The author started her Mexican calendar collection in Oaxaca when she received her first calendar from the “El Gallo” hardware store in 1982. After that, she noticed calendars hung on the looms of rebozo weavers she worked with up in the remote mountain regions of the Sierra. Pottery artists had them hanging in their homes also. Folks wouldn't give them up as they were really attached to them! The age and variety of calendar images varied greatly but all were, “muy mexicano!”
Calendars are still given away to special customers at shops, markets, cantinas and bakeries throughout Mexico but Villalba’s best calendars were found at antique flea markets on both sides of the border. Curiosity about the history of the calendar painters was sparked after a 1999 calendar exhibit came to Los Angeles. Villalba was so enamored by the original calendar paintings that she spent many months hunting for information on the calendars that she owned to no avail. Then, she visited the curator at the Soumaya Museum in Mexico City and asked if they would support her if she did original research on the painters. They were very happy to assist and that was the beginnings of this first book on Mexican calendar girls.
Writing the book
The next four years were filled with trips to Mexico to search old records at university libraries, private libraries, cultural art collections, museums, archives, newspapers and even the National Lottery! Many visits were made to the last remaining living calendar painters and Sunday interviews were conducted over big plates of enchiladas at the homes of the descendents of the calendar painters. Many families didn't have any of their grandfather’s paintings since they were the property of the companies they worked for. However, every family contacted was very helpful in recounting information about the history and life of these talented painters.
Villalba was also able to meet and interview the owners of the advertising companies whose grandfathers printed the thousands of calendars. They were a wealth of information and they had specific memories too. All these little pieces of information melded together and then it was time to find a publisher.
After the rough outline was written, Villalba and her father spent four long months scanning all the calendars into a computer in order to prepare submission packages to send to publishing companies. The first package was sent to Chronicle Books and it was accepted! For a first book, this was considered phenomenal luck!
Most all of the favored calendar painters in the author’s collection were traced and a little information was pieced together, but since the painters were common factory workers, in most cases there was just very little history to compile.
Mexican Calendar Girls is now in it’s second printing.
Mexican calendar collection
Villalba now has over 250 calendars that can be loaned to museums for the public to enjoy. For example, see The California Heritage Museum's exhibition, Mexican Calendar Girls, The Golden Age of Mexican Calendar Art, 1930 - 1960.