ARTstor is collaborating with Douglas Massey to present approximately 130 images of Mexican retablos in the Digital Library. Mexican retablos are small, colorful oil paintings, generally made on tin.

In Mexico retablos, also called laminas, came to denote the small devotional paintings that devout Mexicans would commission as ex-votos, or votive offerings, given in fulfillment of a vow or in gratitude for divine intercession. Usually produced by anonymous artists, retablos were displayed in home altars, shrines, or churches. As a genre of folk art, retablos flourished in Mexico from 1820-1920, reflecting traditions embedded in Mexican culture by Spanish colonization and the Catholic Church. Converted Indians adapted the traditional ex-voto to present Catholic iconography with the bright palette and vibrant style of indigenous folk art. The influence of this popular art form can be seen in the work of Mexican artists such as Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.

The retablos collected by Massey and Durand for Miracles on the Border, which date from 1912 to 1996, represent modern expressions of this traditional Mexican art form. Produced for Mexican migrants to the United States, these retablos were left anonymously at churches as offerings for miracles granted. Massey and Durand used these images to study the social conditions surrounding Mexican migration, conducting statistical analyses of the age, gender, geographic origins, and eventual destinations of the migrants who commissioned the votive paintings. However, the retablos are also inherently interesting as visual documents, vividly illustrating the subjects of greatest concern to migrants.

For more detailed information about this collection, visit the Mexican Retablos Collection page.