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Analysisof the Exploration ofMexico by Spanish Conquistadors
The mural Explorationof Mexico by Spanish Conquistadorsby Diego Rivera shows the challenges that the indigenous people hadto undergo in the colonial period. Diego Rivera was part of theMexican Mural Renaissance that had the responsibility to sensitizethe Mexicans of their identity, history and culture right after theMexican Revolution. Hence, the murals they created served aspolitical protest and revealing the concerns of the society. Themural Exploration ofMexico by Spanish Conquistadorsillustrates the way that the Catholic culture endangered theindigenous culture, Spaniards forcing the indigenous people toslavery as they destroy the environment, which were the aspects thataligned with the main aims of the Mexican Mural Renaissance.
The cross in the upper left ofDiego Rivera’s Mural shows the Catholic culture that was a threatto the indigenous cultures. In the colonial period, the Catholicculture was seen as a way that wanted to replace the indigenousculture that the Mexicans were used to. In this case, the nativeIndians were used to their culture, and they knew that their culturewas much more superior. However, the coming of the Catholics saw thespread of Christianity that saw the indigenous culture as beingprimitive (Coffey, 32).The scenario made some of the Mexicans to be much more reluctanttowards embracing the Catholic culture since they saw it as a way ofundermining their culture. The same assumptions also led to divisionamong the Mexicans since the ones that embraced the Catholic culturewere seen as traitors. In the process, the society experiencedtension between “the loyal ones” and “the traitors” that hadconverted to Christianity (Coffey,45). In fact, thecriticism of the Catholic culture matched with the purpose of theMexican Mural Renaissance that aimed at raising the awareness on theLatin American identity (Rivera). Evidently, Rivera wanted tosensitize the Mexicans on the existence of the indigenous culture waybefore the Catholics had entered Mexico. The message was effectiveand criticized the Catholics of viewing the indigenous people asprimitive simply because they had a culture that was different fromtheirs. Instead, Rivera wanted them to view the indigenous culture asbeing sacred to the Mexicans as well. To some extent, Rivera was alsocalling upon the Mexicans to be united, despite, the differences intheir religions and culture too. Besides that, he still wantedeveryone to retain the indigenous culture that was a part of theiridentity as Mexicans.
The mural also depicts theindigenous people being forced to work by the Spaniards therebycriticizing them for the forced labor that the Mexicans had toundergo. Evidently, the Spaniards went to Mexico with various aimsand one of them included finding free labor for their plantationsaround the world. In this case, they threatened the indigenous peopleand took them as slaves. In fact, various in the mural illustrate thesuffering that the indigenous people underwent during the entireperiod. The upper part of the mural shows the bodies of the deadslaves hanging from trees while upper right part shows the slavesworking in the forests (Rivera). The bottom left part of the muralreveals how the Spaniards were torturing them. All in all, Riverawanted to illustrate the torture and the suffering that theindigenous people underwent in the hands of the Spaniards. Thesuffering showed how inhumane they were and how the indigenouspopulation had to struggle to prove their loyalty to their masters aswell. The mural aligned with the purpose of the Mexican MuralRenaissance that aimed at using art to serve as a vehicle forpolitical protest and criticism. Rivera was using the mural tocriticize the Spaniards for killing the innocent indigenous people inthe name of slavery. To some extent, he was seeking justice for thedead people and the way some of them were overworked. Evidently, therest of the world saw the way that the Spaniards had treated theindigenous people in Mexico and treated them as animals, instead, ofhumans that deserved respect. The same indigenous people were theones being used as oxen that pulled the plow that prepared theirplantations for the planting period.
The mural was criticizing theSpaniards for exploiting the Mexicans natural resources anddestroying the environment for their selfish gains. Evidently, theupper right part of the mural shows the indigenous being forced tocut down the trees while the bottom right part showed the sameSpaniards taking away the animals that belonged to the indigenouspeople. The exploitation went ahead to undermine the environment ofthe region as the natural resources that they relied on were nolonger available. The destruction of the trees and forests led to theregion having some desert-like conditions that changed the climate.In fact, the residents relied on the rain-fed agriculture to get foodand as an economic activity (Coffey,26). Hence, after therevolution, most of the peasants struggled to make ends meet sincethe Spaniards had interfered with their source of income instead. Thedestruction of the forests even undermined the chances of rain in theregion that will facilitate efficient farming in the region (Rivera).The use of the plow also destroyed the soil and reduced the soilfertility thereby undermining the farming activities that thepeasants relied on. It also led to the spread of drought in theregion, an aspect that even further undermined the chances of thepeasants having a way to support their livelihood as well. Moreimportantly, Rivera used the mural to express the message concernthat the peasants were in a dire situation since they found it hardto depend on their source of income (Coffey,35). It was also a messageto the peasants so that they should engage in activities that willrestore the natural environment by undertaking activities that willreduce the environmental degradation. For instance, tree planting andappropriate farming practices will be one step towards ensuring thatthey sustain their primary source of income as well.
In conclusion, the muralExploration of Mexicoby Spanish Conquistadors criticizesthe Catholic culture and the Spaniards for exploiting and underminingthe indigenous people while they are still destroying theirenvironment thereby playing the role of the vehicle of criticism andpolitical critique too. In this case, Rivera used the mural to urgethe Mexicans to stick to their indigenous culture that was seen asprimitive only after the Catholic Church arrived in Mexico. Apartfrom that, he also used the mural to criticize the Spaniards sincethey enslaved the indigenous and even made them destroy theirenvironment because they wanted to fulfill their selfish interests.In the end, it is evident that the mural served the role of politicalcriticism and raised awareness in the society as well.
Coffey, Mary K. Howa revolutionary art became official culture: Murals, museums, and theMexican state. Durham:Duke University Press, 2012.
Rivera, Diego. Exploration ofMexico by Spanish Conquistadors. The National Palace, Mexico. 1945.Web. 28 Feb. 2016.