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    Is This the Isthmus? Tour – Mexico Part 21

    Wednesday, October 18, 2017
    Mexico City, Mexico

    The Grand Courtyard of the Palacio Nacional in Mexico City, Mexico.
    The Grand Courtyard of the Palacio Nacional in Mexico City, Mexico.

    Today, I walked a few blocks over to the Palacio Nacional, where a guide out front told me that because the building contains the offices of the president and government of Mexico, I had to hand over my passport to get in. I only had a copy of it on me, so I had to schlep all the way to the Casa San Ildefonso to get it and return, once again down the sidewalks of Calle del Correo Mayor, which are utterly packed with pedestrians squeezing by dozens of vendors who shout out the names of their wares at the top of their lungs. It really is quite a chaotic scene.

    The History of Mexico from the Spanish Conquest to 1931 (1929-1931) by Diego Rivera at the Palacio Nacional in Mexico City, Mexico.
    The History of Mexico from the Spanish Conquest to 1931 (1929-1931) by Diego Rivera at the Palacio Nacional in Mexico City, Mexico. View a larger version. Click on it again to supersize it!

    “The Palacio Nacional is the seat of the federal executive in Mexico. It is located on Mexico City’s main square, the Plaza de la Constitución (El Zócalo). This site has been a palace for the ruling class of Mexico since the Aztec empire, and much of the current palace’s building materials were derived from the original one that belonged to Moctezuma II. Used and classified as a government building, the Palacio Nacional, measuring over 200 meters long, fills the entire east side of the Zócalo. It is home to some of the offices of both the Federal Treasury and the National Archives.

    The Arrival of Hernan Cortez in Veracruz (1951) by Diego Rivera at the Palacio Nacional in Mexico City, Mexico.
    The Arrival of Hernan Cortez in Veracruz (1951) by Diego Rivera at the Palacio Nacional in Mexico City, Mexico. View a larger version. Click on it again to supersize it!

    “Above the central doorway, facing the Zócalo, is the main balcony where just before 11:00 pm on September 15 every year, the president of Mexico delivers the Grito de Dolores, in a ceremony to commemorate Mexican Independence from Spain. Part of this ceremony includes ringing the bell that hangs above the balcony. This bell is the original one that Father Miguel Hidalgo rang to call for rebellion against Spain. It originally hung in the church of Dolores Hidalgo, Guanajuato, but was relocated here. In the niche containing the bell, there is the Mexican coat of arms. On each side, there is an Aztec eagle knight and his Spanish counterpart. These were sculpted by Manuel Centurion and symbolize the synthesis of Mexican culture and Spanish culture.”–Wikipedia

    Maize (Huasteca Culture (1950) by Diego Rivera at the Palacio Nacional in Mexico City, Mexico.
    Maize (Huasteca Culture (1950) by Diego Rivera at the Palacio Nacional in Mexico City, Mexico.

    The main reason I paid a visit to the Palacio Nacional was to check out the murals painted by the famous Mexican artist Diego Rivera. There are quite a few of them inside, and it’s safe to say the things are huge, most of them measuring well over a dozen feet tall. Pretty much all of the murals cover the history of Mexico’s people from pre-Spanish times up to the early 20th century, when these paintings were executed. Diego painted in a flat, semi-realistic style, covering the whole canvas with complex scenes chock-full of people from all walks of Mexican life. The murals on offer here cover a gigantic stairwell and a long hallway—including the corners—on one side of one floor.

    “The central doorway of the Palacio Nacional leads to the main patio, which is surrounded by Baroque arches. Only the balustrade of this area has been remodeled, conserving the murals by Diego Rivera that adorn the main stairwell and the walls of the second floor. Painted between 1929 and 1935, these murals were jointly titled “The Epic of the Mexican People.” In the stairwell is a mural depicting the history of Mexico from 1521 to 1930 that covers an area of 450 square meters. The work is divided up like a triptych, with each section being somewhat autonomous. The right-hand wall contains murals depicting pre-Hispanic Mexico, centering around the life of the Aztec god Quetzalcóatl, who appears in the mural as a star, a god, and a human being.

    Gardens at the Palacio Nacional in Mexico City, Mexico.
    Gardens at the Palacio Nacional in Mexico City, Mexico.

