The first half of the twentieth century witnessed a dramatic increase in literary activity in Latin America, a result in part of its ambivalent relationship with Europe and the United States. Many authors, while experimenting with imported modernist styles, felt compelled to proclaim Latin America’s unique identity through the adoption of native themes and social issues. In The Underdogs (1915), for example, Mariano Azuela (1873–1952) presented a sympathetic but not uncritical portrait of the Mexican revolution as his country entered an era of unsettling change. In their determination to commend Latin America’s distinctive characteristics, some writers extolled the promise of the region’s vast virgin lands and the diversity of its peoples. In Don Segundo Sombra, published in 1926, Ricardo Guiraldes (1886 –1927) celebrated the life of the ideal gaucho (cowboy), defining Argentina’s hope and strength through the enlightened management of its fertile earth. Likewise, in Dona Barbara, Rómulo Gallegos (1884 –1969) wrote in a similar vein about his native Venezuela. Other authors pursued the theme of solitude and detachment, a product of the region’s physical separation from the rest of the world. Latin American artists followed their literary counterparts in joining the modernist movement in Europe, yet they too were eager to promote the emergence of a new regional and national essence. In Mexico, where the government provided financial support for painting murals on public buildings, the artist Diego Rivera (1886 –1957) began to produce a monumental style of mural art that served two purposes: to illustrate the national past by portraying Aztec legends and folk customs and to popularize a political message in favor of realizing the social goals of the Mexican revolution. His wife, Frida Kahlo (1907– 1954), incorporated Surrealist whimsy in her own paintings, many of which were portraits of herself and her family.