In 1810, at the launch of Mexico’s independence movement, ten percent of the country’s population was Afro-descendant. By the end of the century, Afro-Mexicans had become invisible in the national imaginary. The influential treatise The Cosmic Race (1925) by philosopher José Vasconcelos imagined Mexican nationality as predicated on racial mixing (mestizaje) between Indigenous and European. Black Mexicans did not factor in. Certain muralists, however, chief among them Fernando Leal and Fermín Revueltas, engaged in a critical dialogue with nationalism as envisioned by the state, which flattened Indigenous diversity and erased Afro-Mexicans. This paper will discuss how their murals, which were among the first that launched the mural movement, embraced an oppositional view towards state-sanctioned nationalism. Revueltas daringly imaged the Virgin of Guadalupe as Black, while Leal challenged the myth of racial harmony fostered by mestizaje.
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Tatiana Flores is Professor in the Departments of Latino and Caribbean Studies and Art History at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, and Director of Rutgers’ Center for Women in the Arts and Humanities. She is the author of the award-winning book Mexico’s Revolutionary Avant-Gardes: From Estridentismo to ¡30-30! (2013) and curator of the critically acclaimed exhibition Relational Undercurrents: Contemporary Art of the Caribbean Archipelago (2017). A 2017-18 Getty Scholar, Flores received the 2016 Arts Writers book prize from the Andy Warhol Foundation and was the 2007-2008 Cisneros Visiting Scholar at the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies at Harvard University. She is currently President of the Tout-Monde Art Foundation and Past President of the Association for the Study of the Arts of the Present (ASAP). She is co-editor of the forthcoming volume The Routledge Companion to Decolonizing Art History.