About the Agrásanchez Archive
The Agrasánchez Film Archive is a significant repository of collections linked to the history of Mexican film, from the silent era to the 1990s. Rogelio Agrasánchez Jr. is its owner, curator, and only sponsor so far. His main purpose in recovering and taking care of the archive’s vast holdings is to preserve Mexican film and culture legacy for present and future generations of movie aficionados and researchers.
The archive is temporarily located in Harlingen, Texas. Its permanent site is yet to be chosen. It is not open to the public; still, its assets have been made available to numerous researchers, authors, film festivals, museums, and other organizations and individuals since 1991.
Though the archive’s collections are not completely catalogued, the partial listings available allow an efficient search for materials when requested.
The Agrasánchez Film Archive is totally independent from the Agrasánchez Film Library, which belongs to other members of the family. We are not involved –and have never been- in film licensing.
The archive aims to contribute to the study and appreciation of Mexican film produced since the silent era to the 1980s. Its basic tenet is that each film is a valuable part of film history and a singular expression of culture.
Our main interest is mainstream film: a product conceived, developed, distributed and advertised in order to satisfy needs of the consumers in a certain market niche. This view does not deride the artistic values of a movie; it simply puts industrially produced films in their actual context, and contributes to a more meaningful and realistic understanding of their value and function.
Mexican film is a multifaceted expression of our culture that offers unlimited options for study and may elicit countless interpretations, as it can be perceived as art, an educational instrument, a propagandistic tool, and a promoter of values, entertainment, and more.
From that universe of alternatives, we have chosen to focus on Mexican film made from the silent era to 1990, particularly:
- the business of Mexican cinema;
- motion pictures and the identity of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans in the United States;
- early Hispanic film production in the United States;
- pioneers of Mexican silent and sound film;
- technological history of Mexican film;
- Mexican film advertising in its artistic and business aspects;
- Mexican film as a historical document;
- survey of primary sources for Mexican film history.
- Constant search for new items and collections for the archive;
- preservation of all sorts of documents, publications, and artifacts relevant for the study of Mexican cinema;
- research and study of Mexican film history, mainly based in primary sources;
- participation in activities that promote appreciation of Mexican film;
- authoring of books on Mexican film history;
- supporting to projects of other individuals and organizations (exhibits, books, documentaries, articles, etc.);
- services upon request (images for books and other publications; research, consultation).
Rogelio Agrasánchez Jr. curriculum.
Rogelio Agrasánchez Jr. was born in Mexico City in 1954, to a family in the film distribution business. In 1969, the family company started on producing its own movies. In 1976 they moved to Texas, where film production continued.
As a child, he spent the weekends at his family's ranch on the outskirts of Mexico City. Apart from playing and charrería, Rogelio devoted his time there to itinerant movie exhibition. Armed with a 16mm projector and some films leased from his family’s company, he used to do screenings in various venues, like schoolrooms and church facilities in the vicinity.
Later, as a teenager, he became involved in his father's company, where he learned to take care of film negatives and large format prints, and to perform audits to film exhibitors. He also learned the still photography trade from Othón Argumedo, a respected Mexican stillman.
Rogelio Jr. began his college studies in Mexico and when the family moved to the United States, he resumed academic work. He obtained a B.A. in Philosophy from the University of Texas at Austin in 1983.
In 1985, he received a M. A. in Latin American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. His thesis, "The Press in Mexico City during the Second Empire, 1863-1867", was supervised by noted scholar Dr. Nettie Lee Benson.
Agrasánchez took up graduate work towards a Ph. D. in Latin American Literature, but he did not actually follow it through; his stronger interest in Mexican cinema history took him to other activities.
He taught Mexican history at the School Branch of the National University of Mexico in San Antonio, Texas, in 1985.
Rogelio Jr. had also a brief experience as a film exhibitor in Brownsville, Texas, in the late 1980s.
Since the early 1990s Agrasánchez Jr. has beeen devoted to personally cataloguing his collections. He does research on Mexican cinema history and has authored, edited and published several books. He also has been a consultant for some documentaries and books.
The Archive's holdings include large collections of advertising material: posters, lobby cards, window cards, handbills; scene and production stills, photographic negatives and prints, transparencies; publicity materials addressed to distributors and exhibitors, and other related items. Material is available for approximately 85% of Mexican films made in the period 1925-1990.
It also holds a large array of periodical publications and magazines published in Mexico, as well as some historical artifacts. All fictional genres of Mexican cinema are represented: comedy, rural and urban dramas; action and adventure; historical and religious; horror and science fiction, etc. The majority of items on file correspond to the period that extends from 1931 to 1991.
The Archive does not hold a film library in large formats (16mm or 35mm).
Besides de above mentioned collections, the Archive contains special sets of documents/artifacts. A key resource is the Clasa-Mohme Papers and Records, which is a group of original documents belonging to one of the most important U.S. distributors of Mexican films. These papers and records cover the years 1942-1960 and contain the business correspondence of Clasa-Mohme's office in San Antonio, Texas.
Also included are the box-office reports for many Spanish-language theatres, most of them located in Texas. Non-theatrical records, of academic and religious institutions that showed Mexican movies, are likewise part of this collection. Additional files document distribution of Mexican cinema in the United States until 1980.
An extensive compilation of newspaper notes and articles related to Mexican film distribution, exhibition, and reception in the United States has been carefully gathered and classified. It is constantly growing.
Other special items came from the estates of Mexican film producer Jesús Grovas; Mr. Rudolph Calles (nephew of film pioneer Guillermo Calles's); actor/director Carlos Villatoro; producer and distributor José U. Calderón; actress Esther Fernández, and entertainer Lita Enhart.
In addition, records of interviews made by Agrasánchez are kept. Among the interviewees are: directors Alejandro Galindo and Alfredo Crevenna; actors Roberto Cañedo, Tito Guízar, Esther Fernández, Lupita Tovar and Lilia del Valle; producer/director Raúl de Anda; producer/director Miguel Zacarías and his son, Arq. Miguel Zacarías Jr.; producer Rogelio Agrasánchez Sr.; researcher and author David Maciel, etc. Also, interviews to several movie poster artists and his relatives are in record: Marco Antonio Echeverría, Leopoldo Mendoza and his wife; Armando Vargas Briones, Ruy Renau (Josep Renau's son), and others.
Interesting as well is a collection of more than 1,000 photographs taken by noted Mexican artist Jesús Magaña, which offers a unique glimpse into the world of movie actors and stage performers of 1970s.
Finally, a painstakingly compiled set of production stills and behind-the-scenes shots of actors, directors, producers, staff and journalists tell its own story about the activities of several Mexican film studios from the 1920s to the 1980s.
We acknowledge the generosity of several people who have donated some of those invaluable special collections or other materials to the archive: Gloria Ortega, Dick and Ernie Domínguez; Esperanza Vázquez Bernal and Federico Dávalos Orozco; Viviana García Besné and Alistair Tremps; Roberto Fiesco; Prof. Manuel G. Gonzales; Virginia Tirado-Fitzpatrick; Prof. Miguel Tirado; Dr. David Maciel; Jorge Sanz Polo Gabilondo; the Turnbull family; Juan Farré, Brian Moran, Carlos Hinojosa, and Javier García.