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Mexico’s Palace of Fine Arts is an eye-opener

"Tercera Internacional," 1933 by Diego Rivera. (Regina López/YJI)

MEXICO CITY – El Palacio de las Bellas Artes, or ‘Palace of Fine Arts,’ is the den that guards the works of the greatest Mexican artists and is home to the national theater.

Detail from “Nueva Democracia,” (New Democracy)1944 by David Alfaro Siqueiros. (Regina López/YJI)

It was started in 1910 while Mexico was still under the dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz and was finally finished after years of civil war and crisis in 1934 in the presidency of Lázaro Cárdenas. 

I don’t remember seeing it before going with my family, but I’ve always thought it was beautiful.

Front view of El Palacio de las Bellas Artes.’ (Regina López/YJI)
View of “Torre Latinoamericana” (Latin American Tower). (Regina López/YJI)

Last year, the museum became a hotspot for protests in Mexico City. Although I completely support these movements and their fights, a big part of my heart hopes that the palace will stay intact.

It was a relief to see it was still flawless. Despite some purple paint scratches on the front statues it was still there, as big and glorious as ever.

‘Liberación,’ (Liberation) 1957-1963 by Jorge González Camarena. (Regina López/YJI)

I believe there’s no need for a special reason to go to a museum but my mom, a former artist, was especially excited to see Pedro Coronel’s work which was exhibited for his 100 birthday and was on display at the time.

So the first thing we did as we went in was to run to Coronel’s exhibition. 

“Los Pájaros,” (The Birds) by Pedro Coronel. (Regina López/YJI)

I liked the exhibit. We saw his first paintings and as we went along, they became more disfigured and abstract, but they all had the feeling that something was under the massive amounts of paint. They looked like a figure was hiding behind another figure.

After visiting a gallery in France, Coronel felt so inspired that he said to himself, “Why not?” and that afternoon he started painting.

Then, it was time to see the rest of the palace.

Detail from “Katharsis,” 1934-1935, by José Clemente Orozco. (Regina López/YJI)

When we visited, the museum part of the palace consisted of big walls covered by the paintings of David Alfaro Siquieros and the murals of Diego Rivera. You just feel so tiny looking at them.

“Nueva Democracia,” (New Democracy) 1944, by David Alfaro Siqueiros. (Regina López/YJI)
Front view of “El Tormento de Cuauhtémoc,” (The Torment of Cuauhtémoc) 1950-1951, by David Alfaro Siqueiros. (Regina López/YJI)
“El Hombre Controlador del Universo,” (Man, Controller of the Universe) 1934 by Diego Rivera. (Regina López/YJI)

My father is a history junkie, so I was fortunate enough to have my own tour guide. We made a little circle between the four of us and saw every painting, one by one, hearing my father talk about the time and setting where these masterpieces were made.

As we went by, we created an improvised game where we pinpointed every detail that we found interesting in the painting. It was especially entertaining with Diego Rivera’s work, which is mostly canvas oversaturated with the characters and events of the times he lived in.

“Tercera Internacional,” 1933 by Diego Rivera. (Regina López/YJI)

When we left, we felt different. I think every single person that stepped out of the palace also felt different because we just saw so much. Subconsciously, our eyes widened.

El Palacio de las Bellas Artes is one of those places where you feel special just by being inside of it.

Regina López is a Senior Correspondent with Youth Journalism International.

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