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“The metropolis is not just the city; it’s the mother city. It has a fundamental role in defining the history of these countries that we discussed in the book.”

The period between 1830 and 1930 was one of global change, particularly in Latin America. Emerging from Spanish and Portuguese colonial rule at the start of the century, cities from Buenos Aires to Havana faced explosive population growth and rapid modernization, which reshaped the urban landscape and sociopolitical structures. These changes were captured triumphantly in photographs and film, planning maps, and theoretical treatises. However, the poor or disadvantaged were often erased from these records, and were often physically relocated to the outskirts of the urban core, reducing their visibility in cities.

In this episode, Getty Research Institute curators Idurre Alonso and Maristella Casciato discuss this consequential century of development for Latin American cities. Their research into this topic formed the basis of a 2017–18 exhibition at the GRI titled The Metropolis in Latin America, 1830–1930. The exhibition’s materials, most held in the GRI’s collections, have been expanded in the recent Getty Publications volume The Metropolis in Latin America, 1830–1930: Cityscapes, Photographs, Debates, edited by Alonso and Casciato.

More to explore:

The Metropolis in Latin America, 1830–1930 explore the exhibition
The Metropolis in Latin America, 1830–1930: Cityscapes, Photographs, Debates buy the book


JIM CUNO: Hello, I’m Jim Cuno, president of the J. Paul Getty Trust. Welcome to Art and Ideas, a podcast in which I speak to artists, conservators, authors, and scholars about their work.
IDURRE ALONSO: The metropolis is not just the city; it’s the mother city. It has a fundamental role in defining the history of these countries that we discussed in the book.
CUNO: In this episode, I speak with Getty Research Institute curators Idurre Alonso and Maristella Casciato about their new book The Metropolis in Latin America, 1830–1930: Cityscapes, Photographs, Debates
The Metropolis in Latin America, 1830–1930, a 2017 exhibition that has been expanded into a publication, examines the transformations that occurred in six capital cities in Latin America that were main centers of urban expansion over the turn of the twentieth century.
On the occasion of its publication, I spoke about the book with its editors, Idurre Alonso and Maristella Casciato, respectively associate curator of Latin American collections and senior curator and head of architectural collections at the Getty Research Institute.
Thanks so much, Idurre and Maristella, for speaking with me today. Idurre, your book foregrounds a couple of large and important concepts in the title and introduction, The Metropolis in Latin America, 1830-1930. Why the metropolis in Latin America?
ALONSO: Well, we wanted to talk about the concept of metropolis. Pacific Standard Time: Los Angeles/Latin America was a very large initiative that was put together by the Getty, in which institutions in Southern California were invited to generate exhibitions about Latin American art.
And so when I arrived to the Getty Research Institute in 2015, the spot for the GRI’s Pacific Standard Time exhibition was open, and I was asked to put together something. And I already had the idea of this exhibition, because I had had the opportunity to go through the collections, because I was looking for photographs that depicted the main cities, the main capital cities in Latin America.
So I had the idea of this exhibition. And then I was lucky enough to have Maristella arriving to the GRI, basically, at the same time that I arrived. And so, since she’s a specialist on architecture and I’m a specialist on Latin American art, we decided to work together in this project. And that is how the whole thing started.
And when we think about metropolis and how we define it today, we think about this very large and densely-populated city. But metropolis also means, in ancient Greek, mother city. So we wanted to think about metropolis from that standpoint, as a source of crucial changes.
This publication highlights what is the role that these cities play in terms of the sociopolitical changes that are going to happen during this time in Latin America. And it’s important that we think how in the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth, the new governments in these countries were using the city to redefine their own identities. So in that way, the metropolis is not just the city; it’s the mother city. It has a fundamental role in defining the history of these countries that we discussed in the book.
And in regards to the term Latin America, as you know, Jim, Latin America is very large; it encompasses more than twenty countries that have very different histories and realities. So it’s a very quite complex area. But there are commonalities between those areas. And if we look at the development of the main cities, we can see that. And that is what we talk about in this publication. Of course, we don’t want to generate an homogenized idea of the cities. We also look at the specificities of each of those cities as well.
