With more than one hundred murals located in the university and public and private spaces, Xalapa is the second city in the country where there are more monumental paintings, according to art historians based in the capital of the state of Veracruz. The centenary of muralism, a movement whose origins date back to 1921 in what is now Mexico City, also coincides with the 100th anniversary of estridentismo, an avant-garde movement that allowed Ramón Alva de la Canal to arrive in Xalapa.
The presence of one of the pioneers of Mexican muralism in Veracruz is considered a milestone in this geographical area. He had the vision to create a workshop that later became the Plastic Arts Faculty of the Universidad Veracruzana (UV). Despite the scarce research on regional muralism, it is known that in the 1920s of the last century the city already had a good number of local plastic artists from other parts of the Republic.
By the 1930s, when the League of Revolutionary Writers and Artists (LEAR) was born, with its ideas and some discrepancies with the muralism called by José Vasconcelos, there is a record of the first mural in Xalapa. According to Vicente Espino Jara, chronicler of the city, in 1937 LEAR sent José Chávez Morado, Francisco Gutiérrez and Feliciano Peña to paint the façade of the Normal School, now the Faculty of Economics of the UV.
Vicente Espino highlights the need to make an inventory of the murals in Xalapa since there is no census and there has been no interest in recognizing them as cultural heritage. Some have not been restored and the passage of time is evident. The chronology of this heritage, shared by the historian and the muralist Melchor Peredo, places among the first murals "Four libertarian heroes", by Francisco Gutiérrez; "Let's defend our sovereignty against imperialism", by Chávez Morado, and "Let's fight fascism until we win", by Feliciano Peña; all of them date from 1937.
In Economía-UV the portraits of Yanga, Morelos, Juárez, and Zapata, as well as a critique of North American imperialism, were included. At that time a worldwide struggle against fascism was being written. In "Xalapa, a redoubt of the Mexican muralist revolution", Peredo states that by the mid-1940s, the artists "turned to the themes of support of the country's popular movements and fraternized with the nationalist actions of the post-revolutionary governments".
In this line, in 1956, Ramiro Romo created "Trabajadores del café" ("Coffee Workers"), in the facilities of the company Exportador de Café SA; two years later, Francisco Eppens Helguera, author of the current design of the National Coat of Arms, painted "El héroe de Nacozari" ("The Hero of Nacozari"), in the Glorieta ferrocarrilera (railroad traffic circle). In 1958 one of the most prized works was also completed, "Defense, continuity, and destiny of our culture", by Mario Orozco Rivera, inside the Museum of Anthropology and later transferred to the Enrique C. Rébsamen Veracruzana Normal School.
In one of the busiest sites, the Jáuregui market, Norberto Martínez left for posterity "De la Plaza del Rey al presente" (1959) ("From the Plaza del Rey to the present"). Its particularity is that they are painted mosaics baked at high temperatures and mounted on six panels embedded in concrete slabs. An equally busy place, the small square in the Xallitic neighborhood, is the site of an acrylic mural by Francisco Salmerón Tinajero. It is "Paso de Cortés por Xalapa" (1960) ("Passage of Cortés through Xalapa").
During his time as a professor at the UV, Mario Orozco Rivera also created "Veracruz Revolucionario" (1961) ("Revolutionary Veracruz"), in the old Central Library, and "La lucha obrera" (1962) ("The Workers' Struggle"), in the former building of the Sindicato de Obreros de la Fábrica de El Dique ("Workers' Union of the El Dique Factory"). Also, in the same year, he painted "Liberation", in the old Superior Court of Justice, in the central street of Leandro Valle, and "The Students" (1964), in the Antonio María de Rivera High School.
One of the spaces where three different views on the same subject are combined is the Law School of the UV. There you can see "La ley y la justicia" ("Law and Justice") by Ramón Alva de la Canal, "El derecho como lucha social" ("Law as a social struggle") by Norberto Martínez and "La justicia" ("Justice") by Teodoro Cano. The list goes on, but we will name some of the authors whose work is more visible because of the place where it remains. They are Georges Vinaver, Melchor Peredo, Pepe Maya, Fernando Ramírez Osorio, Pablo Platas and José Hernández Delgadillo.
Despite not being a national author, the North American Sol Levenson had an artistic stay in Xalapa through the Fullbright scholarship and left three murals, one in the School for Foreign Students, another in the facilities of the Master in Artificial Intelligence, and the third, "Veracruz and its university", in the Rectory of the UV. Alberto Beltrán stands out for "Quetzalcoatl and the man of today", which was installed at the Museum of Anthropology and later relocated to the Paseo de Los Lagos. This concrete wall is composed of inlaid earthenware, complemented with natural colored stones and obsidian.
Special mention should be made of Teodoro Cano, a native of the municipality of Papantla, who was trained at the Plastic Arts Workshop created by Alva de la Canal and Alberto Beltrán, as well as at the San Carlos Academy. He was a disciple of Jesús Chávez Morado and Diego Rivera.
There are many murals by Cano, some of them are "Agrarismo veracruzano" ("Agrarianism in Veracruz"), " La psicología como ciencia" ("Psychology as a science"), "Historia de la educación federal" ("History of Federal Education"), "Historia de la Medicina" ("History of Medicine"), "Homenaje a la reforma educativa liberal" ("Homage to the liberal educational reform"), "La psicología frente al hombre" ("Psychology in front of man") and "Historia de las banderas" ("History of the flags").
Cano's rooting not only to the national but also to the ethnic group to which he belonged (Totonaca) is reiterative, proof that identity is achieved from the inside out and never from the outside in.
Among the extensive list, the names of three women with works in spaces dedicated to children stand out. Leticia Tarragó, from Orizaba, painted a mural at the National Institute for the Protection of Children -today the State Water and Sanitation Commission- and the French Sophie Leportier and the visual artist Elsa Beverido painted another one at the Bertha von Glümer kindergarten. Although no longer part of Mexican muralism, whose main representatives are Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, José Clemente Orozco and Juan O'Gorman, the intervention "Históricas" has attracted special attention in Xalapa.
Recently created on the walls of the viaduct of the "Benito Juárez" park, it is seen as a milestone of the feminist movement. Its authors are part of the Colectiva Unidas ("United Collective") and are Oriana Avila, Maria Teresa Gonzalez, Andrea Lira, Ivania Smith, Teresa Miranda, and Sofia Perusquia. In approximately 200 meters ( approximately 656 feet), with different techniques, they remember women who are part of the political history of the state and the country, but also victims of femicide or forced disappearance.
In Xalapa, many young artists are in charge of keeping muralism alive, a new one, with other techniques, but with the same eagerness to capture their vision of part of the local culture and life to share it with a massive public.
Source: El Sol de Orizaba