Monday, December 12, 2011

And Do You Think I Am On A Bed Of Roses?

The Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City houses some of the finest murals by "Los Tres Grandes" (The Three Great ones), Diego Rivera, Jose Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros, my favorite.

The massive murals 8' to 10' high and 20' wide, depict in powerful images and color, Mexico's turbulent history, its rich Precolumbian past, the Spanish Conquest, War of Independence, the Mexican Revolution, Mexico's role in world history and the cosmos.

One of Siqueiros' best murals depicts the torture of the last Emperor of the Mexica (Aztecs) Cuahtemoc, by the Spanish Conquistadores. Here, Cuahtemoc is pictured being tortured by the Spanish, clad entirely in armor, with no trace of humanity visible. The flames sear his feet and those of a friend, in fervent prayer. Cuahtemos's face is taut, filled with contempt, as he conjures his last ounce of courage.

His eyes appear teary. Every muscle taught. The red flames flicker off the face and bared canines of a snarling dog, and the metal armor of the soldiers holding steel lances. An Indian woman, behind him raises her arms begging for mercy.

When the roomfuls of gold that the Spanish believed the Aztecs possessed fail to materialize, accounts tell that Hernan Cortez, captures Cuahtemoc and with a cohort, bounds and lays them on a slab, lighting a fire to their feet, in an attempt to force them to confess the location of the "hidden gold".

When Cuahtemoc refuses, his partner supposedly begins to weep and cry out in pain, at which point Cuahtemoc turns and stoically says to him, "Do you think I am on a bed of Roses?"

Despite his short reign, after the death of Moctezuma II, (1520-1521) that ended with the conquest of Mexico in May of 1521, his story is told and retold in Mexican history with a sense of pride, symbolizing Mexico's refusal to bow down to foreign domination.

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