Between 1930 and 1970, the printing house Galas de México created calendars and advertising cards that became embedded in the collective unconscious of many Mexican citizens. Today, an incredible collection of these iconic calendars is on permanent exhibit at one of the headquarters of the Soumaya Museum.
In mid-20th-century Mexico, when the new year arrived, it was common for a calendar to be given away as a free gift after various purchases. These giveaways often featured idealized images of Mexico, showing its traditions, history, tourist places, or characters. As one of the first offset printing sources in the country, Galas de México was the company responsible for making many of the most memorable calendar paintings.
This trend of painted calendars waned with the rise of photographic advertising in the ’60s and the death of the company’s founder, Santiago Galas, in 1970. Although the tradition of gifting calendars continues, they rarely include such pulpy paintings.
Today an impressive collection of these calendars is still on display at the Soumaya Museum at Plaza Loreto. The collection reflects the Mexican ideology of the time. A pair of bullfighters pose in their gala attire in 1936. The ideal housewife serves beer to her husband in 1950. A pin-up astronaut sits on the moon in 1962. And the land’s indigenous people look at the volcanoes during the nationalism of 1970. All these Mexican echoes were born from the brushes of artists like Jesús de la Helguera, José Bribiesca, Aurora Gil, Eduardo Castaño, and many others.
The collection is complemented by some original printing machines, porcelain pin-up dolls, and examples of how the paintings were used in all kinds of advertising.