Mural painting has deep roots in the history of Mexico. For thousands of years
indigenous people of Mexico, like the Mayans and Aztecs, painted on their temples and
palaces with scenes of everyday life. Some included human sacrifices, battles,
celebrations, dancers, musicians, and the clothing they wore. These murals are
important because they depict in detail the Mayan and Aztec ancient civilizations.
Mexican muralism was born in the 1920s in post-
revolutionary Mexico. In 1921 Diego Rivera returned to
Mexico from Europe to continue his prolific career as an
artist. Rivera soon developed his own style of depicting his
beloved country's history with sweeping brush strokes and
bold colors on Mexico's city walls. Rivera along with fellow
artists Jose Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros were
the most prominent members of the Mexican muralism
movement and were often referred to as "Los Tres Grandes".
After the Mexican Revolution in the 1920s, these three artist were sensitive to the
impact of social and political conditions in Mexico. They used their art as a visual
dialogue with fellow Mexicans from all walks of life. Together, they painted thousands of
murals expressing themselves in their work and their love for their Mexican culture.
Sponsored by the Mexican government
they converted public spaces into vibrant
history lessons and social commentary of
the times. Mexican muralism was the first
major modern art form that originated
outside of Europe and represents one of
the most powerful and significant
achievements of public art in the
Rising in the 1960s during the Civil Rights Movement, the Chicano Movement became a
dynamic force for political and societal change for the Mexican American community.
Muralism became a significant form of expression and activism for Chicano artists and
activists, especially in California. These muralists had their own unique style. Their
murals document Chicano history, express cultural identities, and inspire political and
The pop-art companion to mural art as an omnipresent symbol of barrio expression is
Chicano graffiti. Unlike crude or clever sayings and rhymes written on public walls,
Chicano graffiti consists of purposefully conceived sets of symbols or symbolic words,
notable in their careful, angular
lettering. Barrio gangs generally have
developed their own special symbols —
placas — too denote their territory or
their presence on the turf of other
groups. Some Chicano muralists have
integrated graffiti into their work, at
times incorporating existing graffiti by
painting around the symbols.
Today, Chicanos still use the walls of
public places to place the history, struggles, hopes, needs, and dreams of their people.