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Lesson 4 : Many Viewpoints / Part 1: Controversy

The Artist's Intention

The Spanish
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 blood … and if you had Indian blood you were further down on the social scale."

Zapata and 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 Revolution.

Click to see a mural by Diego Rivera that shows Zapata and some of the injustices against which he fought.

New Mexico
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.

Jiménez' Intention
"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'."