The Artistic Portrayal of the Mexican Revolution and its Effect on the Common Understanding of its Values and Success

With this project, I hope to answer the question of whether or not the US public understanding of Mexican Revolutionary art presents a whitewashed, less radical image of what the revolutionaries and the artists actually believed in. How, if at all, have very radical revolutionary values like workers’ rights, land redistribution, and indigenous rights been transferred to the US understanding of the Mexican Revolution through the works of artists who supported these values? What does the representation of artists such as Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Jose Guadalupe Posada in the US suggest with regards to our attitudes towards Mexican culture since the Revolution? What level of cultural understanding does this artwork provide us with, and does it detract from our comprehension of the political reality in Mexico?  

My interest for this topic stems from my broader interest in Mexican Revolutionary history and in Mexican art from this time period. I also am very interested in the idea of how our society’s interpretation of a such a complex historical event like the Mexican Revolution can be shaped through the artistic medium, and the limitations and consequences in terms of our understanding. Through this project, I hope to gain practice in analyzing this sort of transfer of ideas between cultures.

This topic is very relevant to modern US society because Mexican artists, particularly Frida Kahlo, feature prominently in US popular culture, and she is arguably one of the most widely-known Mexican figures in the United States. Because of her popularity, she is a critical factor in our understanding of the Mexican revolutionary culture in which she lived. It is therefore important to analyze what ideas we are taking from her work and how closely they correlate to her political intentions and the true values of the Mexican Revolution. Furthermore, considering that the Mexican government has largely failed to implement many of the reforms and ideas put forth in the 1917 Constitution, it is important to consider the popular understanding in the US of what those ideas were. If we do have a very shallow, whitewashed understanding, it is arguable that we should try to obtain a more accurate understanding; if we don’t, then we are appropriating the cultures of artists like Frida Kahlo and Jose Guadalupe Posada to suit our own popular culture, concealing their complex political ideas, and ignoring or at least failing to accurately understand the political reality that still ensues today.