This mural was created in 1952 by the artist Jose Chavez Morado to decorate the outside of the building of what was then the faculty of science building at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. It shows the artist’s idealistic and mid-century view of humankind as having emerged from a state of ignorance and fear to one of enlightenment and potential. It is, essentially, an unabashed ode to scientific progress.
The far left corner of the mural portrays a group of humans sitting around a dead tree in fear of the terrifying entities that run rampant above their heads. These figures represent an imagined state of humankind’s ignorance, fear, and superstitions. A cloaked skeleton, representing superstition and a manifestation of humans’ fears, throws its arms wide and seems to cackle at the defeated state of the people below. Nearby, a big cat, either a jaguar or a leopard, runs through the night sky, representing prehistoric humankind’s vulnerability to nature.
A raging fire and a succession of other human figures are shown in the next scene. These people are evidently less tormented and appear to be using the fire, some of them grasp flaming embers in their hands while others stride forward confidently. This represents the march of technological progress and the development of civilization through the triumph over fears and threats.
The last figure of the group, a man reminiscent of a Leonardo Da Vinci drawing, is shown grasping the hand of an ailing man who is also being cradled by a golden-haired woman. The figure’s other hand is raised and is summoning a glowing orb that hovers over the scene. This symbolizes humankind’s harnessing of medicine and science, which is symbolically represented by the atom.
The final image of the mural shows an aerial dance between the emanating spirit of the man and a ghostly female figure that takes place above a tree laden with ripe fruits. According to the artist, this scene was meant to represent the triumph of the human spirit and the fruits of humankind’s scientific labors to understand the universe.
Know Before You Go
You can walk by the mural at any time.