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Diego Rivera murals at the National Palace, Mexico City

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Following up on my post about Frida Kahlo’s home in Mexico City, La Casa Azul, I’d like to share photos I took of the murals painted on walls in the Mexican National Palace by Diego Rivera, Frida’s husband.

The Palace can be seen below, running along the eastern side of the Zocalo, the enormous square in the heart of Mexico City. This photo was taken in December 2019, and part of the square is being used for a skating rink. Interestingly, the rink surface is not ice, but a product called Glice®, described as an “eco-friendly” ice skating surface, using no water, power or chemical resurfacing to operate. December 2019 was the first time in many years that the Zocalo rink was not created with water. The rink can support 1200 skaters at a time, according to press materials.

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Diego Rivera (1886- 1957) was a controversial artist, an avowed atheist and communist, who painted murals with historical and political messages in both his native Mexico and in the United States. Frida Kahlo was his fourth wife; Frida and Diego were married in 1929, divorced in 1940, then remarried that same year.

Rivera murals can be found in several locations within Mexico City, but we only had the opportunity to view the ones at the National Palace. The photo below is the Grand Courtyard of the palace. The murals are painted on walls on the second floor behind the arches, and in the main stairwell. The large murals in the stairwell depicting the history of Mexico from 1521 to 1930 were painted between 1929 and 1935.  They include a mural that represents Rivera’s Marxist utopia. Additional panels that are displayed on an adjacent corridor were painted later and depict the pre-Hispanic era.

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Mural titled Maize, dedicated to corn, acknowledging corn’s importance as the main food in Mesoamerica. Painted 1950.

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The Arrival of Hernan Cortes in Veracruz. Cortes arrived in 1519. Mural was painted in 1951.

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This depicts the harvesting of the fruit of the cocoa tree. Painted 1950.

 

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Festivals and Ceremonies of the Totonaca Culture, showing the Pyramid of the Niches in Veracruz. Painted 1950.

 

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Painters and dyers of the Tarascan Culture. Painted 1942, Depicts preparing pigments, dyeing fabrics.

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The Market of Tlatelolco, depicting the Aztec bartering with goods and using cocoa beans for trade. A variety of goods are shown, including agricultural products, manufactured goods and animals and minerals. Painted 1945. Note: the above two photos are of one mural.

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The Epic of the Mexican People. Completed 1935. Depicts many events and periods, including the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs; the Independence, the Revolution, missionaries, Mexican-American war and French intervention. It was difficult to photograph this sprawling mural, which is on the rear of a relatively dark stairwell which was blocked off. 

 

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It was very difficult to photograph this mural; we were not allowed to go down into the stairwell to fully view it. Titled Mexico today and tomorrow,  and painted in 1934-35, the mural reflects Rivera’s Marxist ideology and critiques the post-revolution period. Quoting from the descriptive label for the mural: “At the top, the class struggles and the destruction of the Church, gives rise to a new dawn led by Karl Marx pointing to an ideal future, illuminated by a promising rising sun.” Marx is the bearded man at the top of the painting, pointing to the idealized future Mexico.

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Here’s a broader view of this mural with a photo I pulled off the Internet. Photo: Wikipedia.

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Note that if you wish to visit the National Palace, you will need to leave bags at a security checkpoint.

Here’s a photo of the street scene when we came out of the palace: it was Sunday — market day.

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Here’s a link to my post about La Casa Azul, the home where Frida and Diego lived in Mexico City. It is also called the Frida Kahlo Museum.

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