The popular literature of Mexico between the 19th and 20th centuries with digital open access in the “Fund Vanegas Arroyo y Posada” of El Colegio de San Luis – El Sol de México

Nora Danira López Torres (El Colsan)

The publications gathered in the “Vanegas Arroyo y Posada” Fund of the Rafael Montejano y Aguiñaga Library, of El Colegio de San Luis,[1] They collect various cultural expressions of the time that allow us to know to a large extent the idiosyncrasy of the reading and listening public to which they were addressed.

These are literary and graphic contents of a popular nature that circulated both in print and orally, in the streets and at fairs, through specialized propagators or amateursduring the last two decades of the 19th century and the first two of the 20th century, between 1880 and 1928, which is the period in which they were produced by the popular press of Antonio Vanegas Arroyo, which was active during the last stage of the Porfiriato and in the Mexican Revolution.

This printing press was dedicated to the elaboration and publication of popular literature, illustrated mainly by the engraver José Guadalupe Posada, who worked for this publishing house until his death in 1913. His images headed these prints and represented one of the great visual attractions of these publications. low-cost, which circulated massively in the capital of the country –where the headquarters of the printing company was located–, as well as in the vast majority of states and in some cities in the south of the United States.

But, what are we talking about when we refer to popular literature such as that produced by the Vanegas Arroyo printing press?

Following closely one of the great scholars on the subject, Menéndez Pidal, we understand that the dissemination of a cultural manifestation – such as a song, a poem, a narrative, etc. – presents two very different categories.

One is the popular one and it is distinguished because it is received by the public as a fashion, so it is current at the time but is quickly forgotten. The other category is the traditional one and is characterized by the fact that this cultural expression comes to be considered as common heritage, which was surely first known as a new fashion –that is, as a manifestation of popular character–, but by losing its actuality and falling into oblivion did not disappear, but continued to be recognized and valued as ancient and, therefore, its knowledge has been transmitted from generation to generation, by grandparents and from parents to children.[2]

As can be seen, popular culture involves a complex phenomenon due to the different categories involved and identified above, as well as due to its character as a “process in continuous change” and due to the importance that time acquires as a determining factor of the different cultural manifestations. that are produced.[3] The study of this popular printed literature not only allows us to understand the literary traditions that it collects or those with which it interacts, the ways in which these manifestations circulated and spread, but also makes it possible to know the diverse expressions and cultural imaginaries that it collects, such as the customs, interests and tastes of the broader social strata of the population.

Regarding the thematic offer of the press, embodied in the forms published and collected in the “Vanegas Arroyo y Posada” Fund,[4] This was very broad and covered the most varied matters that ranged from religious topics (prayers, greetings, praises, novenas, etc.), shocking news, politics and outstanding events of the moment (crimes, executions, natural disasters, accidents, apparitions, miracles). , public trials, armed confrontations, news about the main political actors, etc.), among many others, in addition to the publication of traditional literary skulls and verses to break the piñata and to ask for or give posada.

The editor also designed a variety of collections aimed not only at a general public but also at more specific ones such as, for example, boys, girls and young people, housewives and young ladies, lovers and those interested in mystics Among the themes that are distinguished in the collections aimed at children are, for example, theater, short stories, comic dialogues, children’s theater monologues, riddles, among others. Examples of the collections aimed at women are embroidery themes, cooking recipes, canary breeding and some more.

The offer addressed to lovers consisted of love letter manuals, the encrypted language in the use of different garments or objects carried by the woman –ribbons, gloves, handkerchief, fan, hat, etc.–. The forms offered on mysticism were printed in booklets on oracles, magic and sorcery, rules for dealing cards, interpretation of dreams, among others.

Various kinds of instructions were also published (for breeding canaries, embroidery, metrics, etc.), recipe books for popular cooking, board games, a booklet on health at home, invitations, songs, songbooks, hymns, praises, the clown or clown, and many more.

The materials that make up this collection of popular printed literature that, to a large extent, can be consulted with free access and digitally in the “Vanegas Arroyo y Posada” Fund of Colsan on page are not only a valuable source for the study of these popular literatures produced in Mexico between centuries, but above all they represent a set of primary materials of great wealth for the investigation of the popular culture of this significant period of the history of Mexico. country.


[1] The contents of the “Vanegas Arroyo y Posada” Fund can be consulted in the Colsan Library database by simply typing the name of the fund in the search bar, all of its contents are displayed. Visit:

[2] See, Ramón Menéndez Pidal, hispanic ballads, Vol. I. Espasa-Calpe, Madrid, 1953, p. 44.

[3] Luis Díaz Viana, “The invention of the concept of ‘traditional culture’ in studies on Hispanic poetry: the relationship between the oral and the written”, in Luis Díaz G. Viana and Matilde Fernández Montes (coords.), Between the word and the text. Problems in the interpretation of oral and written sources, Course on Spanish Ethnology “Julio Caro Baroja” XVI, Edition, CSIC/Sendoa Editorial, San Sebastián, 1997. The article was also compiled in Claudia Carranza and Mariana Masera (eds.), Folklore and literature in the Hispanic lyric. Lyra Mínima I. National Autonomous University of Mexico, Mexico, 2017.

[4] For more information about the Fund, consult: Nora Danira López Torres, “The historical and literary documentary wealth of the ‘Vanegas Arroyo y Posada’ Fund (Rafael Montejano y Aguiñaga Library of El Colegio de San Luis)”, Bibliographic, vol. 4 (2021), p. 215-240. Consult article in its online digital version:


Dr. Nora Danira López Torres is Professor-Researcher of the Literary Studies Program of El Colegio de San Luis, responsible for the project “Popular Mexican Prints from the Centuries (19th-20th): the printing house of A. Vanegas Arroyo”. Contact:

Keywords: popular literature, Mexican popular printing, Antonio Vanegas Arroyo, Posada, Digital Fund.

photo credit: Israel Trejo, The College of San Luis.


The blog Mexico is science is on Facebook, and Twitter, Follow us!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Back to top button