Mexico 2019 Part 5.

Sorry for the delay. Coronavirus, right? I lost someone very close to the ‘Rona so we all had to deal with that. But I have returned! We’re going to talk about Diego Rivera murals today. But first, other food-related items.

Food. Beautiful food. You’re in trouble if you don’t like beans and corn and peppers and tomatoes but otherwise you’ll be fine. There was this one restaurant near our AirBnB, oh my God, so good. So. Good. I would have eaten there every night.

Look at that plating. Delicious.

Bonus – the restaurant serves the worms I referenced in the last post.

Other breakfast photos. I ate salad and nothing happened. Eat the salads. Definitely drink the fresh-squeezed juice.

One of the cafes had a valiant attempt at wall decor. There was a line painting of a couple sharing hot beverages and, I imagine, canoodling romantically. What it looks like is that they are having the most intense staring contest, so intense that their foreheads are pressed to each other.

Okay, Diego Rivera murals. Now, while Mexico didn’t have a lot of slavery it did have indentured servitude. Families would work on farms and get paid but they were not paid with money, they were paid with slips of paper to use at the stores. The problem with that is that the bosses owned all the stores were the papers were valid so they could charge whatever they wanted. Plus the farm workers were not allowed to read (90% of the population was illiterate) so the painted murals were extremely important in teaching the people the history of the country. This oppression of those not-slaves-but-kinda-slaves led to the Mexican Revolution of 1910.

Diego’s early work had a slightly different style but very similar thematic material. A lot of “Day In The Life” of the typical Mexican citizen.

Rivera really disliked the Spanish coming to Mexico and taking over, basically obliterating the religion and culture of the existing Aztecs and Zapotecs. This panel depicting the revolution shows the rich, the church (Rivera was an atheist and a communist) and those land owners as dolls and puppets.

Rivera left a lot of his work up to interpretation. The skulls of the same people as above – rich, church, landowners – are they dead, killed by the native and / or poor people? Do they represent grim reaper-esque characters?

His more famous murals are probably the ones in the House of Parliament. There’s the giant one that covers the stairwell but there also are individual murals surrounding the cloister. I’ve covered these pieces on my last trip but I have additional information I accrued.

Underneath the colored part of the mural was a smaller section painted to resemble carved stone showing ancient peoples doing their typical activities.

This one shows their keen understanding of astronomy.

This one shows how belts other kinds of weaving was done. I saw weavers using this exact technique, it is still popular in this day. Listen, if it works it works.

A huge part of understanding these people are the codexes. A codex is a ancient manuscript in book form. Pictographs, similar to hieroglyphics, we used. When the Spanish arrived they destroyed most of the codexes but about four remained and they are the link to how life was like. Here are people making a codex.

Here is an excellent representation of those man-made islands that were in the lake where Mexico City is now. They would grow crops on the islands.

I believe this represents an important, perhaps a holy, day. You can see the leader being carried in with a sack that most likely contained a person for sacrifice. In the upper left you can see a game being played in some kind of stadium and in the upper right you can see people dressed as birds swinging around a maypole by their feet which seems like a great way to break all the blood vessels in your eye but what do I know.

Okay, so the giant mural that covers the entire stairwell is AWASH in symbolism but I can only remember bits and pieces so that’s what you’re going to get. Here we go.

The eagle in the middle, the symbol of Mexico, why does that snake look so sloppy? One can see the skill level in the other parts of the painting. Well, it turns out that is taken from old indigenous imagery. And the snake wasn’t a snake it was water representing a river that forks at the end.

Now, as you can imagine, there is no way the Spanish could defeat everyone already living in Mexico so they decided to only conquer the Aztecs and Zapotecs. Those groups had other tribes who hated them, so the Spanish convinced those tribes to fight with them and that’s how they won. In this section you can see two tribal members battling each other.

Here is a rubber tree being tapped. There is a tree that secretes the material originally used in chewing gum called chicle. It looks exactly like that. Nowadays they use vinyl.

The leader of Mexico during the Revolution was a man called Porfirio Diaz. He’s somewhere in that mural. He’s all over the place.

I kept internally giggling when I saw or heard his name because there’s a disease called porphyria where your pee turns purple. Couldn’t stop thinking about that.


Next posting: More murals.

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