But there is also a shared history that we examine in this book. And we all know that Latin American art and architecture—they don’t get the attention as European and American art does. So we think it’s very important that we generate projects that decentralize the Western view, and they look at other areas of research.
Another important part of creating this book was also to look at a period of time, the nineteenth century, early twentieth century, that is usually overlooked because it’s a period that is in between the Colonial time and the modernity. And so we wanted to research and put forward documentation, information, and text about a period that doesn’t get the same attention as others.
CUNO: Why now? What prompted you to produce the book now? Maristella?
MARISTELLA CASCIATO: Well, this has been a process that really involved an extensive research-based work. How do we get to the book that we have now, and how this was the process that came out of an exhibition? We started from looking at the documents at the GRI, but without having some ideas what we want to say, but not knowing the whole collection. So we started, for instance, with days and days in a row in the vaults, going through boxes and boxes of prints, of photographs, and trying to find out what was the inspiration. And actually, after a period of research, we were able to establish a certain narrative of the exhibition, and also the section[s].
So the exhibition looks at the Colonial city, but also looks at the infrastructure, looks at leisure as a moment of growing of the city, the debate about the city and the theory of the city. So we had some thematic sections. But what was really, for us, extremely relevant was the fact that we ended up, this period that we had selected along with a list of almost 800 items. Which is not feasible for an exhibition. But not even for a book.
So we went through a process, in a certain way, of prioritizing, prioritizing our idea, but also trying to exchange with external scholars. So that’s the moment when we created a kind of— we called a curatorial committee that we decided to invite scholars, three scholars—one coming from Venezuela, one was at the end of his PhD project in the US, but from Mexico; the other is an art historian on the Colonial period. They came and looked at all this material, original material with [us], and helped to really go the essence of the topics and to select the most evocative and telling objects.
Then at that point, there was no time for the book, because we also immediately understood that we had to investigate a very wide phenomenon. And we had to do this from an interdisciplinary point of view. So there was no way to just collect essays. But the way was to consider the book not as a catalog of the exhibition, but as a reference book for educational purposes, for opening paths for new research. And the three scholars that we invited, they also became authors, of course, of the book. But we also invited other authors from Latin America. We have women scholars. And I think that this is an incredible collection of knowledge that approaches the topic from different perspectives.
We also worked on a very extensive and contemporary bibliography. We selected books from 1970 to 2020, so a large span. And last but not least, we created six albums, where we gathered together the original documents presented in the exhibition. The largest majority were never published before. So to give a new view to what was the collection and what was our aim and the goal of the exhibition and now the book.
CUNO: You include the large land mass and political entities like Argentina and Brazil and Mexico, but also the much smaller island of Cuba, with its capital city of Havana. What criteria did you use for including a particular country or city in your study?
ALONSO: So the selection of the cities was based on the importance of the urban developments of each of those cities during this period. And even though Cuba may seem like a small country compared to Mexico or Brazil, for example, Havana was a very important city, in terms of the urban development during this period.
Because Cuba didn’t go through the struggles of independence war, Havana went through a very early demographic and urban expansion, if we compare it to what happened in other capital cities. So by the 1830s, it was already being changed. And this is something that is gonna happen later on in other capital cities. We’re talking about mostly 1860s to the 80s. But there is a governor in Havana called Miguel Tacón, who introduced important changes in the city, as I said, already by the 1830s, with new avenues, a new theater, a transportation system. So we can look at Havana as an early case study of some of the main changes that are going to happen in other capital cities later on.
CUNO: Well, let’s get a sense of the size and scale of the cities and how they developed over time. Buenos Aires grew from a population of 60,000 in 1830 to two million a hundred years later; and Rio, from 125,000 people in 1830 to almost 1.5 million. But Lima, only from 58,000 to 374 over the same period of time. What made some cities develop so rapidly into such great metropolises, and others less so?