    “Created by serpents, Quetzalcóatl sails through space as a star that accompanies the sun at night. He then assumes a human body to lead the Aztec people as their king and patriarch. When he sacrifices his blood to give life to men, he returns to the sky, having completed his earthly cycle. Once he leaves the earth, Quetzalcóatl assumes the shape of the morning star, called Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli. The cycle that he undergoes signifies the continuous cycle of life. Rivera’s creation of a Mexican identity helps to continue the reform that began with the Mexican Revolution of 1910. Before this time, any individualism from the Indians was discouraged, as was any allusion toward Mexico’s Aztec origins. The mural aims to dismiss any idea of inferiority.

    Festivals and Ceremonies (Totonaca Culture) (1950) by Diego Rivera at the Palacio Nacional in Mexico City, Mexico.
    Festivals and Ceremonies (Totonaca Culture) (1950) by Diego Rivera at the Palacio Nacional in Mexico City, Mexico. View a larger version. Click on it again to supersize it!

    “In the middle and largest panel, the Spanish Conquest of the Aztecs is depicted with all of its attendant ugliness, such as rape and torture, as well as priests defending the rights of the indigenous people. The battle for independence occupies the uppermost part of this panel in the arch. The American and French invasions are represented below this, as well as the Reform period and the Revolution. The left-hand panel is dedicated to early and mid-20th century, criticizing the status quo and depicting a Marxist kind of utopia, featuring the persons of Plutarco Elías Calles, John D. Rockefeller, Harry Sinclair, William Durant, J.P. Morgan, Cornelius Vanderbilt and Andrew Mellon, as well as Karl Marx.

    Featherwork and Goldsmith (Zapotec Culture) (1942) by Diego Rivera at the Palacio Nacional in Mexico City, Mexico.
    Featherwork and Goldsmith (Zapotec Culture) (1942) by Diego Rivera at the Palacio Nacional in Mexico City, Mexico.

    “This part of the mural also includes Frida Kahlo, Diego’s wife, and reflects his own personal views about Mexico’s history and the indigenous people of the country in particular. Diego also painted 11 panels on the middle floor, such as the “Tianguis of Tlatelolco” and the “Arrival of Hernán Cortés in Veracruz.” These are part of a series depicting the pre-Hispanic era, highlighting peoples such as the Tarascos of Michoacán, the Zapotecs and Mixtecs of Oaxaca and the Huastecs of Hidalgo, San Luis Potosí and Veracruz. It must be noted, however, that this series was never finished.

    Molletes and horchata for lunch at Las Tecolotas in Mexico City, Mexico.
    Molletes and horchata for lunch at Las Tecolotas in Mexico City, Mexico.

    “On the upper floor is what once was the Theatre Room of the viceroys, which became the Chamber of Deputies from 1829 to August 22, 1872, when the room was accidentally destroyed by fire. In this parliamentary chamber, the Reform Constitution of 1857 was written. This and the Constitution of 1917 are on display. The Palacio Nacional has fourteen courtyards but only a few of these, such as the Grand Courtyard beyond the central portal, are open to the public. The Palacio also houses the main State Archives, with many interesting historical documents, and the Biblioteca Miguel Lerdo de Tejada, one of the largest and most important libraries in the country.”–Wikipedia

    The Iglesia la Profesa in Mexico City, Mexico.
    The Iglesia la Profesa in Mexico City, Mexico.

    In another building lies the former house of the legendary 26th president of Mexico, Benito Juarez (1806-1872), the opulent interior of which contains numerous rooms full of his personal possessions, including furniture, letters, photos, etc. Although all of the goods are nicely presented, the place is really only of interest to an ardent fan of Benito Juarez or Mexican history.

    “On north annex of the building is the Treasury Room and the Benito Juárez Museum. The Treasury Room is no longer in use. Leading to the museum part of the complex, which used to be the Finance Ministry, is a statue of Benito Juárez by Miguel Noreña. In the Finance Ministry patio is the Benito Juárez Room, where this president lived during the end of his term and where he died on July 18, 1872. The bedroom, living room and study have been preserved complete with a number of objects belonging to the president.”–Wikipedia

    Words and photos ©2017 Arcane Candy.

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