Oaxaca City is home to some very talented graffiti artists. One day, I hope to go through the years of photos I’ve been taking of the city’s walls, but for now, here’s the short Centennial Edition of street art depicting heroes of the Mexican Revolution that began in November of 1910. There’s more out there, but I just happened to have a camera on me when passing these.
The image to the right is of the Oaxacan-born revolutionary journalist and anarchist Ricardo Flores Magón. He is often referred to as one of the intellectual founders of the Mexican Revolution. He was chief editor of the newspaper Regeneración and his strident stance in opposition to the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz (another native of Oaxaca) led to multiple arrests in Mexico and exile in the United States.
Exile did not treat Flores Magón well. The US administration at the time was close to the Mexican dictator and found ways to make sure the revolutionary journalist spent years in prison there as well. His overt anarchism in later life also attracted negative attention from the authorities – as it did for his close friend Emma Goldman. In 1918, he was arrested and sentenced to 20 years for violating sections of the World War I-era Espionage Act.
Ricardo Flores Magón died a political prisoner in Leavenworth Penitentiary on November 21, 1922. His remains were later repatriated to Mexico, where they were buried in the Rotunda of Illustrious Persons…an honor the anti-authoritarian may have actually opposed were he given a choice.
The person depicted in the image to the right is campesino hero Emiliano Zapata. He is best known for leading a revolutionary army in Southern Mexico under the cause of land redistribution. A motto for many of his followers was (and still is) “the land belongs to those who work it”.
This particular mural is located next to the IV Centenario market in Oaxaca City and faces the house where the Porfirio Díaz, the dictator the revolution ousted, was born.
General Emiliano Zapata was lured into an ambush and killed April 10, 1919. Social movements across Mexico often mark the date with commemorative marches.
One of Zapata’s most significant and lasting contributions was Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution, which enshrined the agrarian reform for which he and his army fought. Article 27 was itself “counter-reformed” in 1992 as part of a pre-condition of Mexico signing on to the North American Trade Agreement – or NAFTA. On January 1st 1994 – the day NAFTA went into effect – an indigenous rebel army in the southernmost state of Chiapas launched an armed uprising. They are known as the modern-day Zapatistas.
The words spray painted below the Zapata busts call for the now ex-governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz (URO for short) to be put in prison. Ruiz Ortiz is widely despised among Oaxaca’s social movements for repression of activists and – most notably – for refusing to step down during a popular uprising that largely paralysed government activities in the state capital for the second half of 2006.
The metallic structure on the left is a clock type thing that was installed back in 2009 on the side walk next to the cathedral to countdown the days, hours, minutes and seconds until the Bicentennial on September 16th. Here it is on September 23, 2010 just after a protest.
The spray painted message demands freedom for political prisoners. The clock – which still stands in zeros – has become a favorite target for spray paint, stickers, and posters.
The image to the right evokes the “Soldaderas” or “Adelitas”; women who took up arms in the Mexican Revolution.
The photo is from July 2, 2010 – two days ahead of historic elections in Oaxaca in which the Party of the Institutional Revolution (PRI) lost the gubernatorial race for the first time in more than 8 consecutive decades. The image was painted on the façade of the Government Palace, in the spot now occupied by a camp of displaced persons from San Juan Copala.
If you liked this post, feel free to leave a comment. It may provide me with the motivation I need to edit the photos of street art accumulated over the years of living here.