I strolled through the Alameda Central yesterday, in Mexico City, and wandered into the Diego Rivera Museum. The Alameda Central is a huge park in the historic district created in 1592 by the Spanish viceroy at the time. Diego Rivera´s Mural Sueño de una Tarde Dominical en la Alameda Central (Dream of a Sunday Afternoon in Alameda Park) depicts pivotal figures and events in Mexican society over almost 500 years in a scene in the park.
The mural is spectacular simply as art. But Rivera was much more than a mural artist, and there is always a social/political element to his work. The mural is worth a better explanation than I can give, so here is a section from Wikipedia:
The mural was originally created at the request of architect Carlos Obregón Santacilia, and originally was displayed in the Versailles restaurant at the hotel Prado. When the hotel was destroyed in the 1985 Mexico City earthquake, the mural was restored and moved to its own museum.
The mural depicts famous people and events in the history of Mexico, passing through the Alameda Central park in Mexico City. Some notable figures include José Guadalupe Posada, Francisco I. Madero, Benito Juárez, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Porfirio Díaz, Agustín de Iturbide, Ignacio Manuel Altamirano, Maximilian I of Mexico, Juan de Zumárraga, Antonio López de Santa Anna, Winfield Scott, Victoriano Huerta, José Martí, Manuel Gutiérrez Nájera, Hernán Cortés, and La Malinche.
The central focus of the mural is on a display of bourgeois complacency and values shortly before the Mexican Revolution of 1910. Elegantly dressed upper-class figures promenade under the figure of the long ruling dictator Porfirio Díaz. An indigenous family is forced back by police batons and to the right flames and violence loom. The center of the mural is dominated by the elegantly dressed skeleton La Calavera Catrina holding arms with the Mexican graphic artist who first conceived and drew her, José Guadalupe Posada in a black suit and cane. La Catrina wears a Feathered Serpent boa around her shoulders. On La Catrina’s right she is holding hands with a child version of Diego Rivera in short pants. Rivera’s wife Frida Kahlo is standing just behind and between him and La Catrina; Kahlo has her hand on Rivera’s shoulder and she is holding a yin-yang device. La Malinche and Posada are staring directly into each other’s eyes.
The museum was very small, with a hall accommodating the mural, and a couple of other small rooms with a modest collection of Rivera´s work and a few other artists. Tomorrow I plan to go to a larger museum with a fuller collection of Rivera and his fellow muralists. I hope that museum has a book shop and a book on this mural. It is way to dense to unpack otherwise.