They say that those who forget history are doomed to repeat its mistakes. This exhibit helps answer a current, pressing issue about immigration and refugees. In many cases it can be attributed to US intervention in their home countries. This exhibit may provide some insight to this subject and will be on display from November 3 through November 27 during regular library hours. This is a unique opportunity for people in the area to see posters like this.
The exhibit is named Not in Anyone’s Backyard because of a statement made many years ago by a high US government official explaining why the US had the right to intervene in the affairs of countries in Latin America. Stephen Lewis, the collector of the posters, states “the attitude of this statement was not that these are independent sovereign countries, but rather, they are territories that happen to be near the United States (our backyard) and that the United States has the right to control what these countries do”. Lewis goes on to say that this attitude has led to US supported coups in countries like Brazil and Chile, the support of dictators and military governments in countries like Cuba, Argentina, Paraguay, El Salvador, Bolivia, Guatemala, Uruguay, and Honduras and invasions of Panama and Grenada. The posters in this exhibit are from and/or about many of these countries and the struggle against undemocratic governments and repressive militaries.
“Successive US governments have expanded beyond Latin America with that attitude," Lewis says. “This leads us to the second issue: Why are our roads and bridges crumbling? Why do we not have universal healthcare? US troops are currently stationed in over 100 countries. It operates as an unelected police force of the world. Much of our tax dollars are spent on world domination while little is spent on domestic needs. This exhibit reminds us what has happened in Latin America”
The Significance of Posters:
Organizations in many countries use posters to communicate ideas and messages to their audience. Posters are sometimes used as billboards and are pasted on walls, fences, and poles all over a city. Unions sometimes hang posters in work places to warn of dangers, educate about benefits or inspire actions. Posters sometimes use mainly the written word to communicate a message. Other times they rely on creative art to communicate the idea. It is an art form that is easily accessible to many people. The art goes to the people rather than the people having to go to a museum. It is a communication tool that is less frequently used by unions in the United States. As commercial advertising calls for more consumption, a political poster calls for more action.
Besides collecting and exhibiting these posters, Lewis was involved as a trade union activist and leader in supporting labor unions in El Salvador and Nicaragua during the mid-eighties when they were under attack by death squads and the militaries of those countries. These posters are from his collection of more than 8100 posters, which have been exhibited at a number of public libraries in Massachusetts and two of the state Heritage parks. He has presented at the annual conference of the National Council on Public History, and on some cable television programs. Stephen Lewis can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or at Facebook under labor/progressive political posters. The posters/photos were contributed by friends, collected at conferences, visits to some of the organizations, and from connections made through the internet.