Posts Tagged ‘murals’

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Murals Revitalize One of Puebla’s Oldest Barrios

Sunday, April 8th, 2012

Photograph courtesy of Puebla Ciudad MuralColectivo Tomate — a group of young creatives who seek to “generate social projects that benefit the city of Puebla using art as their flag” — last year began working to revitalize Xanenetla by painting murals that vividly depicted the neighborhood’s identity. In the first two stages of the project, dubbed Puebla Ciudad Mural, some 30 artists produced more than two dozen paintings celebrating the barrio’s history, its lost traditions (and a few that remain), its storied former residents, and the hopes and fears of its current inhabitants. In the third and final stage of the project, which is currently under way, Colectivo Tomate and its volunteers plan to paint even more murals, bringing the total count to 55.

“This project was created by citizens and for citizens,” organizers say. “Puebla Ciudad Mural is an example of people working together for their city, bringing together hearts, minds, hands, and efforts for their neighbors.”

The murals are divided into three themes: Who We Were, Who We Are, and Who We Want to Be.

The history of Xanenetla dates back to end of the 17th century, when it was founded by Tlaxcaltecas who relocated to Puebla to work in construction. The site, which was the last indigenous settlement along the San Francisco River, was chosen for its location: a hillside from which people could extract the mud needed to make bricks. The Tlaxcaltecas called this mud xalnene, from which Xanenetla gets its name. The settlement gradually stretched across the river and later became part of the city of Puebla. In the 1970s, the San Francisco River was diverted into an underground tube (to make way for Boulevard 5 de Mayo) and later the Calzada Zaragoza thoroughfare was built, leaving the emblematic neighborhood relatively isolated from the rest of Puebla’s urban core.

Photograph courtesy of Puebla Ciudad MuralAccording to local lore, the barrio played a role in the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862. When Napoleon III’s troops tried to flee the fighting through Xanenetla, they got lost in its alleys — and were captured. Mexico’s initial victory in Puebla, which was ultimately occupied by the French for five years (1862–67), is considered to be one of the more significant moments in North American war history, in part because Mexico’s unexpected triumph in Puebla likely prevented the French from reinforcing the Confederate Army during the U.S. Civil War. This year marks the 150th anniversary of Cinco de Mayo.

In 1987, UNESCO declared 600 blocks of Puebla’s historic city center — including Xanenetla — as a World Heritage Centre. The Xanenetla barrio today is visually unique, mixing 16th- and 17th-century architecture with the contemporary urban art of Puebla Ciudad Mural.

Photograph courtesy of Puebla Ciudad MuralEach muralist — some local, some from other parts of the world — is carefully chosen an assigned a facade. The artist gets to know the neighborhood and the family who lives or works in that particular building and then creates a design that speaks about both, a process that engages everyone in the project. The larger goals are to unite the community and to instill a renewed sense of pride in the neighborhood, a desire to beautify the area, and a new appreciation for its history. Over the long term, Puebla Ciudad Mural aims to reactivate the economy and rebuild the neighborhood through its public spaces.

If you’d like to help paint the latest murals, Colectivo Tomate and its volunteers will be working alongside local residents April 7 to 14 from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. All you need to do is show up. The inauguration of the new artwork is set for April 15 from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. (Update: For more photographs of the murals and images from the event, click here.)

You may also visit Xanenetla to see the murals anytime. Start your walking tour at the corner of 4 Norte and Boulevard 5 de Mayo. From there, let the murals guide you along four blocks filled with history and color. Or download this map.

—Vica Amuchastegui and Rebecca Smith Hurd

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Murals Triumph Over Time at Casa del Deán

Friday, November 25th, 2011

Each sibyl in this mural carries a banner depicting a different moment of the final hours of Jesus’ life.Although many of Mexico’s best-known muralists — Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, José Clemente Orozco, Juan O’Gorman — made their marks in the first half of the 20th century, muralism in Mexico began more than a millennium ago. Long before the Spaniards arrived, pre-Hispanic civilizations painted pictures on walls to express their beliefs and rituals: For example, the 180-foot-long mural Bebedores de Pulque inside the Great Pyramid of Cholula depicts masked figures drinking pulque, the fermented nectar of the maguey plant, during a feast or ceremony. During and after the Conquest, murals were used to evangelize Christianity to the natives. Today these paintings provide fine, lasting examples of Colonial art.

Some of the most important murals left behind can be found inside the Casa del Deán in Puebla. Aside from their artistic value, the 400-year-old frescoes are the oldest non-religious murals registered in Mexico.

The Casa del Deán originally belonged to Don Tomás de la Plaza Goes, who was dean of Puebla from 1553 to 1589. As such, Goes was second in command to the bishop — and held the keys to the Cathedral. Having to live close to the church, he built his home right around the corner. The house, which historian Enrique Cordero y Torres classified as the city’s oldest still standing, remained intact until the 1950s, when it was sold and largely converted into a movie theater. During the renovations, however, elaborate murals were uncovered in two outlying rooms and, after much lobbying from artists and intellectuals nationwide, the space was preserved and turned into a museum.

The building, designed by architect Francisco Becerra, features a Renaissance-style façade with a coat of arms above wrought-iron balcony. Inside, a grand stone staircase leads to two rooms decorated with murals. The murals were created by artists called Tlacuilos (a Nahuatl word), whose names are unknown. Their work has been restored twice, most recently in 2009. Before entering the first room, visitors can view a set of photographs that show the murals as they were found and the restoration process, providing a fair before-and-after comparison.

Part of the wrap-around mural in La Sala de las Sibilas at the Casa del Deán.The first room, called La Sala de las Sibilas, contains a wrap-around mural of a parade of sibyls — female prophets from Greek mythology — who narrate the passion of Christ. Each sibyl wears 16th-century clothing and carries a banner depicting a different moment of the final hours of Jesus’ life. “The central scene on each of the four walls is flanked by borders demarcated by a cord, a method that was used to frame the content of murals in Franciscan convents, evoking the habit of St. Francis of Assisi and underscoring the strong influence of the Order and natives in the region,” an INAH sign tells visitors. “Note that the definition of the formal design with a black line is a style that has its origins in pre-Hispanic mural painting techniques.”

The murals in La Sala de los Triunfos narrate Petrarch's poem, “The Triumphs.” Despite its Christian imagery, the mural is considered to be nonreligious because it features heretic themes (i.e., Greek Mythology) and non-Biblical metaphors, even though it was ordered by a Catholic dean. The mural also mixes European symbols with indigenous ones, such as the regional animals, insects, flowers, birds, and fruits that adorn its friezes.

The second room, called La Sala de los Triunfos, could be considered downright blasphemous, given that it narrates “The Triumphs,” a poem written by Italian humanist Petrarch in 1352 and banned by the Church in 1575. The murals depict the nature of human life, proving its weakness in matters of love, chastity, time, death, and fame (or divinity). This room is believed to have been Don Tomás’s bedroom, and the murals were supposedly constant reminders of his mortality. —Vica Amuchastegui

The Casa del Deán is located a short walk from the zócalo at 16 de Septiembre #505. Hours: Tuesdays to Sundays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is 31 pesos.

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