EMILIANO ZAPATA, NAKED IN A PAINTING, SPARKS HOMOPHOBIC OUTRAGE, PROTESTS IN MEXICO CITY
So much for art lovers. But to be fair, art is often about controversy. But rarely does it cause such an immediate outrage and reaction. This time? There’s a new exhibition at the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City. It focuses on the commemoration of the 1st Centennial of Emiliano Zapata’s death. So who was Zapata? Zapata was a leader in the Mexican Revolution. He was a poor farmer who took a public stand against the theft of land by already rich landowners. Zapata died by assassination back in 1919. Today, he is still considered a hero by many Mexicans. So why the controversy? Well. One of the paintings at the exhibition shows Zapata, naked. There have been ardent protests in response. But it’s not so simple. It never is.
HISTORIC REVOLUTIONARY FIGURE NOW FIGURES PROMINENTLY IN INCLUSIVE CONTROVERSY
So why are crowds gathered outside the exhibition, shouting “burn it, burn it!”? No, really. Well, the answer is a little complicated. It’s not just about Emiliano Zapata, naked on a horse. Yet, to be fair, that may be the case for his living descendants. And yet, according to his grandson, Jorge Zapata Gonzalez, he said, “For us as relatives, this denigrates the figure of our general, depicting him as gay.” Say what? So yes, that’s right. This outrage is also about generational homophobia. And a prominent Mexican revolutionary is now a main feature. Strange, right? Well, maybe not. Social revolutions can be slow. But they are inevitable. This is an increase in pace. Mexico needs it, clearly.
WHAT WOULD ZAPATA THINK ABOUT TODAY’S MEXICO OF INCLUSION AND DIVERSITY?
So there are, of course, at least two sides on this. And they are not in agreement. Some are outraged over a perceived disrespectful slur. But others are appearing simply to support diversity and inclusion in Mexican culture. See? It’s not really so simple at all. But this exhibition displays 141 pieces of art. They come from 70 participating collections. But the piece of a lot of resistance is La Revolución by Fabián Cháirez. He painted it 5 years ago! So yes, it is not unknown. In fact, it’s not even new. It’s even been on display before! Protestors vow to protest every single day until the painting is taken away. But the exhibition isn’t backing down. The painting may run the full course thru this coming December.
So the drama may continue. For 7 weeks. But inclusion? That goal is never fully achieved. And Mexico has a long way to get home. But irony lives. As does the drive for equality. Even if today’s Zapatas don’t get it. After all, they are now part of the establishment. Maybe that’s why they’re tone deaf. But who listens as they shout?