By Nan Fader

Pre-Mexican Revolutionporfirio_diaz.jpg
The Mexican Revolution (1910-1920) began with a major armed struggle against President Porfirio Diaz. There were many disagreements among the people of Mexico caused by the dictatorship of Diaz, which lasted 31 years. Diaz had absolute rule and while the Mexican people had no power to express their opinions or political views about their leaders. Injustice surrounded the country for the latter half of Diaz's presidency and wealth was held only in the hands of a few. The President had resources and supporters which kept him in power indefinitely. Diaz did not have any major threats until a man named Francisco Madero decided to stand for the people of his country. Madero, unlike many of the country's citizens, was among one of Mexico's wealthiest families. His wealth and resources did not get in the way of understanding and sharing empathy with the less fortunate people. In an attempt to stand for his country, Madero formed an organization that promoted democracy and founded several newspapers which lead to Diaz stepping down as president, and free elections to be supported. This did not last for long though as Madero was arrested under Diaz's administration and Diaz declared himself president again. Madero issued a manifesto stating that the election was null and void and for Porfirio Diaz to be overthrown.

Mexican Revolution
November 20, 1910 marked the beginning of the Mexican Revolution. Francisco Madero had stood for democracy for his country, Porfirio Diaz was overthrown, and uprisings around the country occurred in Madero's name. The revolution gained as Madero and his generals, Pascual Orozco and Francisco Villa, attacked certain 300px-Colage_revolución_mexicana.jpgcities defeating Diaz's federal troops. In May of 1911 a peace treaty was signed, Diaz agreed to resign as President and go into exile. Months later in November of 1911 Francisco Madero became the first new president of Mexico in 30 years. Much celebration occurred throughout the country but the Mexican people were not satisfied. Madero did not want to establish certain policies that went against the class to which his family belonged which was the rich landownership class. He did not change the power structure that Diaz had created and he also went on to alienate his former allies, Pascual Orozo and Emiliano Zapata. Francisco Madero gave his country much hope that was beyond the changes he was willing to make. Not only were the Mexican people concerned about the new president but United States Ambassador, Henry Lane Wilson, was worried about the relations and investments between the two countries. In 1913, Wilson teamed with Madero's generals among others to overthrow the short-lived president. Shortly after, fights broke out with people trying to overtake the federal troops that were loyal to Francisco Madero. This became known as decena tragica, or "ten tragic days" as Mexico City became a battleground. General Victoriano Huerta later took control of the country and put Madero and his vice president under arrest before having them killed. Huerta then declared himself President, though during his presidency his regime was even harsher than Porfirio Diaz's. This led to Pancho Villa along with General Alvaro Obregon raising an army against Huerta. A numerous number of battles occurred declaring who had power and who did not. The total number of deaths was estimated at one million before Alvaro Obregon became president in 1920 and ran the first stable presidency since the Revolution began.

Mexican Mural Movement
The year 1921 marked the end of the Mexican Revolution. Most of the Mexican population was illiterate at the time so the government needed a way to promote the ideals of the Revolution. Jose Vasconcelos, the appointed Secretary of Education, proposed to have a government sponsored mural program for this purpose. The goal
Mural by Diego Rivera in Mexico's National Palace
of the murals was not associated with aesthetic purposes, it was not "art for art's sake," but more so to promote certain ideals that shaped the Revolution. These ideals glorified the Revolution along with the identity of Mexico as a mestizo nation, a nation of mixed races. Ideas for the murals came from a variety of subjects of renovations and tragedies from the Revolution. It reflected Mexico's transformation from mostly rural and illiterate to to a country that was becoming industrialized. Although some of the murals did not exactly reflect beauty and subjects that were pleasing to viewers, the Revolution was exactly that. Since these images were important for viewing to the public, it was also that which made it controversial. Socialist messages were plastered on centuries old colonial buildings. These great societal disturbances were the ones that made this whole concept possible, as well as the lack of a relatively wealthy middle class to support the arts, which the government and the painters who contributed all agreed. What it came down to was the purpose of artistic expression that served a function in society. If the government decided to fund this movement of expressing a national phenomenon through art then the artists should have complete freedom of expression. Jose Vasconcelos commissioned three of the most talented and ambitious artists to contribute to these murals: Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siquieros, the three of them combined known as "Los Tres Grandes." These artists created images on different buildings throughout Mexico City and expressed revolutionary ideals into the murals such as civil liberties, public health, welfare, education for all and other liberal reforms. Murals portrayed themes that rewrote history which reflected social and political issues along with historical and symbolic images.

