Archive for Mexico City

My last day in Mexico City

Posted in Frida Kahlo with tags , , , on July 31, 2008 by xxxicana

In many ways this viaje has seemed too long and too short. Naturally, I am tired from such a hectic schedule of museum hopping (not to mention the altitude); I miss my home and especially my partner Tom (oh, and the kitties, too). But the trip has been too short to really see it all. Pues, Mexico City has thousands of years of history and so much going on around the clock, that there’s no way to do it all. I guess I’ll just have to return again soon.

Today’s excursion included two “museums” – The Ministry of Public Education and the Old College of San Ildefonso (better known as La Prepa). Both places are known for their murals. After the Mexican Revolution, Jose Vasconcelos was appointed the minister of education. Vasconcelos believed in popular education and sponsored many of the artists that would create the Mexican Muralist tradition (including Rivera, Orosco, Siquieros, Tamayo, etc.). Here are some examples:

The Arsenal

Diego Rivera got the exclusive rights to paint the murals at the Ministry of Public Education. Around this time, Diego had become acquainted with Frida Kahlo through their mutual friend Tina Modotti. In the Arsenal, we see Frida and Tina handing out arms. There are many stories about how Diego and Frida first met (the movie Frida should NOT be taken as factual by any account); most seem to have been fabrications by Diego and Frida (both were admitted “mythomaniacs’).

The panels at the Ministry of Public Education extol the virtues of the revolution, workers, peasants, and Indigenous people. Diego was particularly entranced with the women of Tehuana. Here is a panel:

Note that Frida was depicted in the clothes she wore at the time. She had already joined the Mexican Communist Party (before knowing Diego) and dressed accordingly (worker’s shirt, simple skirt, star pin). Sometime after her marriage to Diego, she would begin to wear her iconic Tehuana outfits.

There are so many murals (three floors) . . . I can’t possibly post them all.

One other interesting exhibit at the Ministry was about the colonial period use of the structure (as a convent). Here’s a burial of a nun with a crown and a retablo of what she might have looked like at the time of her burial.

Nun with a crown


I have an aunt that is a nun (ah, but she’s been a hipster nun since the late 60s) –Sister Josie. She took a trip to Mexico City a long time ago and she was pick-pocketed on the subway!

Moving on to “La Prepa” which was the nickname for the National Preparatory School. In the 1920s, the school opened its doors to female students. Frida was in the first class, one of 35 girls. While she was a student, Diego was working on murals at the school — so it is likely that Frida did taunt the artist while he worked.

There are numerous famous murals at the Prepa. Here’s Orozco’s depiction of Cortez and La Malinche:

I mentioned Jose Clemente Orozco in a previous post. This is one of his more famous murals. I know it from critiques — and was surprised at how small it is and its odd location (stairwell). I will write more about this mural at a later date . . . it requires a lengthy discussion.

Here’s another Orozco, called “The Aristocrats.” It is hard to see at this angle, but these wealthy snobs are stepping over a poor woman and child asking for assistance.

This is a fantastic stained glass window that was made in Germany in 1899. I love the motto: Amor Orden y Progreso (Love, Order, and Progress).

The museum also had an exhibit of the works of Julio Galan (1959-2006) which was just outrageously fantastic.

I was unfamiliar with Galan’s work and bought the catalog (yikes! $75.00) — but it was well worth it. Galan’s work has been compared with Frida’s since both relied on self-portraiture. That’s all I’ll say about Galan for the moment. If you want to check out his work, drop on by once I’m back in Lincoln to see the catalog.

One final street scene:

Itinerant craftsmen “set up shop” around the cathedral waiting for “chamba” (a job).

The Zocalo

Posted in Frida Kahlo with tags , , , , on July 29, 2008 by xxxicana

Today I went to the center of Mexico City — which once was the center of Tenochtitlan, capital of the Aztec Empire. I visited the National Palace, National Cathedral, and the Museum of the Templo Mayor (Principle Temple). Phooey . . . my camera battery gave out just as I got to the Templo Mayor. Here are some photos along with a little commentary:

National Palace

The original structure was built by Cortez over one of Montezuma’s palaces. It is now the official seat of the Mexican Government. You know that Marine song about the “Halls of Montezuma”? This is a reference to one of the times the Yankees invaded Mexico (1847) and occupied the National Palace.

One of the most famous aspects of the National Palace is the epic mural painted by Diego Rivera (he worked on it off and on between 1929 and 1951).

Frida and her sister in the mural

Diego had an affair with Frida’s younger sister Christina. In the mural Diego portrayed Frida as a comrade teaching the masses to read. Christina was painted with the glazed over eyes Diego used for women he was lusting after (the two children are Christina’s).

Here are a few other shots of the mural The images are so complex and there are so many historical figures that one practically needs a Ph.D. in Mexican history to know all the references!


One of the Aztec myths focuses on a man/deity called Quetzalcoatl who after sinning left the people going into the east and promising to return again. Many people have repeated this myth to suggest that the Aztecs prophesized the arrival of the Europeans (Quetzalcoatl was supposedly white). More recent and critical readings of this myth indicate that the myth was rescripted by the Spaniards themselves.

Trade between the Totonac and Maya

Mesoamerican peoples traded extensively . . . from what is now the US Southwest (for turquoise) to Panama (for gold). In this scene we see a Totanac noble (left) exchanging with a Maya noble (right) at the city of El Tajin (also anachronistically used in the movie “From Dusk till Dawn” . . . Don’t even get me started on this topic . . . I LOVE THIS MOVIE and it showcases one of my favorite Chicano bands “Tito and Tarantula“).

Moving on to the National Cathedral . . . . if you have ever wondered where all that gold from the New world went . . . well some of it was used to decorate the Catholic cathedral. This massive edifice took more than two centuries to complete. Some of the blocks came from the disassembled pyramids of Tenochtitlan.

Inside the cathedral there are numerous side chapels dedicated to various Santos and Altar pieces that are so ornate that it is virtually impossible to see all detail.

Another Altar

and, my favorite . . . El Sagrado Corazon de Jesus

now, this is a weird one for me . . . Catholics actually revere Jesus’ heart ALL BY ITSELF! I wear a sacred heart charm that I got at Chimayo (and I’ve been an atheist since I was 17 . . . but once a Catholic ALWAYS a Catholic). I checked on this . . . the sacred heart represents the love Jesus has for all humankind. I guess that it is a fitting symbol for me as an anthropologist.

Aztec Dancers in front of the Cathedral

It was a little strange to me to see all these people lined up to be purified by the Aztec dancers . . . double dipping probably isn’t such a bad idea.

Behind the Cathedral is Goth central . . .

Yes, Virginia, there are GOTHS in Mexico (darn, I forgot to bring my Doc Martens).

Well, that’s all for today, folks. I’ll post more tomorrow.