Emeritus Researcher of the INAH
Constantino Reyes-Valerio, a life full of wisdom
As he approaches 80 years of age, through his life he has journeyed by the labyrinths of Medicine, Chemistry, Bacteriology, Parasitology, Philosophy, History of Mexico the Art and Photography
Interview by Silvia Rosas
Jovial and friendly, totally in love with traveling and photography, as well as History, the Emeritus Professor, Constantino Reyes-Valerio, considers that one of the greatest satisfactions of a life in research is being able "to untangle the lies that have been said by others". In History there is always something new to discover.
He has been working for the past 42 years to thel National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH - Mexico). During this lapse, the historian has made great contributions to the study of the Indocristiano Art (Indo Christian) of the New Spain. He has contributed largely to the photographic Archive of the Institute with his testimonial images of Pre-Hispanic and Colonial Heritage; He has analyzed the majority of the Convents of the XVI Century. His leading edge research concerning the nature of Maya Blue pigment is one of his talented contributions to Art and Science.
He has retired from the classrooms, but not from research. He emphasizes this by saying that he will continue working in research until he will die. Constantino Reyes-Valerio confesses that he longs for his Institute, but compensates this nostalgia with their continuous trips, that admits, are his second passion.
The history of the cowbell
Constantino was born in the State of Puebla the 10 of January of 1922. He remembers how the lessons of his father were imprinted in his mind, and he has applied them through the diverse fields by which he has journeyed, especially in History.
"One of the greatest satisfactions that my career has offered me is untangling the lies that others say". I remember my father's house, we had cows and goats. We chose the smartest animal and gave it the cowbell. Thus it is history, always there is someone who rings the cowbell and the others are to follo. For me, it is essential to say what it has not been said, to look for what has not been investigated, it is easy to follow the cowbell, very easy. I do not like to follow the cowbell, I want to ring it! ", shows the Emeritus Professor with hard gesture.
This story can be traced through the vast trajectory of the investigator that equally has studied Medicine, Chemistry, Bacteriology, Parasitology, and later to be interested in Philosophy, History of Mexico and the Art, as well as Anthropology. And always carrying a camera with him.
The long academic record of Reyes-Valerio begins with his arrival to the city of Puebla, to where he had to go to continue with its High School in the Preparatoria uno. There he lived in a guest house with an ever present threat of its father; sending him to work the fields if he did not study.
"When I left my home town I knew nothing. Why to I say genius? I was just another one. I remembered what my father told me about working in the fields if I did not study. I did not want this, it can be a beautiful job, but no. So I told him that I wanted to become doctor, eventhough that was not what I wanted. Finally I dropped out from medicine because we had to memorize books larger than the Torre Latinoamericana (Mexican equivalent of the Empire State Building), and I just got scared".
The following challenge for Constantino Reyes-Valerio was to tackle Mexico City where he went to study to the National Polytechnical Institute (IPN). "Life was very calm those days; my dad paid me the school expenses until he died. Then, my mother helped me to pay to a room and the food was provided by the Institute. It was necessary for me to start working in a hospital by the time I was preparing my final dissertation, in the fourth year".
It was in the Polytechnical that he discovered his vocation for investigation and research, while he was reading Chemical Bacteriologist and Parasitologist. With cosiderable sacrifice he concluded the courses and defended the dissertation six months later. He was awarded a Master of Science Degree byt the Institute
The truths by halves of Francisco of Maza
Nevertheless, the flirting with Philosophy and History had begun while he was studying Chemistry. During the afternoons - Reyes-Valerio recalls - I went to premises of the UNAM in Mascarones (Philosophy School), not enrolled, just to listen to the lectures. "Most of the students then were elders, people with a degree. But what it hooked me into History was my attendance to two conferences by Francisco of Maza. That gentleman was able to bring out the enthusiams of the rocks!. And the most amazing things was that finishing the lecture, he just said that everything he had said was not true, a simple lie, and then he began again in the next lecture. Teh result was a true interest in discovering the truth. It was not that Francisco was lying! it was just incomplete information. Those strategies intrigued me, and provoqued some action inside me".
He was so motivated that he forgot about the Chemestry and decided to study the History and Art and Mexico. He formally enrolled the newly opened Faculty of Philosophy, at Ciudad Universitaria. Good Luck accompanied him in his new devotion because he won the lottery afterwards and then he began a long traveling tradition.
In 1981 he concluded the Master's Degree in History of Mexico, in the Faculty of Philosophy of the UNAM. Also by this time, he had studied many courses of photography abroad.
The now Historian remembers that to his entrance to the group of anthropologists and Historians was like being in a family, everyone knew each other. Nevertheless, he confess he is a frustrated archaeologist, because he never studied the field he liked so much, andwhich is so needed in Mexico.
My real Treasure
The favorite subject of study of the professor are the XVI, XVII and XVIII Centuries in Mexico. Whilst studying these centuries, I enter into the fields of Archaeology and Philosophy. And I have to go back and rely on the teachings of some great archeologists, like Román Piña Chan.
Devoted student of the artistic expressions of the New Spain, Constantino Reyes-Valerio, has deeply contributed to the study of Indocristiano Art. Thorugh his research he has prooved that the sculptor and painter of the XVI Century was the native indian, a forgoten character of the rising colonial Society.
He is the author of several books, among them:
Arte Indocristiano. Sculpture of XVI Century in Mexico; and,
The Pre-Hispanic painter. Its formation and its technique. Characteristics, processes and study of the murals.
Besides his influence in the murals of XVI Century, Constantino Reyes-Valerio has produced the photographic illustration of several publications of Mexican Art and to Archaeology.
The investigator has received throughout his trajectory diverse distinctions, among them the National System of Investigators of the Conacyt (Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnologia) and the degree of Emeritus investigator granted by the INAH.
Nevertheless, while glancing back through his life, he acknowledges that his family has suffered through out this story. "They have sacrificed a lot because I have gone my way, although sometimes I have yielded, an in some cases I have been albe to teach them something, like my passion for traveling".
Constantino Reyes-Valerio is married and is father of three, two men and one woman. By the end of our conversation he says that in spite of everything has been able to give the three of them a carrer, and proudly emphasizes, that all have obtained master's degrees. "At the end of the day, this one is my great treasure".