Photo by Lucas Vallecillos
If you haven't been to at least one of its mural museums, you haven't been to Mexico City.
The Mexican Revolution of 1910-1920 was a civil war that made famous names such as Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata, the latter of whom said: "It's better to die on your feet than to live on your knees."
The country was left sharply divided and mostly illiterate. Incoming president General Álvaro Obregón encouraged the use of murals following a nationalistic theme, an art form with long roots in Mayan and Aztec history. Artists David Alfaro Siqueiros, Diego Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco – now known as "Los Tres Grandes" – had studied in Europe and brought the techniques of Italian fresco to Mexico but created an entirely original modernist style, committed to social reform and designed to appeal to the ordinary person.
Rivera made particular use of Mexico's ancient history and folklore in his images, helping in part to create the now-familiar iconography of the new country. However, he is also equally well known for his marriage to bisexual Freda Kahlo, whose life itself was a work of art. Their stormy relationship included Rivera cheating with her sister, among many other lovers, and her revenge affair with Leon Trotsky, exiled from Stalinist Russia and assassinated in Mexico City in 1940.
Today, Mexico City houses a number of mural museums to honor its artistic icons. An experience of the capital isn't complete without a visit to at least one of them. The Museo Estudio Diego Rivera, located in the Altavista area, offers a unique look into the artist's life. It is where Rivera and Kahlo lived and worked, the place in which they produced some of their finest works. The studio, built by architect and friend Juan O'Gorman in 1929, features artwork and tools used by Rivera, and houses an extensive collection of indigenous artwork collected by the legendary couple.
Kahlo also has a museum in her honor, the Museo Frida Kahlo, which is a must-visit for anyone looking to get an understanding of her husband's life and work. The venue, also known as The Blue House, is a magnificent testimony to the duo's life, containing hundreds of artifacts and paintings, as well as personal letters and possessions.