Manifesto, Catastrophe, Identity: Post-revolutionary Mexican Muralism and the Art of New Production

Open Access
Cantor, Shannon Evalene
Area of Honors:
Interdisciplinary in Comparative Literature and Spanish
Bachelor of Arts
Document Type:
Thesis Supervisors:
  • John Andres Ochoa, Thesis Supervisor
  • Sydney Sue Aboul Hosn, Honors Advisor
  • John Lipski, Faculty Reader
  • Mural
  • Mexico
  • Revolution
  • Art
  • Production
  • Manifesto
  • Catastrophe
  • Identity
  • Renovation
  • Tres Grandes
Stereotypes of ‘Mexico’ invoke the Zapatista charro: bigote, sombrero, rifle, and serape, mounted en caballo. This image and others, similarly ‘revolutionary,’ have permeated the national cultural imagination, and embedded so deeply, in fact, that they inhabit also the foreign consciousness (we’ve only to consider “Speedy Gonzales,” the “Frito Bandito,” “Jim Okay au Mexique,” and many more). These images go beyond physical caricature. They speak to what Octavio Paz names the “instinctive rebel” (16)—what he claims is the Mexican identity. This paper examines the process that led to that identity and that iconographic reputation. I argue the incredibly effective influence of the Mexican muralist movement, in shaping not only the symbolic representation of Revolution, but also its role the novel form of production, this imagery as self-claimed, national identity. Through a comparative analysis of the mural and textual art of the “Tres Grandes”— David Alfaro Siqueiros, José Clemente Orozco, and Diego Rivera—I present the mural as a productive, reconciling agent. It includes the written manifesto into a performative, public, and visual form; it recasts the violence of revolution with the iconography of unified renovation; and it solidifies the essence of this newly-defined “Mexico” on an international, public stage. I focus on the critical years immediately following the Revolution, during the 1920s and 1930s, re-examining how this revolutionary form of production helped shape the future of its society, by taming a traumatic reality, and re-writing the recent past into a validated, Revolutionary social future.