Mexico is an exotic land, where palm trees wave gracefully over white-sand beaches, ranchers live in beautiful haciendas, and handsome young men in large hats and bearing guitars arrive on horseback to serenade beautiful women. One hundred years ago Americans held this conception, or perhaps we should say misconception of Mexico. This understanding of Mexico has faded, but bookends from the first half of the twentieth century captured it.
Hubley iron bookends, number 233, display many of the elements of romantic Old Mexico. A well-costumed caballero stands in a paved courtyard and serenades his unreachable love. She peeps coquettishly down from behind the hacienda’s metal grill. A cactus decorates the foreground, and the petitioner’s horse waits beside the building. This polychrome version is rare; these bookends are usually seen copper flashed.
A pair of chalkware bookends, possibly from the early nineteen thirties, pictures a young man with the ever-present guitar standing in a stone courtyard below the peeling arch of an old hacienda building. The object of his attentions listens, half-hidden in the shadow of a second arch.
Both of these bookend sets were made during the time that decor in the American Southwest was frequently referred to as Mexican or Spanish Revival. The makers of bookends could have been influenced by the photos and paintings of Californian and Mexican Missions, such as the one below of Old Mission San Luis Rey de Francia.