In the 1950s Mexico experienced an economic boom that has come to be known as the Milagro Mexicano (Mexican Miracle). The rejuvenation of many of the major cities of the country emerged during this period. In Mexico City, striking new buildings were constructed, many of which were richly decorated with visionary public artworks by great artists of the country such as Diego Riviera, Rufino Tamayo, and David Alfaro Siquieros.
Teatro de Los Insurgentes, located on Avenida de los Insurgentes, was one such building. Designed by the Modernist architect Alejandro Prieto, the theater was completed in 1953. The outside of the theater features a massive mural by the artist Diego Rivera. Measuring 46 meters (150 feet) long and 10 meters (33 feet) tall, the piece was painting and then covered with glass mosaic slabs.
Rivera looked to both Mexico’s recent and ancient past for inspiration. The far left of the façade depicts the symbolism and imagery of Mexico’s indigenous history with sacred animals such as the jaguar, deities such as Tezcatlipoca, also known as the Aztec god of darkness, and many people representing the great civilizations of Meso-America. Over these scenes looms the plumed serpent god Quetzalcoatl, an Aztec deity.
At the center of the mural, a mysterious masked female entity representing the arts and drama raises her hands and conjures, as if by magic, an alchemical backdrop in which the history of Mexico is depicted in dazzling colors.
The far right of the façade shows the history of the Spanish and other European colonial settlers in Mexico. There are scenes depicting the Iberian conquistadors, Spanish monarchs, and the atrocities committed by colonial officials. The later French intervention and Emperor Maximillian I also make an appearance. Peering malevolently over all of these scenes is a flamboyant image of the devil of the Christian religion.
Diego Rivera was a committed Marxist, and thus viewed the history of his country through the lens of class struggle. The mural on the outside of Teatro de Los Insurgentes reflects his beliefs about historical materialism in Mexican history.
As such, throughout the mural you can see the likenesses of great Mexican reformers and revolutionaries including Miguel Hidalgo, Jose Morelos, President Benito Juarez, and the firebrand Emiliano Zapata.
Know Before You Go
The mural itself can be seen for free on the exterior of the theatre building.
The theatre is open from Tuesday to Saturday from 12 a.m. to 6 p.m. and a variety of different plays can be seen and enjoyed here.