ALONSO: So we have to think that Lima and Mexico City were the most important cities of the Spanish Viceroyalty during the Colonial period. So they were already very important cities during the Colonial time. And so when the process of independence happens in Latin America, that changes and alters the whole scenario. And it opens up the path for new economic relations between the countries, away from this control of Spain and Portugal.
And what happens with this is that there is a rapid economic development in certain cities—specifically in Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro. And that is why they grow so fast. And there is a need for workers during this time, because of this development of industry. And so there is also a massive arrival of European immigrants to these emerging cities, something that is especially important in the case of Buenos Aires.
And just to give you an example of how massive this growth is, in a matter of forty years between 1850 and 1890, Buenos Aires goes from 800,000 inhabitants to more than three million. So it triples. And then from those three million, more than half were immigrants from Italy and Spain. So we have to also understand where these people are coming from is gonna be also important to understand then what’s gonna happen, in terms of the rethinking of the identity later on.
CUNO: Maristella, what made the decades between 1830 and 1930, which is the topic of your book, or the parameters of your book, what made them so important in the history of Latin America?
CASCIATO: So the two issues at stake when we started were the end of the Colonial power and the struggle for independence. Now, the book opens with a chapter on the Colonial city. So we need to understand that for quite a long time, dated early sixteenth century, the Portuguese power and the Spanish power were ruling the Americas, from Central America to the south. And the Spanish also founded Santo Domingo, for instance, in the island of Hispaniola, in 1502. So this is the past.
The struggle for independence began at the dawn of the nineteenth century. The first country to gain independence—and this is very relevant also in the abolition of slavery—is Haiti, in 1804. Basically, by 1830, independence was the common ground of the new republican order in Latin America. So this explains the beginning of the timeframe.
The other end of the spectrum, 1930, refers, basically, to a call for modernity in those countries that see a complete radical break with the Colonial past. So what they do, they look at the exchange with Europe. And from Europe and the presence of European architects, what emerges around 1930 or the end of the twenties is the new modernist culture that is directly intertwined with a new modern architecture idiom. So this is like the spectrum, tells you exactly that this century, actually is when the city goes from a Colonial past to independent, to really the beginning of a new modernity.
CUNO: So that’s a kind of political answer to the question, and perhaps a kind of contextualization on terms of politics. But what about topography and access to natural resources like rivers and the sea? How important were they in the development of the metropolis in Latin America?
CASCIATO: Well, you actually picked a very important aspect, because of course, political aspects are essential in the struggle. The heroes of independence are really the key figures in this history. But Latin American capitals such as Rio or Bueno Aires, they really gained their immediately economic relevance because of water communication. That’s essential.
The increasing of harbors values and waterways made the big difference. Think about Buenos Aires and facing the major river, Rio de la Plata, and also having a vis-à-vis, in a certain way, with Montevideo on the other side. This creates a very interesting context.
There are major cities that are not on a river or have access to the sea. In this case, the strategy was always to build or to create a port that could support the capital cities. And there are several examples which are extremely interesting in terms of planning. And the example could be, I mean, Veracruz as the port, the most important port for the commerce of Mexico City. Or the case of Santos for São Paulo in Brazil. Santos became the major port of commerce of coffee industry. Or even, in a totally different condition, Valparaiso, the port of Santiago de Chile. In this case, I mean, those ports are not even close to the city, but they, through the infrastructure, create a close connection.
And I also want to refer again to the case of Havana. The city has a major relevance for all the Caribbean region. But it was built already by the Spanish, with the whole city walls, as a defense infrastructure. So you see, I mean, you have different role[s] of the access to water and transportation. And when large infrastructural projects like bridges, railways, aqueducts, also sewage systems were created, they became important tool[s] for connecting the capitals to the rest of the country.
So you see, there are aspects political that we discussed initially, but then infrastructure becomes really the motor for the growing of the new capitals.
CUNO: Perhaps, Idurre, you can answer this question. What is it about infrastructures that helped to develop the metropolis? And how do we define infrastructure?
