About 200 farmers stormed the Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City on Tuesday to demand the removal of a painting that depicts a nude and feminized Emiliano Zapata riding a sexually aroused horse.
“Burn it, burn it,” farmers shouted while inside the auditorium and museum in the capital’s historic center.
“It denigrates the personality and career of [revolutionary] General Emiliano Zapata by presenting him in a way that I’m ashamed to describe . . . on a horse, without clothing, with high heels,” said Federico Ovalle, leader of one of the farmers’ groups demanding the removal of La Revolución from the Zapata Después de Zapata (Zapata After Zapata) exhibition.
“. . . Like almost all farmers in Mexico we’re followers of the general and we think that presenting this painting is grotesque, it scorns and shows contempt for the country’s campesinos,” he added.
Antonio Medrano, leader of another farmers’ group, said the disgruntled farmers were even prepared to pay for the painting – “if this thing has any value” – in order to get rid of it.
Another farmer described the painting by Chiapas artist Fabian Cháirez as “an insult to our revolutionary leaders, adding “the painting must be removed.”
The farmers said that if the painting and other artworks depicting Zapata that they consider offensive are not withdrawn from the exhibition within two days, they will launch both “radical” and “legal” action.
Descendants of Zapata announced on Monday they will sue Cháirez, as well as the Secretariat of Culture and the Palace of Fine Arts for using the painting in a promotion for the exhibition.
Shortly after the farmers stormed into the palace, director Miguel Fernández Félix addressed the men, telling them that the exhibition represented a variety of views.
He also invited the farmers to look through the exhibition in order to reach a more informed point of view. But they declined the offer and yelled insults at the palace director.
According to media reports, a group of farmers verbally and physically attacked members of the LGBTI community who had gathered outside the palace to show support for the inclusion of the painting in the exhibition that commemorates the 100th anniversary of Zapata’s death.
Later Tuesday, the Secretariat of Culture and the Palace of Fine Arts said in a joint statement that they condemned “any act of violence that violates human rights and freedom of expression and creation.”