This article examines conflicting racial, archaeological and art historical interpretations of Olmec art produced in the United States in the early 1960s. It inscribes shifting approaches to the study of monumental Olmec art by figures like George Kubler within the contexts of violent modernization of the Olmec ‘heartland’ of Veracruz and Tabasco, the politicized display of this artistic tradition in museums and traveling exhibitions, and the unstable horizons of U.S.-Mexico diplomatic relations during that period.

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