Discovering Mexican Muralism: My Mexico City Tour Experience


Muralism in Mexico City: A Bucket List for Art Lovers

When I first arrived in Mexico City a few years ago, I was completely unfamiliar with Mexican muralism.

So when Estacion Mexico offered me a guided tour of Mexican muralism in the center of the capital, I had to look at good old Wikipedia:

Mexican muralism, an art movement initiated by the government after the Mexican Revolution (1910-1920), aimed to depict Mexico’s past, present, and future through large, educational wall murals in public spaces.

These murals, rich in social, political, and historical themes, were led by “The Big Three” artists: Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros, starting in the 1920s. ”

Ah, of course, Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo‘s husband. It’s all right, I know a little about him.

Meet up in front of the magnificent cathedral. It’s impossible to miss the pink T-shirt of Diana, today’s guide.

1st stop: the Secretaria de Educacion Publica

This is the institution in charge of Education in Mexico, where programs and projects are developed for all levels of education, private and public.

It was created in the early 20s, in an attempt to solve the major educational problems facing the country. Indeed, the Mexican revolution (1910-1920), which had taken place to combat social inequality, may have been over, but in a territory where 60 dialects were spoken, 90% of the population was still illiterate.

It was under the leadership of José Vasconcelos (1922 to 1929), commissioned by President Alvaro Obregon, that a vast project of cultural dissemination was launched throughout Mexico, with particular emphasis on rural areas. A major educational and cultural exchange program with other countries on the continent was also launched.

Vasconcelos also supported numerous artists and intellectuals, and eventually succeeded in convincing major artists such as Siqueiros, Orozco and Rivera to settle in the capital and open up new avenues of artistic thought and expression.

It’s easy to see that Diana, our guide, is passionate about the subject. As she introduces some of the 120 Diego Rivera murals in the building, she explains why they are so important: they depict people from the countryside and of modest means (potters, farmers, miners, founders, workers, etc.) from different regions of Mexico.

If this seems rather trivial today, it was quite unusual at the time to offer them such visibility. After years of dictatorship, it underlined the importance of changing their living conditions.

Diego Rivera was also fascinated by traditions. We therefore discover several works that present them, such as dances, the celebration of the Day of the Dead (Dia de Muertos), Holy Week and the corn harvest.

We also learn more about the importance of women during the Mexican Revolution.

tour muralisme mexico
Diana, our guide


Dia de Muertos, by Diego Rivera
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One of Diego Rivera’s frescoes at Mexico’s Secretariat of Public Education
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On the left, a weaver. Diego used a Mayan blue

Diana then takes us to discover the 2nd great muralist: we arrive in front of a huge fresco (never finished for lack of funding) by David Siqueiros, “ Patricios y Patricidas “.

While Diego Rivera’s frescoes were composed of several layers of paint, Siqueiros used more modern techniques and materials.

The result is completely different, but the plastic paint is cracking, making it difficult to restore.

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David Siqueiros’s huge mural
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The other part of the large Siqueiros mural

2nd stop: Antiguo Colegio San Ildefonso

We follow Diana’s pink T-shirt through the streets to the second building nearby: the Colegio San Ildefonso.

This was one of the colony’s most important educational institutions. It later became a school and then a university.

Several important intellectual figures studied in its facilities, among them Frida Kahlo. It was here that she first met Diego Rivera (nothing happened between them at that time, she was still very young), who was to paint a mural.

Diego Rivera’s 1st mural, “La Creación“, can be seen at the Simon Bolivar Theatre. It features many religious elements, which is far from the case in the rest of his works! Please note that photography is strictly forbidden, and the guard’s eyes are wide open.

In the same building, you’ll also discover frescoes by Siqueiros and Clemente Orozco, the third pillar of muralism and the guide’s great favorite. Each of the three artists had distinct relationships and stances regarding the revolutionary movement and the ruling authorities.

The College of San Ildefonso
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One of the courtyards at the Colegio de San Ildefonso
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La Trinidad Revolucionaria by José Clemente Orozco
Cortés y la Malinche, by Orozco

3rd Stop: Palacio Nacional

Last but not least on the tour: the Palacio Nacional, Mexico’s most important political building.

