Friday, November 24, 2017

Mexican Muralists | Diego Rivera´s Murals in the National Palace, Part II: Some of Mexico's Original Civilizations

When we recently entered the National Palace to view Diego Rivera's mural of The History of Mexico, we didn't know that we would encounter another whole series of Rivera murals portraying what might be called the pre-history of Mexico, that is, of some of the indigenous civilizations that existed prior to the arrival of the Spanish in 1519.

On the right side of the stairwell housing "The History of Mexico"
is a mural portraying some of the elements of indigenous civilization.

At the top, the Sun god, Tonatiuh, watches everthing.
To the left, a volcano, perhaps Popocatépetl, the Smoking Mountain, erupts.

Floating in the sky to the right is Quetzalcóatl, the Plumed Serpent,
god of knowledge and culture.

Below him, to the right, a corn festival is celebrated.

In the center, wearing a green tocado (headdress) made of quetzal bird feathers,
is the tlatoani (speaker, i.e. chief), surrounded by his council of elders.

Below the council, a group grinds corn on a metate and makes tortillas,
the Mexican staple food for 10,000 years.

To their left, porters or tradesmen (pochtecas) carry large packs.

Lower left, a battle is fought between rival groups.
Those in elaborate costumes are likely Aztecs/Mexicas of Tenochtitlan.

Walking up the staircase below the mural, to the second floor and turning left, we encounter a series of murals portraying various regional civilizations.

City of the Aztec/Mexica

A lord watches, possibly supervising
the tianguis, the open-air market below him where trade flourishes.

Above, men form large rolls of unknown material and purpose.

Behind is the Templo Mayor, the Great Temple
dualy dedicated to Huitzilopochtli, God of War and patron of Tenochtitlan,
and Tlaloc, agricultural god of all waters.

Beyond stretches the city, with its canals and many other temples.
To the right, above, in the far distance, is the Templo Mayor
and the sacred district around it.
The causeway leads to Tlacopan (now Tacuba),
along which Cortés and his men were to flee
on la Noche Triste, the Night of Sorrows.

At the upper right corner, are the snow-covered volcanoes that form Iztaccíhuatl,
the Sleeping Princess.

(The mural actually stretches farther to the left and right, beyond our photo:
the narrow balcony prevented standing far enough away to take in the whole.

Detail of the tianguis
(left side)

Detail of the tianguis

Detail of the tianguis
(right side)
The woman in white, selling calla lillies, is an image much used by Rivera.

However, calla lillies are native to South Africa; hence, their presence is anachronistic.

Zapotecs of  Oaxaca
Portraying various crafts,
including feather art for headdresses
and the refining and working of gold.

Totonaca of El Tajín, Veracruz

Tradesmen (left) arrive from the central highlands, possibly Toltecs from Tula,
which was contemporary with El Tajín (600 to 1200 CE), likely a Totonaca city.
They seek to trade for tropical products such as vanilla and rubber

that grow along what is now the west coast of the Gulf of Mexico.

In the background is the city of El Tajín, with its
Pyramd of the Niches,
voladores, flying dancers in bird costumes, and
ball court (far left; El Tajín has 20 courts, by far the most found
at any Mesoamerican site).

Maíz, corn cultivation,
Chinampas, artificial islands in the lakes,
such as Xochimilco and Chalco,
 of the Valley of Anahuac
(now Valley of Mexico).

goddess of springs, lakes and rivers,
stands mid-left.

Purépecha culture of Michoacán

Rivera portrays them cultivating cotton (rear left),
and weaving and dying fabrics.
A Purépecha lord oversees.

Lake Pátzcuaro is in the background.

The Purépecha were contemporaneous with the Axteca/Mexica,
but were never conquered by them.

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