ALONSO: Well, I think, as Maristella was explaining, you have, on one hand, the access to the sea, and the ports as an important infrastructure that is being developed during this time. But then another very important aspect of infrastructure is going to be the building of the train. The train system is gonna be developed during this time. And that is going to allow to move commercial goods from rural areas into the city, or from the city to the ports. And also moving people, of course.
And then part of infrastructure is also going to be building bridges. The connection by train from Mexico City to Veracruz, for example, which is quite far away, is gonna allow to develop these very important bridges like the Metlac Bridge. And that is something that is in the book. You can see it in different photographs. And then you have the internal infrastructure of the own cities, with transportations systems that are going to be developed, like the trams, for example, is something of this period.
CUNO: What foreign capitals served as models for the development of cities in South America?
CASCIATO: The first model that we need to refer is the model that it’s coming with the Spanish. So it’s basically the model of a grid of blocks, a perpendicular grid of blocks around a main plaza. The main plaza is where you have the location of the cathedral, of course, so the religious power; but also the town hall, and of course, the market, with the goods arriving and moving through the city. So there is this very, very clear model of what is called the cuadrícula Española, so the Spanish grid, which is referring to the old Roman grid of the original city.
ALONSO: But I also think it’s important to point out that when the Spanish arrive to Latin America, the major pre-Hispanic cities, they already have that grid system in which at the very center, you have the temples. That’s something that you’re gonna find in Mexico, Tenochtitlán. So it’s very easy for the Spaniards to just build on top of an existing city that is following this same idea of the grid with a center.
CASCIATO: I think that the model of the grid was, in a way, very coherent also with the idea of the infrastructure. Because in a certain way, it made some of the infrastructure—I’m thinking about the sewing[sic] system—to follow the same pattern. So the first— the grid was really, in a certain way, the best tool to start developing the new republican cities. At a certain moment, this was abandoned. And I think it was, in a certain way, transformed when the issue of grandeur became more in certain specific cities.
CUNO: Why did certain European models become so influential? And I’m thinking about, in Buenos Aires, the British. As I understand it, or as I remember from your book, the British were responsible for building the train systems in Argentina. Why they there in particular? Why not in Mexico City, for example?
CASCIATO: Well, this really depends on the contacts and the economics of the different nations. The English are extremely vital with their presence because they have developed new technology, I mean, already in the second industrial revolution.
But the Germans, for instance, also with their factory system and new material are extremely important. But in terms of town planning, I guess that the big difference is made by the fascination with the Parisian model.
What’s happening in Paris between 1850 and 1870, under Napoleon III, is the full transformation of the city in a new, what we can call the first modern city. New, large boulevards, new large organization of the network of roads, the new public parks.
We need to say, also, that politically, politically, the main changes that Napoleon I, speaking of Napoleon, made after the revolution in France, they really became fundamental for the cities in Latin America to start the struggle for independence.
It is important to say that this is not the only model. I would say that very often, we don’t think of the importance of the American City Beautiful movement. But this was very, very relevant for the construction, for instance, of the parkways in Buenos Aires along the Rio de la Plata. Or in Rio de Janeiro, along the Flamingo Park.
CUNO: I wanna Idurre a question about that, because she wrote an essay in the book about the photographic image of the metropolis. How does the photographic image of the metropolis either betray or, that is, explain the development of the metropolis, or translate the development of the metropolis from Paris, for example, or from London, to Latin America?
ALONSO: Yeah. I think that—and my essay is exactly about that, about how there is a construction, a specific construction of an image of the city through the nineteenth century, early twentieth century photograph, that is based on generating an idyllic image of the city that is in tune with Paris and other European cities. So when I was looking at the images in the exhibition, I thought that this was a very happy and optimistic image of the cities.
Which is, in part, true. But there’s another side that was missing in those images, which is what was happening with the underprivileged people, and why are they not part of these images? Like, whenever we have people present in these images, in these avenues, it’s always people from the bourgeoisie strolling around the city. You have these beautiful images of the avenues, very French-looking avenues.
And we had real trouble, Maristella and I, as we were going through the materials in the collections, to find the people from other classes being depicted, being part of the city. And we know that they existed, but they were not being represented. So I decided to talk about that invisible part of the city that is not present in the photographs, and question why that was happening.