This has been the seat of power since the Aztec empire, when Moctezuma’ s palace was built on the same site!

This is also the site of Diego Rivera‘s greatest work, ” History of Mexico “, created between 1929 and 1935.

This immense fresco presents the history of the country on three walls: pre-Hispanic life, the Spanish conquest, the Mexican Revolution, the American invasion and the French invasion. Diego has also taken care to present his own vision of the future for Mexico in the 20th century, with Karl Marx at the helm.

It features a host of illustrious figures and symbolic elements. It’s worth noting that here, every detail has a purpose, because Diego was a historian and knew his country’s history inside out. This makes the mural all the more fascinating!

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Inside the Palacio nacional
Diego Rivera’s “La historia de Mexico” mural
Diego Rivera’s “La historia de Mexico” mural
Details of Diego’s “La historia de Mexico”
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Details of Diego’s “La historia de Mexico”

But of course, while this impressive mural is the star of the show, there are many other magnificent paintings to be seen, such as the one depicting the Tlatelolco Market, which is packed with detail: doctors, pre-Hispanic products, toys and more.

Diego Rivera’s Tlatelolco market
Diego Rivera’s Tlatelolco market

If you have an interest in muralism or want to learn more about renowned Mexican painters, I highly recommend taking the guided tour.

What I found particularly interesting was to understand the importance of these great names in the socio-political context of the time, and their different stances, far beyond their characteristics as artists.

Book the tour of Mexican muralism

You can book this guided tour in the historic center with Estacion Mexico here:

Where to stay in Mexico City

  • Hostel Mundo Joven Catedral (historic center): one of the best hostels in Mexico City. Clean dorms and rooms, amazing rooftop terrace with bar, great atmosphere and an exceptional view over the cathedral and the Zocalo, starting at 15$usd for a dorm and 32 $usd for a private room!
  • Hotel Villa Condesa (Condesa): if you are looking for a romantic hotel in Mexico City, this is a little oasis in the heart of La Condesa. It is an elegant house with small green terraces and tastefully decorated rooms. Rooms are spacious, breakfast is very good and the service is particularly attentive. Around 160$usd per night!
  • Casa Goliana (Roma Norte): high-end hotel with the best value for money in its category, located in an early 20th century house, typical of the Roma area. Rooftop terrace, comfortable rooms, very attentive staff, and good breakfasts. Around 190$usd per night
  • Four Seasons Hotel Mexico City (Juarez): this 5 star hotel is one of the best hotels in Mexico City, ideal for a business trip or a romantic stay. Located on Paseo de la Reforma between Colonia Juarez and Roma Norte. A large indoor garden, gym, swimming pool, spa, restaurant, and bar, Around 640$usd per night!

My advice
For the best areas and hotels in Mexico City for all budgets, check out my complete guide: Where to stay in Mexico City?

Rent a car in Mexico City

Renting a car is for sure the best way to explore Mexico and make the most of your stay!

While it’s not super useful to visit the city, having a car is a must to discover the rest of the country.

To rent a car, personally, I always use, for a few reasons:

  • You can easily compare the rental cars prices between all the agencies: for sure the easiest way to find the best rate!
  • Cancellation is often offered free of charge: no need to worry if you change your mind
  • Rentalcars offers full insurance coverage at a lower price than the rental companies, so it’s an instant saving with no effort

Simply click on the green button to find your rental car at the best price:

How to find the best price for your flight ticket

Mexico City Airport officially named Benito-Juárez International Airport receives a lot of national and international flights. It is the most important airport in Latin America!

To save money on flight tickets, you can use our flight comparator for Mexico, in partnership with Skyscanner: it’s the guarantee to pay the best price for your international and domestic flights!

Book your trip now and save money!

You’re traveling in Mexico? These articles will help you!

Discover all my articles about Mexico: All my articles to help you plan your trip to Mexico are listed there.

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mexican muralism tour mexico city


I have created this blog to give you all my best tips to plan your next trip to Mexico, regardless of your budget. I share detailed itineraries, advice about places to visit as well as recommendations for transportation, hotels and restaurants. I hope I will also help you to discover amazing off the beaten path destinations in Mexico!

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