In honor of Cinco de Mayo, UC Berkeley’s Ethnic Studies Library has put up a vivid display of vintage posters from events that took place in Berkeley, San Francisco, Hayward, and Stanford. Cinco de Mayo, celebrated on May 5 in the United States and Mexico, commemorates the Mexican Army’s victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla.
The head librarian at the library, Lillian Castillo-Speed, says she and the library’s archivist selected about a dozen posters from their archive, which contains thousands of posters from the past 50 years. During the Chicano civil rights movement in the 1960s, she says, posters were used to express important themes, such as immigration, education and labor reform, and as a major means of communication.
The largest and most sophisticated Chicano poster and mural movements developed in California, particularly in the San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento and from Los Angeles to the Mexican border. In the Bay Area, graphic art movements for public and political communication date back to 1950 when the Graphic Arts Workshop — a group that produced images of political, social, labor and ethnic themes — was established.
The poster display at the Ethnic Studies Library features prominent artists including Yolanda Lopez, Esther Hernandez, Rupert Garcia and Malaquias Montoya. Often, Castillo-Speed says, poster artists didn’t sign their names, so the origin of many posters in their archive is a bit of a mystery.
The Cinco de Mayo posters will be on display through May. The Ethnic Studies Library in Stephens Hall at Berkeley is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Saturday from 1 to 6 p.m. Starting May 16, summer hours kick in: Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and closed on Saturday.