Alexander Edouart's Blessing of the Enrequita Mine of 1860 commemorates the discovery of a mercury vein in New Almaden, California. It pictures the mine's Anglo-American administrators, its primarily Mexican miners, and industry's impact upon the landscape. Despite the seemingly idyllic nature of the genre scene, the Enrequita Mine and its painted portrayal mark a contentious turning point in the economic and political relationship between the United States and Mexico in the mid-nineteenth century, one whose effects still reverberate today. Two moments of tension between the two nations frame this artwork: the US–Mexican War of 1846–48; and the United States v. Castillero court case and appeals (1857–63). Using an ecocritical approach situating the painting in the geopolitics of extraction, this essay contends that the artwork participated in these territorial disputes by constructing ethnic hierarchy, bolstering legal battles, and not only representing but engendering further capitalist exploitation of the land.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Visual Arts and Performing Arts