8 Incredible and Iconic Murals in Mexico City
Murals in Mexico City are famous for their size, historical importance, and transcendence. These immortal pieces of art document Mexican history.
Mexican murals often display battles, wars, oppression, and the quest for justice. Muralism in Mexico started in 1920, and a generation of iconic painters transcended borders with their creativity.
Muralism was a way to document the story of Mexican society through everyday scenes, as well as portraits of Mexican heroes and events. Murals in Mexico City are spread throughout the capital and in the most interesting and touristic places.
¡Aprendamos de ocho murales mexicanos importantes!
Let’s learn about eight important Mexican murals!
8 Amazing Mexican Murals
Filled with socio-political messages and hints of communism and socialism, the Big Three dominated this artistic scene: Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and Alfaro Siqueiros.
The government commissioned murals to solidify the efforts of the Mexican Revolution. They wanted to prove to the Mexican people that trusting in this social movement was the way to go.
Check out this list of the 8 greatest murals in Mexico City!
1. Mexico Through the Centuries (México a través de los siglos) – Diego Rivera
México a través de los años (Mexico Through the Centuries) or La epopeya del pueblo mexicano (The Epic of the Mexican People) is a Diego Rivera masterpiece at the Palacio Nacional (National Palace) in downtown Mexico City, a favorite tourist spot.
This is one of the most famous Rivera murals in Mexico City. It encompasses prehispanic Mexico, Independence, Revolution, Spanish colonization and Inquisition, French invasion, and the 20th century social struggle against capitalism.
It depicts key historical figures, such as Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, José María Morelos y Pavón, Emperor Maximiliano de Habsburgo, Frida Kahlo, Porfirio Díaz, Pancho Villa, and Emiliano Zapata.
It’s almost 3,000 sq f (276 sq m), and it took Diego Rivera 22 years to complete! Diego always asked for total liberty when choosing scenery, characters, and messages in his murals. That’s why it includes Karl Marx, worker strikes, and other details associated with socialism and communism that were part of Rivera’s ideology.
2. Historical Representation of the Culture (Representación histórica de la cultura) – Juan O’Gorman
The Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM; Autonomous National University of Mexico) is in University City. UNESCO recognizes it as a Cultural Heritage of Humanity thanks to the artistic pieces in it, the Central Library’s being the most iconic one.
The giant library is the most representative building of modern Mexican architecture. The mural covers all four walls of the library and has more than 150 types of natural stones, collected from all states of Mexico.
Juan O’Gorman was the son of a painter, the brother of a historian, and the protegé of Diego Rivera. The north facade of the mural represents Mexico’s prehispanic past, dualities of life and death and Aztec deities.
The south facade illustrates colonialism and viceroyalty. It also has two circles which are the most notable elements of the whole mural. They represent Ptolomeo’s and Copernicus’ ideas of the Earth and the universe.
The west facade shows the university’s emblem, college life, sports and a productive society. The east side depicts the contemporary world and social progress, as well as the historical passage of Mexican revolution.
One thing to know is that according to the UNAM, the Central Library is the most photographed building in Mexico.
3. The March of Humanity on Earth and into the Cosmos (La marcha de la humanidad en la Tierra y hacia el cosmos) – David Alfaro Siqueiros
“The March of Humanity on Earth and into the Cosmos” has three main, unique, exquisite features. The first is that it is the biggest mural of all time. The surface is nearly 100,000 sq ft (8,700 sq m). Second, the external part of this monumental art piece has 12 panels. Third, it’s not only a mural, but also a sculpture.
It is the masterpiece of David Alfaro Siqueiros at the Polyforum Siqueiros. He longed to create a cultural patrimony in Mexico that was able to send a message of consciousness, evolution, and justice.
This mural has elements of artistic movements such as abstractionism, “new realism,” and expressionism. The beginning of the march is set by an erupting volcano. A man stands in front of a woman and a poisonous tree intends to poison humanity’s confidence and generate despair. As a sign of hope, a different tree comes from the first and it is blooming with the new leaders of the struggle.
A female leader also is born from a volcano. Another woman of geometric dimensions offers harmony, peace, and culture to transform society. Slaves, pregnant women, torture, mestizaje (the mix of two races), kids, eagles, astronauts, and stars all play a role in this encouraging piece of hope and kindness.
