Mythic Art: Cuauhtemoc Against the Myth

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Cuauhtemoc Against the Myth, David Alfaro Siqueiros, 1944

Mythic Art
By MISSY ROSENTHAL 

Artist David Alfaro Siqueiros created Cuauhtemoc Against the Myth to illustrate the downfall of Mexican culture due to the arrival of Europeans. Cuauhtemoc, the last ruler of the Aztecs, is synonymous to the death of native culture in Mexico. In the bottom right of the piece sits Quetzalcóatl the serpent G-d, another symbol of the defeat of indigenous Mexicans. Cuauhtemoc Against the Myth attempts to interpret the idea that Europeans and Natives can subsist on the same land in harmony. The horses fused with their riders illustrates the inhuman way Europeans annihilated the Aztecs. The Europeans rationalized their actions through the guise of converting these "savages" to Christianity, as exemplified by the cross and rosary beads. As Cuauhtemoc battles for freedom, his deceased relative Moctezuma prays for salvation.

Siqueiros paints this mural towards the end of the Second World War and the beginning of the rise of fascism in Central and Latin America. Siqueiros himself fought in the Spanish-American war and joined the National League Against Fascism and War as a result. The artist creates this piece as an protest to Fascist regimes and to warn his fellow countrymen to be wary of foreign imperialism especially from the United States.

Cuauhtemoc Against the Myth uses artistic tactics that make the piece successful in meaning. The artist places the central light in the work on Moctezuma in order to express his hope for the peace and prosperity of his descendants. The platform that raises Cuauhtemoc illustrates that the ruler and the Spanish conquistadors are on the same level literally and metaphorically. The Spanish battle using the lord as their weapon whereas Cuauhtemoc uses a mixing of colors to fight symbolizing his cultural identity. Although the pursuits of Cuauhtemoc are not myth, Siqueiros work incorporates blending of colors and three dimensional-looking shapes in order to showcase a deeper meaning than just the subject itself, which makes this piece a work Mythic Art. 

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