Diego Rivera Murals – Palacio Nacional

Palacio Nacional –  Mexico City

Mexico City’s Palacio Nacional (National Palace) is located on the eastern side of the city’s central square known as the Zócalo. The palace is currently the seat of the country’s federal executive and the palace of the Mexican ruling class has been located on this exact site since the time of the Aztec Empire. This is one of the most fascinating aspects of Mexico City. The fact that the current presidential palace was constructed using materials from Monteczuma’s palace and that the ruins of the Temple Mayor of the Aztecs are located just a short walk away is an incredible juxtaposition of two drastically different civilizations. The palace was originally built in 1521 as Hernán Cortés’ palace after the Aztec temple was leveled by the Spanish. Throughout the years the palace underwent significant changes and additions including almost a complete rebuild after much of the building was destroyed in a fire in the 1600’s. Today, visitors can tour the palace daily. Just make sure to bring some form of ID or they won’t let you in.

diego rivera murals palacio nacional
Patio

rivera murals palacio nacional

Diego Rivera Murals

The history and architecture are both incredibly impressive but the real reason for our visit was to see the Diego Rivera murals and we were completely blown away. Neither of us are art connoisseurs, but we didn’t need to be in order to appreciate Rivera’s masterpieces. Rivera painted the murals between 1929 and 1935, depicting the history of Mexico from 1521 to 1930. There really couldn’t be a more fitting location for this type of historical depiction given the significance of this site over that exact same time period.

The central patio leads to the main stairwell where we were first greeted by the massive murals. The  mural on the staircase covers over 4,800 square feet across three separate walls…it’s huge. As you climb the staircase, you first come face to face with the west wall which is the main section of the mural. This section is essentially one gigantic battle scene where Rivera paints the country’s history of armed conflict. Standing on the first landing before the stairwell splits in two directions and looking up at the west wall is unbelievable. The scale of the mural combined with the intensity of the story being told can be appreciated by anyone regardless of their interest in art.

diego rivera murals palacio nacional Looking left towards the south wall

 

Once you’re on the landing you can climb a set of stairs to either the right or left. The right takes you towards the north wall which highlights the history and culture of the Aztecs. The left leads you to the south wall which focuses on modern day Mexico at the time the murals were completed. Diego’s wife, Frida Kahlo, is doing her best Where’s Waldo impression on the south wall. Even though Rivera’s murals were commissioned by the Mexican government following the Mexican Revolution, he found plenty of ways to leave his own personal touch on the palace walls. Rivera is well known for being a communist and his murals are clearly anti-capitalism and highlight the struggles of the working class and indigenous peoples.

 

Diego rivera murals palacio nacional
South wall…can you spot Frida?
Once you finish climbing the stairs to the middle floor, there are eleven more panels painted by Rivera that surround the walkway overlooking the main patio area. These aren’t nearly as massive as the mural on the staircase but they’re just as interesting and impressive. These panels are historical depictions of pre-Hispanic Mexico.
 

We didn’t spend enough time in Mexico City to consider ourselves experts in all of the must-see sights in the city; however, we’d still be confident in saying that the Palacio Nacional should be near the top of your list simply based on Rivera’s murals.

 

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