Jean Charlot

Statement on the Mexican Kitchen1

MEXICAN village women pass much of their lives in the kitchen, its floor of brick or beaten earth. And while the baby of the family sleeps on his mother’s back, wrapped in her rebozo, the mother grinds ceaselessly on a stone table, the metate, the maize flour needed to make the staple Indian bread, the tortillas.

Many sayings refer to the kitchen labors.

Of the baby asleep on the back of his mother at work:

This tot of rocking felt no lack,
First in the womb, then on the back.

In the fifteenth century, the Indian Emperor Nezahualcoyótzin composed a poem still recited today in Náhuatl, the Aztec language.

Saying of the Sick Child:

Mother, when I die, bury me under the hearth

And when, while cooking, you cry,

Should one ask why, reply:

“The firewood is green. The smoke chokes.”

The companion piece of this painting, shown in 1968 at the Museum of Modern Art in Mexico City, is now part of their permanent collection.

1 This sheet was found without an indication of whether it was written for a caption, a label or some other purpose. Edited by John Charlot.