Mural: The Arrival of Cortés, Palacio Nacional de Mexico

Diego Rivera

The last of the corridor panels

This is the last in the viewing sequence as well as the last panel that Rivera painted in the Palacio. After idealizing various pre-Hispanic cultures in the preceding panels and generally eliminating any negative elements (their wars, human sacrifices, and subjugation of fellow indians), he depicts in dramatic fashion the violence and exploitation of the Spanish conquerors. Natives hanging in the background, the branding of the native in the foreground, and the reduction of the indians to slaves and pack horses show the cruelty and savagery of the Conquest. The scene above left depicts the first religious service held on the coast of Veracruz.

Caricature of Cortés

Bones, said to be those of Cortés, led some to conclude that he was humpbacked, deformed, and syphilitic. The objection to this view is that it implicitly lowers those he conquered as well.

Indians as slaves whipped into submission or hanged for disobedience or rebellion

In the center is La Malinche (Doña Marina), a native woman who became Cortés' mistress and mother of his child Martín. Malinche knew both the (Aztec) Nahuatl language and Maya, thus enabling Hernán Cortés to communicate in both. She became a very valuable interpreter and counselor. The blue-eyed child staring outward at us represents the mixture of the races.

The branding of a native and the payment of tribute

Even the dogs are vicious!

Part of the grisaille below the panel--also satirizing Cortés

Works Consulted or Quoted:
Goldman, Shifra M. Dimensions of the Americas: Art and Social Change in Latin American and the United States. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1994.
Luis-Martín Lozano and Juan Rafael Coronel Rivera. Diego Rivera: The Complete Murals. Taschen, 2009.
Antonio Rodríguez. Diego Rivera: Mural Painting. Mexico City: Fondo Editorial de la Plástica Mexicana, 1988.
Official guide [pamphlet] at site.

Go to Rivera Murals Index.

Go to the Mexico Index.

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© 2010 Mary Ann Sullivan. I have photographed (on site), scanned, and manipulated all the images on these pages. Please feel free to use them for personal or educational purposes. They are not available for commercial purposes.