Without a doubt, Mexico City is the place to learn about and fall in love with Diego Rivera’s art. His work is on display in some of the city’s most-visited sites, such as Palacio de Bellas Artes, Palacio Nacional and Museo Casa Estudio Diego Rivera y Frida Kahlo.
But don’t skip Secretaria de Educacion Publica (Secretariat of Public Education Main Headquarters) in the historic center of Mexico City. Just a few blocks away from the zocalo (main city square), the public education building is not only free to enter, but visitors are likely to have the whole outdoor art space — containing more than 100 murals by Rivera — to themselves.
In view from the secretariat’s courtyard, these early works by Rivera (completed in the 1920s) depict indigenous festivals, traditional life and the plight of laborers. The scenes reflect the artist’s communist ideals and are rich with great color, composition and detail — I loved analyzing the figures’ attire and hairstyles, the clever cameo appearances of Rivera and so many other small insights typical of his storytelling style.
According to our guide, one mural — showing a sleeping man wrapped in a blanket wearing a sombrero —may be somewhat responsible for the stereotype of the lazy Mexican. That seemed ridiculous to me since Rivera painted countless images of Mexicans engaged in hard labor. It was a lesson in irony and a fine example of public education at work.