Last night I walked down to Oaxaca’s Palacio de Gobierno at the south end of the zócalo. This former government palace is now a museum and I was headed up to the second floor to see two more Oaxaca FilmFest3 films. I was early, the building was mostly empty, and so I took the opportunity to really study the mural that graces the walls of the main staircase. Painted in 1980 by Arturo García Bustos, the mural depicts the history of Oaxaca.
Coming up the stairs, to the left, the customs and lifestyle of the Mixtecs, Zapotecs, and Aztecs of pre-Hispanic times unfold.
As you ascend further, on the right wall the Spanish conquest is portrayed.
However, it is the center section of the mural that grabs the attention. Best seen when one reaches the top, here Bustos, pulls out all the stops in representing the one hundred years from the War of Independence through the Reform Movement to the Mexican Revolution.
Featured in the upper right corner of this panel, wearing his signature red bandanna, is War of Independence hero, José María Morelos y Pavón. He can also be seen in the lower right with a printing press, in his role as publisher of Oaxaca’s first newspaper, El Correo del Sur. On the upper left is anarchist and Mexican revolutionary hero, Ricardo Flores Magón. He is also pictured holding a banner reading, Tierra y Libertad (Land and Liberty). Flores Magón is the namesake of the street that borders the west side of the Government Palace.
However, front and center is Oaxaca’s favorite son, Zapotec, former governor of Oaxaca, and Mexico’s much beloved five-term president, Benito Juárez. He and his Oaxaqueña wife, Margarita Maza, hover prominently above his Reform Movement cabinet. The full text of the ribbon is a quote by Juárez, “El respeto al derecho ajeno es la paz” (Respect for the rights of others is peace). It appears on the State of Oaxaca’s coat of arms.
Juárez is also pictured along with the cabinet and third from his right stands another Oaxaqueño, the young, menacing-looking, and far from beloved by the 99%, Porfirio Díaz, trademark epaulettes and all — a portend of things to come.
Following his death in 1872, the city and municipality of Oaxaca honored Benito Juárez by changing its name to Oaxaca de Juárez.
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