And so these images portray what these upper classes of people in power wanted to see about the city. And of course, they didn’t want to see the poor people in the streets. But this is happening, too.
So there’s a displacement of, as these cities are changing, of people, disadvantaged people, to the outsides of the cities. For example, this is the beginning in Rio, of the favelas. But there’re not images. There’re not photographic images of those. Very few.
So I went through the work of some photographers that they did portray the people from those classes as being part of the city, and I also discussed that part of how these images were controlled by the political elite, and how they were creating a very idyllic image of the modernity in the cities.
CUNO: Is this true also of the influence of the cinema? Because one of your authors in the book, David Wood, wrote an essay on the early cinema in the capital cities of Latin America. What role did the cinema play in this?
ALONSO: Cinema, it’s something that comes a little later on, if we compare it to photography. And at the beginning, the first films produced about Latin American cities kind of like follow the same idea that I was mentioning about photography. So they look at the cities in movement and they project this modern view of the city.
But already at the beginning of the twentieth century, we are looking at other kinds of films that are depicting the struggles of the workers and the protests that are starting to happen at the beginning of the twentieth century. And that will be like documentary-type films. But there is also fiction films that are looking at the city and portraying it as a space of vice and moral decay.
And so it is very common to see this dichotomy between the rural areas of a country as a symbol of the noble characters, and then the city as a place for struggle and violence and deception. But within that idea, there is also representation of the city as a place for opportunity, freedom, and new beginnings.
CASCIATO: Yeah. Idurre, maybe I can add to this that the new turn of creating a bourgeois society, with all the rituals, the promenade, the strolling, it’s also creating an attraction, again from France. The brother Lumière arrived very early in the twentieth century in both Rio, Mexico City. So those cities with the new bourgeois elite were also attracting, in a certain way, a new industry of film.
And as you say, this amplifies the contradiction between a documentary looking at what is the condition of the urban living and an expression of the bourgeois elite and the ritual. Think about the new cinema theater[s] that were created in some of the cities and attracting large, large components of the society, of course. The upper class.
CUNO: So these are examples of cultural modernity. What about the International Exposition buildings? What role did they play in disseminating local and international architectural styles?
CASCIATO: Oh, that’s a very important aspect. The most important of these exhibition[s] is definitely the Paris Universal Exhibition of 1889. But we also noted the importance, or we discussed the importance of other exhibitions. Like, for instance, the San Diego— what is now the Balboa Park. The 1915 Panama California Exhibition, which created at the time of opening of the Panama Canal. So speaking of infrastructure, the opening of the Panama Canal changes the whole route of commerce and developed a new, complete new economy.
In terms of the exhibition, the Parisian Universal Exhibition of 1889 was extremely important because [it] attracted politician[s] and industrialists from Latin America. And the fair showcased the new Latin American countries through the commission of new modern pavilions. Now, these pavilions, most of them, embraced strategies of industrialization and the triumph of the new material. The one of the Tour Eiffel. I mean, the iron or the glass.
Mexico, in the Parisian Exhibition, was the only country that decided to follow a different path. Instead [of], like Argentina or Peru, or even Brazil, having an iron and glass pavilion, they decided to present the pavilion which was an impressive example of pre-Columbian revival. And it’s really, I mean, you see how much this became a watershed, I mean, between countries that look in their past as a source of new inspiration and countries that basically follow the path of the European industrialization.
CUNO: I wanted to ask Idurre about that, because it is striking about the influence of pre-Hispanic and Colonial Revival styles. How did that weight against the element of the modern city that was being promoted through the Universal Expositions in Europe?
ALONSO: Yeah, so this emergence of the pre-Hispanic and Colonial Revivals that Maristella was mentioning, in terms of that pavilion in Paris in 1889, starts to happen at the turn of the twentieth century. And it’s completely connected to a reassessment of a local identities.
So we have to think that until now, these countries had been looking at French models. But something changes at the turn of the century. First, it coincides with the 100-year anniversary of independence for many countries. And we also have the impact of World War I. And as I was mentioning before, we have lots of immigrants coming into the countries.
