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Zapata to the Peasant Mind, Essay Example

Pages: 1

Words: 378

Essay

Hero Worship, Devil Worship: Zapata to the Peasant Mind

It is hardly surprising that the Orozco murals of Zapata generate controversy.  On one level, any representation at all of the man must create conflict, as his character is so open to interpretation.  On another, the murals are marked by powerful and seemingly deliberate ambiguity.  As has been noted, the peasants’ response to Zapata at the door could be seen as terrified, elated, despairing, or anything in between.  As much as this ambiguity bothers critics, however, I think they miss the main thrust of Orozco’s work.  It is, in my opinion, all about the ambiguity, and the artist wanted to convey the entire universe of reaction generated by the outlaw leader.  All of it must be represented because, in the minds of the Mexican common people, all of it was true.

The more I actually examine the murals, in fact, the more I am convinced of this.  There is simply too much contrast to be accidental, just as each image detail is very direct.  A knife held up to Zapata’s eye blatantly indicates hostility or dread.  At the same time, the peasants embracing on the floor seem to be expressing profound relief.  All of it is primitive and raw, so much so that the hut has no meaning; the doorway behind Zapata could easily be an opening in a grove of trees.  What matters is his central, overpowering position.  Equally importantly, Orozco’s Zapata is all presence and mysterious force, revealing nothing of character or intent.  This is the key, because he may be savior or devil.  He is whatever the peasants believe him to be and, again, that belief goes to what the “truth” of any legendary leader is.  They are all largely a kind of myth, so Zapata represents a pattern or process common to all humanity.  It is all the more interesting to see “no key” as the key, because this approach has the ironic effect of rendering the power of Zapata a passive thing.  He is created by the response of the peasants in Orozco’s murals just as he was created by how the Mexican people, idolizing or demonizing him, saw him.  To look for any other key here, I believe, is to ignore the artist’s brilliant perspective.

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