Jiménez reminds us that the Spanish came through what
is now New Mexico in the late 1500s, long before the Pilgrims
arrived at Plymouth Rock. New Mexico, Texas, and other areas
on the southwestern part of the United States were part of
Mexico and before that, part of New Spain. Many settlers came
with Spanish land grants and were the elite. They were educated
and had the land. Also they "made a big deal about not
mixing with the Indians." At that time Mexican society
was divided into 16 different castes. In that caste system
"you were higher up in society if you had more European
and if you had Indian blood you were further
down on the social scale."
the Mexican Revolution
Jiménez says that we are taught that Emiliano Zapata
was fighting for land in the Mexican Revolution of 1910. He
explains that Zapata was also fighting for a place for people
with Mexican blood in Mexican society.
Click to see a poster from the Mexican
Click to see a mural by Diego
Rivera that shows Zapata and some of the injustices against
which he fought.
According to Jiménez the area that is now New Mexico
was an isolated area far from the capitol of Mexico City.
People identified with the Spanish settlers, even after the
area became part of the United States. In the Mexican Revolution
the people of New Mexico "didn't get radicalized. The
Revolution didn't reach them in the same way. After the Revolution
of 1910 all these Mexican peasants are fleeing Mexico for
better economic [opportunities], or just like my own family,
just to survive, not to be killed. No matter what their social
status in Mexico, when they came here they were at the bottom
of the labor force."
Click to see a painting
made in New Mexico when it was still part of Mexico.
"I really wanted to address that situation in New Mexico.
I think it's pretty destructive. So I did. That's what the
controversy in Albuquerque was about."
When Jiménez flew into Albuquerque to present his drawing
to the panel who would approve or disapprove the idea for
the Southwest Pieta, opponents indicated that the meeting
was closed. Jiménez replied that, since a grant from
National Endowment for the Arts was supporting the project,
they were getting public money, so it couldn't possibly be
a closed meeting.
The panel voted to approve the
piece. According to Jiménez, "It was the beginning
of warfare with the government then, because the big backers
for the mayor were from the socially elite community of New
Mexico. The next day the headline read "Artist is a liar'."