So this makes people start to think about what is our own national identity, and what should be those models that we should follow? And you know, there’s a group of architects and intellectuals that are talking about these issues. People like Ricardo Rojas and Martín Noel in— and Angel Guido in Argentina, but also Manuel Amabilis and Piqueras Cotolí— one in Mexico, the other one in Peru.
So there is a group of intellectuals that are discussing this. And they’re thinking that the French model is a model that has nothing to do with the Latin American identity, so we should look at our own past and what is in our own past. That is, the Colonial past and there is the pre-Hispanic past. And that’s how these new revivals start to happen.
And of course, this is not just a debate that’s happening in architecture; this is something that is also happening in art. So we have artists that are completely against emulating European trends, and they’re thinking about generating a vernacular idiom. And just think about someone like Joaquin Torres Garcia, for example, who is looking at pre-Hispanic art, combining it with modern European styles; or someone like David Alfaro Siqueiros, just to give you two examples.
Another thing that is very interesting about this revival is that it also happens in Southern California. And that is he reason why we have Los Angeles as part of this research and part of the book.
CUNO: Why do you end your book in 1930? Is it the economic collapse? Is that enough to bring an end to the development of the art and architecture of the modern era?
ALONSO: Well, I think that of course, the economic collapse also has an impact in Latin America. But it has to do with the fact that we now, when we reach 1930, we’re getting into another type of style and language in architecture that is more towards the modern. And that is why we decided to end that. Maristella, maybe you can add something because your essay talks about that.
CASCIATO: Well, yes. And also, we need to say that around the twenties, the early twenties, more and more people from Latin America started studying in Europe. And also new programs in architecture were created in Latin America. So basically, you need to reconsider your whole architecture idiom, your culture. And the end of the twenties is really the moment where this break becomes very relevant. So in a certain way, the old generation had made all the efforts to rediscuss origin, identities, languages in architecture; but now new schools, new authors, new young people can have their own proper development.
In a certain way, when I decided to discuss, I mean, the role of architecture, basically urban planning and landscape planning, because those are the two poles that attract Europeans to Latin America, I understood that those people were instrumental to create, in a certain way, new conditions. New conditions that lasted much longer and entered into the forties, and then after World War II, I mean.
So in a certain way, it is important to reconsider the work of, for instance, Forestier in landscape architecture; Le Corbusier in the visionary planning of the center of Buenos Aires; and Agache, with his idea of the— how to take care of the illness of the city. This is his master plan for Rio de Janeiro. But in fact, I mean, they were highly also, in a certain way, criticized. But what they really created was a new context. And this new context created the conditions for new development.
I mean, those ideas took a long time to grow, in fact, because you also have to think that then Europe went through all the dictatorships, the World War II. So really, the new development of a Latin— modern Latin American city and architectural language really started after World War II
CUNO: So I guess you had to stop your book at some point, and this was as good a place to stop as you can imagine. But why didn’t you go into the 1950s and sixties or the great efflorescence of culture in South America?
CASCIATO: It is much more studied topic. So in a way, we covered a gap, something that it was not really under consideration in this context, in an interdisciplinary approach, not really studied so far.
CUNO: Where and when did the Getty Research Institute get all of this archival material?
ALONSO: So all of this material has been acquired in the last thirty, forty years. Because even though there was not a curator dedicated to Latin American art until I arrived in 2015, the curators already working at the GRI have always had an interest on Latin America. So they’ve been acquiring materials and focused on Latin America.
In regards on where the materials were acquired, they came from many different places. For example, the Gutiérrez Collection, which is where most of the prints that are in the book are from, was acquired in Mexico. But then we have the Gilberto Ferrez Collection, which is a collection of more than 3,000 photographs from Brazil. That one was acquired in London, although it came from the grandson of Marc Ferrez, the very famous Brazilian photographer.
