Murals by Diego Rivera, Palacio Nacional de Mexico

March 2015

One afternoon after finishing up work in Mexico City (a few years back), I dropped off my gear at the hotel, called an Uber car and hopped in and headed to the city center at the main plaza to check out some of the local history in the area.

I had heard and read a lot about all the things to see in and around Mexico City and was fascinated by the history to be found there that dated back hundreds of years.

While walking around the plaza that afternoon, I went inside the Palacio Nacional de Mexico where  I was fortunate to see the famous murals created by Diego Rivera.

These murals are rich in Mexico’s deep history and very fascinating to visit and view.

Palacio Nacional de Mexico

This site where the National Palace still stands has been a palace for the ruling class of Mexico since the Aztec Empire, and much of the current palace’s building materials are from the original building that belonged to one of the original rules of that age.

The rest of the description of the history of Diego Rivera and his murals are from –

All photos and video are by me, David Burrell

The National Palace

Exterior of Palace
Interior of Palace

At the time Diego Rivera began painting these murals he was an internationally known artist with his works reproduced in magazines worldwide. During his painting of them, his work was interrupted several times because he left Mexico City to paint other murals in his country as well as in the United States.

Large public murals like these which glorified the Mexican people provided an alternate history for those who could not read it in books. The government at the time was seeking to redefine the nation and Rivera’s murals could help in creating a new national identity.


The Stairway Mural

Diego Rivera began painting the staircase murals in the Palacio Nacional in May 1929 and finished these staircase murals by November of 1935. The stairway “triptych” is sometimes compared to an epic poem comprising the legendary pre-Hispanic past, a kind of prologue, then the depiction in the central panels of the Conquest up until 1930, and on the left, the present, with all its conflicts, but also with the promise of a better future.


The Corridor Panels

Rivera returned in the 1940’s to work on the corridor murals. This series of smaller panels was intended to go all the way round the second story, but this project was never completed and Rivera was unable to work on this project continuously. After the grisaille first panels depicting typical Mexican products and achievements (not illustrated on this site), the rest of the murals, reaching about halfway around the corridor, depict various earlier pre-Hispanic cultures and aspects of their culture–their agriculture, trading methods, and use of various natural resources. Below the polychrome murals, Rivera painted smaller grisailles panels that relate to the larger composition. The last mural (completed in 1951) shows the arrival of the Spanish, with satirical portraits of Cortée and the other Conquistadors. He also includes an image of La Malinche bearing the blue-eyed baby sired by Cortés.


Plaza de la Constitución S/N, Centro, Cuauhtémoc, 06066 Ciudad de México, CDMX, Mexico


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