4. The Gully of Dolores (El cárcamo de Dolores) – Diego Rivera
In a building near the Chapultepec forest, there is a mural that used to be subaquatic! Its two pieces are:
- Water, the origin of life – El agua, el origen de la vida
- Tlaloc’s Fountain – La fuente de Tláloc
Today, this is part of the Museum of Natural History. The mural is painted over the four faces of the tunnel where water once came in. The symbols and elements have all to do with the technical effort of the working class involved in providing Mexicans with clean water.
Microorganisms evolve into vegetables, animals, and eventually humans in the tunnel. Prehispanic codes and temples, chemicals, and molecules, also appear, along with Ruth Rivera, Diego Rivera’s daughter.
5. Omniscience (Omnisciencia) – José Clemente Orozco
Omniscience or omnisciencia is a Mexican mural in an iconic restaurant that used to be a palace in downtown Mexico City. The building is colloquially called the Casa de los azulejos (House of Tiles). The sensibility of this piece is greater than in others: man and woman united by grace.
Some people vandalized murals in Public High School 1, which led Orozco to take a break from his career. He was in charge of the making of 22 pieces in the school. The Counts of Orizaba asked him to paint the walls of the staircase.
If you visit Mexico City, go downtown for a cup of coffee at the House of Tiles, where artists and politicians met.
6. Mexico:Culture and Society that is Reborn (México: cultura y sociedad que renace) – Seher One
The original name of this modern mural on the Jeanne D’Arc building downtown was Quetzalcóatl baila con sus hijos en el Mictlán (Quetzalcóatl Dances with his Children in Mictlán).
The 2017 earthquake damaged the facade of the mural, as well as the psyche of all Mexicans. It was the first area where buildings collapsed in the 1985 earthquake, which occurred on the same day: September 19.
The piece had to be restored, so artist Seher One decided to make changes to it meanwhile. He used prehispanic symbols to represent empathy, teamwork, and courage.
Seher painted Quetzalcóatl not as a God but as a symbol for unity among Mexicans, the same one everyone around the world witnessed on that day. Many videos of the earthquake’s aftermath went viral because they showed Mexicans running towards the collapsed buildings to help people get out.
A raised fist is the signal adopted by locals to ask for silence in order to hear people shouting beneath the debris. It means “together we can.” Along with the tags “Fuerza México” (Strength to Mexico) and “Mex-I-can,” it became the main symbol of the 2017 earthquake.
7. The Fusion of Two Cultures in Mexico (La fusión de dos culturas en México) – Jorge González Camarena
The National History Museum inside Chapultepec Castle houses four Mexican murals by Jorge González Camarena, Juan O’Gorman, Eduardo Solares Gutiérrez and David Alfaro Siqueiros. “The Fusion of Two Cultures in Mexico” is a representation of the mestizaje that people underwent during colonization.
Blood shed was a consequence of a war between two civilizations: the Spanish represented by a man in armor riding a horse, and the prehispanic one by an eagle-serpent. Both are pierced by a sword and a spear, hence creating the new race.
The vibrant colors depict fire and violence, but that is how societies and new cultures arise. Remember to visit the other Mexican murals, including the famous Retablo de la Independencia (Independence Altarpiece) by Juan O’Gorman.
8. The Magical World of the Mayans (El mundo mágico de los Mayas) – Leonora Carrington
The Magical World of the Mayans is one of Leonora’s Carrington masterpieces and most famous murals in Mexico City. It resides in the National Anthropology Museum. It is divided in three parts: heaven, Earth, and the infraworld or Katibak.
The deity Kukulkan—Quetzalcóatl for the Aztecs—is in the middle as a serpiente emplumada (feathered serpent). Xibalba is the name of the infraworld—as it is the Mictlan for the Aztecs—and the Mayan Death God. On the other side of the ceiba tree, it’s the one element uniting the three worlds.
Leonora spent six months in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas to study traditions, customs, herbal medicine, religious practices, and the relation between man and Mayan cosmogony.
Bonus: More Traditional Murals and Street Art
Are you fascinated by Mexican murals? Let me tell you where to find more. Many are compiled in a single building, museum, or library.
- San Ildefonso Museum
- Public Education Secretariat
- Bellas Artes
- Palacio Nacional
- Teatro de los Insurgentes
- Biblioteca Miguel Lerdo de Tejada
Do you love amazing street art? Check out these awesome urban murals in Mexico City:
- Subway building “Salto del Agua”
- Plaza La Romita
- Regina Street
- Tlalpan Avenue between Ermita and Portales
- Urban Art Corredor
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