On my first trip to Mexico City (the Federal District) I for once hadn’t planned anything or done any research in advance. I had journeyed to the national capital with a friend from the orphanage where I volunteered to see the Mexican musical group RBD in concert there. Since the concert wasn’t until the evening my friend had recommended heading to the city early to do some touring.
When we arrived at the Plaza de la Constitucion (more commonly known as the Zocalo) I was amazed by the image in front of me. Although I hadn’t yet traveled to Brussels and gazed at the stunning Grand Place, I had a similar feeling that day in Mexico. Such an enormous outdoor space, such grandoise buildings, such incredible history the site had borne witness to for centuries.
Although I had desperately wanted to visit La Casa Azul (the blue house), once home to legendary Frida Kahlo, my friend wasn’t interested in going since it’s located away from the city center. (Thankfully I would make it to the house on my next visit to Mexico City.) However, little did I know that some of the country’s most famous murals, created by none other than Kahlo’s husband Diego Rivera, were inside the National Palace, seat of the Federal Executive in Mexico, and the most famous building in the Zocalo.
The stairwell of the main building of the palace is adorned with murals that Rivera created. They were painted between 1929 and 1935 and depict the history of Mexico from 1521 to 1930, 1521 being the year the Spanish invasion of Mexico was declared victorious. Later on I read that the work is divided like a triptych, with each being partially autonomous, which I understood better after looking at them again. The mural features everything from pre-Hispanic Mexico, concentrating around the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl to the battle for independence from Spain, Mexico’s fight against American and French invaders, its reform period and its revolution in the early 20th century. Rivera also strikingly includes as a focal point the brutal nature and devastating effects of the Conquest, the rape and torture of Mexico’s indigenous peoples at the hands of the conquistadors.
While words on a page can certainly teach you about a country and its history, staring at what some say is Rivera’s most renowned work is a better way to learn about Mexico’s history; it’s all right there on the wall. I don’t want to make this post anymore text heavy since the beauty of the mural is what you should take away from reading this.