Members of a Mexican Labor Union recently took violent exception to the artistic appropriation of Revolutionary Leader Emiliano Zapata by an LGBTQ+ painter.
Hyperallergenic could only clutch its pearls and collapse fainting.
A protest by representatives of farmworker unions at the Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City escalated into a violent confrontation with LGBTQ+ activists on Tuesday, December 10, around noon. The protests were sparked by a painting of Mexican revolutionary leader Emiliano Zapata by artist FabiÃ¡n ChÃ¡irez, on view in the exhibition Emiliano. Zapata DespuÃ©s de Zapata.
â€œLa RevoluciÃ³nâ€ (2014), which depicts a nude Zapata donning a pink hat and high heels suggestively straddling a horse, was condemned by members of the UniÃ³n Nacional de Trabajadores AgrÃcolas (UNTA) and other similar agricultural groups for its characterization of the revolutionary. The clashes around ChÃ¡irezâ€™s painting come at a tumultuous time for the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes y Literatura (INBAL), the larger institution that oversees the museum, which was closed by unionized workers protesting alleged lack of payments on Wednesday morning. The museum remains closed to the public as of this afternoon.
According to El Universal, Ãlvaro LÃ³pez RÃos, a representative of UNTA, led a storming of the museum around noon on Tuesday to demand that the painting be removed from view and destroyed. Protesters blocked the entrance and chanted â€œBurn it, burn it!â€; they later hurled homophobic insults and other slurs at members of LGBTQ+ communities who had approached the scene in counter-protest. One of them was journalist and activist Antonio Bertran, whom LÃ³pez RÃos hit with a water bottle. A harrowing video shows another young man being violently kicked and beaten by protesters outside the museum.
Hyperallergic spoke to Luis Vargas Santiago, curator of the exhibition Emiliano. Zapata DespuÃ©s de Zapata, which hosts the contested painting. Organized in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Zapataâ€™s death, the show includes 141 works that trace the life of images of the leader. â€œLa RevoluciÃ³nâ€ is included in a section titled â€œContemporary Revolutions,â€ which focuses on representations of Zapata created in the last 50 years. Many of the works in that grouping, says Vargas, speak to cultural developments in the 1980s and â€™90s in Mexico, when many artists began to create unconventional, and often deliberately feminine, representations of male historical figures. â€œChÃ¡irezâ€™s painting proposes that other representations of heroes are possible, ones that depart from virile, hegemonic masculinity. There can be revolution in other kinds of bodies,â€ says Vargas.
ChÃ¡irezâ€™s representation in particular has incensed those who prefer to remember only a conventionally masculine image of Zapata, widely known as a principal figure of the Mexican Revolution, an early and important advocate for peasant rights in Mexico, and the namesake of the Zapatista movement. To farmworkers and ordinary Mexicans alike, he remains a beloved symbol of empowerment for poor and historically marginalized communities. …
â€œWhat this polemic reveals is that Mexico is still filled with homophobic machos. Because what bothered people was not an image of a Zapata â€˜mandilÃ³n,â€™ a barbaric Zapata, or even the cannibalistic Zapata that appears in revolutionary cartoons,â€ reflects Vargas, describing other works in the show. â€œWhat bothered people was an effeminate Zapata.â€
Vargas recounts that many of the members of agricultural unions who protested on Tuesday claimed ownersship of Zapataâ€™s image. They were invited into the museum to view the entire exhibition, which also includes traditional images of the leader, but they refused.