is a lesser known print created for the purpose of sending it to Greece when Cortez’s wife went back to visit for the first time after moving to the U.S. This was one of two prints he made as gifts for relatives and friends. Copies of this particular print can still be found in Marianna’s old neighborhood.

The print does not depict a specific person; rather, it portrays a common worker and someone probably inspired by the many workers he has met over the years. By dressing him in overalls, Cortez captures the serenity and peacefulness of this vigorous guitar player while resting and refreshing himself with a beer. This print is evocative of the experiences his father must have had while performing in diverse social functions.


Final Considerations

Up until the death of his wife Marianna, Cortez seemed quite happy and satisfied with life. He was especially proud to have gotten recognition for his artistic contributions while he was still alive, in particular, the recognition by other artists, the “wobblies,” and the people in places where he has done artistic, cultural, solidarity and labor work. By the end of the twentieth century, two collections in the United States included all or most of his works; the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum and the Center for the Study of Political Graphics in California. His purpose in donating these collections had been to share his work with other generations of working people as well as those interested in his work and ideas. The grateful acceptance of these collections fed his ego, a fact he mentioned to his friends on more than one occasion.

One of Cortez’s goals was to make sure his works would always be accessible for purchase. He hoped that, if in any given moment, the value of his prints went high because of market speculators, someone would print large numbers again from his original plates. This would surely bring prices down and maintain accessibility of his work to common people. The following verse and a final print by Cortez provide a clear synthesis of his convictions and reveal his persona as a human being, thinker, writer and artist:



An idea does not become
trapped in one person.
If the person has an idea
and does not give it freedom
it will escape to someone who will.
You see, ideas are very promiscuous
but that does not matter.
Ideas are destined
to outlive their liberators.
It is good.


Fig. 17. Chicago Sings in Many Voices / Chicago canta en muchas voces, 1984, linocut, N.N. / linóleo S.N., 22 1/2” x 22 1/2” (paper size), NMMA-PC, 1997.41.


Works cited

Goldman, Shifra. 1994. Dimensions of the Americas: Art and Social Change in Latin America and the United States. Chicago. U. of Chicago Press.: 295-297.

Nelson, Eugene. 1990. “Introduction”. In Cortéz, 5-9.

Sorrel, Victor, ed. Carlos Cortez Koyokuikatl: Soapbox Artist & Poet: A Catalog.Chicago Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum.


[1] We were unable to find this print and subsequent ones in this section in time for our publishing deadline. They will appear in a subsequent version of this text. MZ

[2] This is the unofficial translation the editor prefers. MZ


René Arceo. A graduate from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, received a BFA, majoring in printmaking, and a teacher certificate (k-12). The co-founder of Chicagos Galeria Ink Works (1984 – 1987) & Mexican Printmaking Workshop (1990 ), worked for the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum (1986 – 1999). Has exhibited widely in the Midwest, Mexico and Canada. His works are derived from conscious and sometimes subconscious experiences and are, to a great extent, the result of the spontaneous marks, colors and patterns that evolve into a final work.

Marc Zimmerman. Emeritus, Latino and Latin American Studies, University of Illinois at Chicago, director Global CASA/LACASA Chicago Books. Commentator and contributor to El BeiSMan.