segment of wall fresco showing a Mexican market with a woman and child squatting in foreground facing away from viewer, Spaniard at left bending toward woman and another woman at right bending toward child; woman; man; child; outdoor; vegetable
This small panel, which quotes a detail from Rivera’s 1930 fresco cycle in the Palacio de Cortés in Cuernavaca, Mexico, shows an Indian woman and her child bringing a bowl of fish as tribute to the Spanish colonizers. The scene is part of the section of the fresco in which Hernan Cortés, leader of the Spanish colonial forces, oversees the building of his palace by indigenous workers (see illustration). Holding a sword in one hand, Cortés points downward, asserting his authority over the woman and child and other Indian people bringing tribute.
This panel’s meaning is not readily apparent apart from the context of the larger narrative, which confronts the subjugation and forced labor of the indigenous people. The panel’s title—Market Scene—could be interpreted to imply that fair trade is taking place. Rivera, as a Marxist, was interested in issues of economic exchange. He makes clear in the fresco, if not in the smaller panel, that the transaction is coerced.
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