And also, as we were putting together the exhibition, we also acquired new materials. So for example, the very early album of photos of Buenos Aires, the one that has the panoramic view that you can unfold in the book, that was a really nice encounter of Maristella and I, in the Pasadena Book Fair. We went to the Pasadena Book Fair and we encountered this amazing album, which was with a dealer from English. And we acquired it.
And then I already talked about the fact that we didn’t have many images of the underprivileged people in the city. And so I found this album that has a photograph of a conventillo, which is a tenement house in Buenos Aires, where you can see the overcrowded living condition of immigrants in Buenos Aires. And so we acquired that at an auction in Paris. So things were coming from all over; things were already here. So yeah.
CUNO: How do the collections of the GRI, in this regard, compare to those elsewhere in other libraries around the world?
CASCIATO: The GRI collection, the library collection, for instance, we find out, Idurre and I, that it was extremely unique. We have—and this is not even special collection; it was the library collection—we have all the theoretical books, I mean, all the debates books, many magazines. So in a certain way, this exhibition also revealed that we are among the most important institution collecting this kind of nineteenth century architectural and theoretical material about Latin America. I mean, those books were absolutely a surprise, at a certain moment, to us. And when we showed that for the first time to other colleagues, they hardly believed that we had the first edition of Cotolí or some other authors.
ALONSO: In terms of our collection in comparison with other institutions, I think that our collection is very special, because [it] encompasses many different types of materials. We have books, we have photographs, we have prints, we have magazines. And also, they relate to many different countries. And so it’s very difficult to find, especially in Latin America, an archive that is gonna have those kinds of materials. Because I can think of places where you’ll find a lot of photographs on cities, if I, for example, I think of Fototeca in Mexico or the Moreira Salles collection in Brazil is another one. But a place that has all these different types of materials on architecture and urbanism is not that easy to find.
And moreover, like, what is very common in Latin America is that you collect materials on your own country, but you don’t usually collect materials from all over Latin America. And we do have that.
CUNO: Are we still acquiring archives of this kind of material?
ALONSO: Yes, we are. And so the research that we did for the book and for the exhibition gave us the opportunity to have a very good understanding of what we have and what we don’t have. And so as I already mentioned, we realized, for example, that we have this amazing collection about the nineteenth century, early twentieth century; but we don’t have many materials on what happens after.
So we’ve been focusing on getting materials that cover that void that we have. And so we recently acquired a very important group of photographs by the Italo-Venezuelan photographer Paolo Gasparini. These are photographs on the main architectural buildings of the modernity all over Latin America. And we also recently acquired a set of photographs by Armando Salas Portugal that look at the main buildings of modern architecture in Mexico. So if there’s other things that come up, we’ll look into that, and we’ll keep adding to the collection, to make it even stronger.
CUNO: Well, it’s a beautiful and content-rich book. Congratulations and thanks so much for sharing with us on this podcast.
ALONSO: Thank you, Jim.
CASCIATO: Thank you, Jim. It has been a pleasure.
CUNO: This episode was produced by Zoe Goldman, with audio production by Gideon Brower and mixing by Mike Dodge Weiskopf. Our theme music comes from the “The Dharma at Big Sur” composed by John Adams, for the opening of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles in 2003, and is licensed with permission from Hendon Music. Look for new episodes of Art and Ideas every other Wednesday, subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and other podcast platforms. For photos, transcripts, and more resources, visit or if you have a question, or an idea for an upcoming episode, write to us at Thanks for listening.

JIM CUNO: Hello, I’m Jim Cuno, president of the J. Paul Getty Trust. Welcome to Art and Ideas, a podcast in which I speak to artists, conservators, authors, and scholars about their work.
IDURRE ALONSO: The metropolis is not just the city; it’s the mother city. It has a fundamental ro...

Music Credits
“The Dharma at Big Sur – Sri Moonshine and A New Day.” Music written by John Adams and licensed with permission from Hendon Music. (P) 2006 Nonesuch Records, Inc., Produced Under License From Nonesuch Records, Inc. ISRC: USNO10600825 & USNO10600824

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This post is part of Art + Ideas, a podcast in which Getty president Jim Cuno talks with artists, writers, curators, and scholars about their work.
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