Influence of The Mexican Mural Movement
The Mexican Mural Movement spread abroad to other parts of the Americas. Before the years of Mexican Muralism, art was seen as a way to create beautiful pictures, aesthetic works that were appealing to the eye rather than a way to remind individuals of historical occurrences whether they were positive or negative. The Mexican Mural Movement promoted social and political ideas and also influenced notable muralists from different parts of South America such as Carlos Merida from Guatemala, Oswaldo Guayasamin from Ecuador, Candido Portinari from Brazil, and of course Diego Rivera from Mexico whose works spread and influenced further than South America, even into the United States.
The United States found interest in these new works of art that were displayed on the public walls and buildings of Mexico. This muralism movement that stemmed
Mural by Diego Rivera at the Pacific Stock Exchange in San Francisco
from the Mexican Revolution was transformed into a national art form. Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siquieros later traveled to the United States where private organizations would fund their muralist works. Throughout the 1920's and 1930's, the artists established long-term residence in the United States and created a variety of murals in different settings from the ones they used in their native country. These included private or relatively inaccessible settings such as The Pacific Stock Exchange in San Francisco, and even private homes such as famous film director Dudley Murphy's in Los Angeles. Because of these different settings that were less public and more private the subjects of the murals were different and not quite as relevant to cultural nationalism which Rivera, Orozco, and Siquieros were better known for. There were in fact portable works that did include Mexican subject matter that was featured in group gallery shows across the United States. Modern Mexican art alongside pre-Columbian objects as well as folk arts and crafts were displayed, which introduced people to the work of these muralists within a wider commercial interest in tourist objects and ancient artifacts. Since the United States was not particularly interested in the imagery of all things pertaining to the Mexican Revolution, the artists altered their representations to accommodate new audiences. With these artists long term stay in the United States, their muralist works became popular and was seen more significantly in the public eye. Their works made it into the Museum of Modern Art's 1940 exhibition of "Twenty Centuries of Mexican Art."

Muralism has come a long way. From fresco painting to acrylic to spray paint, muralism has been used in different
Mural by Barry McGee in New York
ways from reminding us of historical events to stamps of identity to the use of just creating images that are appealing to the eye. Much of the public art in major cities such as San Francisco and New York among many others has ultimately come from Diego Rivera's intentions to create public art "for the people that need it most." The beautiful and carefully painted murals that were created in Mexico City after the Revolution are even influences of graffiti murals in the major cities of the United States that some people view as trash and public disturbances while others have a completely different view, looking at them as works of art while some of these graffiti artists such as Barry McGee and Banksy have become famous artists. The views on art have not changed much between the time after the Revolution and the current day. There was much controversy over the murals and the messages they were trying to send during the time after the Revolution in Mexico City and the controversy still exists today with the new age art forms that make up murals. Muralism has always had differing views, people love it and people hate it, but the one thing that can be agreed upon is where the influence came from to create muralism which was the Mexican Revolution.

Works Cited
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Indych-López, Anna. Muralism without Walls: Rivera, Orozco, and Siqueiros in the United States, 1927-1940. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh, 2009. Print.

"Mexican Revolution." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 12 Apr. 2012. Web. 27 Nov. 2012. <>.

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