Lily spent the summer of 1939 in Mexico, following a semester at an art school in San Francisco. She felt drawn to the indigenous Mexicans; with their colourful dress and striking facial features, they reminded her very much of the people of Southeast Asia. The portraits she made in Mexico were influenced by her training in San Francisco, and form a striking technical departure from her earlier work. At the time, they were printed in the English-language magazine Mexican Life, which devoted an article to Lily.