Murales de la Secretaría de Educación Pública

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The Secretariat of Public Education Main Headquarters building (former Convent of la Encarnación) is on the northeast corner of San Ildefonso and República de Argentina streets in the historic center of Mexico City, and used to be part of the largest and most sumptuous convents in New Spain. It was secularized in the 19th century and then taken over by the then-new Secretariat of Public Education after the Mexican Revolution in the early 20th century. The new agency did extensive remodeling work on the building, including covering nearly all the walls of the two inner courtyards with murals. These murals include Diego Rivera’s first large-scale mural project, which he completed in 1928.

Description of the building

The main facade, which faces San Ildefonso Street, is designed to have a classical Greek look. The overall color is white and it has three levels. The decorations on the bottom level have a softer, more rounded appearance but the upper two have sharper lines and a more monumental feel, containing Ionic pilasters. At the top of the facade is a balustrade. In the center, there is a group of sculptures representing the Greek gods ApolloMinerva and Dionysus done by Ignacio Asunsolo, which were placed here to emphasize the building’s now-secular function. At each end of the facade are Aztec and Spanish-style weapons respectively. The side facade is the original. Most of it is simply covered in tezontle, but there are two reliefs in white stone, “The Visit of the Archangel Gabriel” and The Martyrdom of Lawrence of Rome, which were the first of their kind done in Mexico. The belltower is covered in tilework.

The main entrance is marked by three opening with metal grilles that date from the beginning of the 20th century. Inside the entrance, there is a wide nave with a groin vault and two large murals by Roberto Montenegro. There are two interior courtyards that are joined by a stairway that was added by Miguel Constanzó in the 18th century. In the hallway to the first courtyard are allegories of Mexico, SpainIndiaGreece and reliefs that allude to the arts by sculpture Miguel Centurión in the passage to the second courtyard.

The Murals

Covering all of the walls of these two courtyards are murals. 235 panels or 1585.14 m2 of this mural work was done by Diego Rivera between 1923 and 1928. This was Rivera’s first major large-scale mural project. The themes center around workers, and the glorification of all things Mexican, especially the Mexican Revolution. Rivera named the two courtyards “Labor Courtyard” and the other the “Fiesta Courtyard” based on the themes he painted in each. Because he was affiliated with the Communist Party at the time, Rivera painted small hammers and sickles next to his signature on the panels in this building.

The larger of the two is the Labor Courtyard, with the ground floor containing panels such as “Entrance to the Mine,” “Leaving the Mine” The “Sugar Mill””Tehuantepec Bath” “Market Scene” “The Weavers” “The Dyers” “The Liberation of the Rural Worker” and “Smelting: Opening the Oven.” Another work, called “The Rural Teacher” shows teachers working in farming areas. This and the “Liberation of the Rural Worker” relate most directly to the Mexican Revolution. Moving from the ground floor to the first floor, the stairway contains murals of landscapes. To the north by the elevator is a landscape of Tehuantepec, and to the south there is a series of murals that refer to the various landscapes and climates found in Mexico, from the coasts to the mountains.

First-floor panels are dedicated to intellectual pursuits with grisailles depicting chemistry, medicine, geology, electricity and x-rays. There is also an image of a many-armed Hindu-like goddess bearing a hammer and sickle.

In the stairwell to the second floor is a panel called “The Painter, the Sculptor and the Architect” and contains what Rivera considered to be one of his best self-portraits. The grisaille that is on this level is devoting to painting and contains the “four elements”:light (represented by the sun), color (represented by a rainbow), Man and geometry. It is considered to be a synthesis of Rivera’s concept of painting.

The second floor has murals titled “The Life of Zapata” and “This is how the Proletariat Revolution will be” with a communist theme. There are also portraits of heroes of the Mexican Revolution including Emiliano Zapata and Felipe Carrillo Puerto.

The smaller, or Fiesta Courtyard, has murals by Rivera and other artists. Ground floor has the murals that give the courtyard its name “The Deer Dance” “The Corn Fiesta” “May 1 Meetings” With geometric planes and concentration of figures, “The Day of the Dead” is representative Rivera composition. The upper rectangle is occupied by a trio of a peasant, a revolutionary soldier and a worker with the opposite side containing images representing the clergy, militarism and capitalism. Other panels here are “Good Friday on the Santa Anita Canal” and “The Ribbon Dance.”

On the first floor of the Fiesta Courtyard is the coats-of-arms of the different Mexican states painted by Jean Charlot and Amado de la Cueva. On the opposite side of this floor are works by two other painters: “Washerwomen” and “Loadbearers” by Jean Charlot and “The Little Bull” and “The Dance of the Santiagos” by Amado de la Cueva.

The second level contains another Rivera work, “The Arsenal,” which has an image of Frida Kahlo distributing arms to revolutionaries. In the far left section of the panel appears the face of David Alfaro Siqueiros. Generally speaking, this corridor is devoted to revolutionary songs called “corridos” that crown and link the murals.

Another mural of note is that done by Carlos Mérida, who painted a depiction of the Little Red Riding Hood story in the children’s room. Not all of the murals painted here in the first decades of the 20th century have survived. Roberto Montenegro painted a number but only his portrait of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz survives. Venezuelan painter Cirilio Almeida Crespo is represented by only two remaining works, a portrait of Simón Bolivar and frieze containing the coats-of-arms of Latin American republics.

La Encarnación

Luis Gonzalez Obregon facade looking from what was the old La Encarnacion Church

This building was part of the ex-convent of Santa María de la Encarnación del Divino Verbo, commonly referred to simply as “La Encarnación” founded in 1594 by nuns of the Conceptionist Order. It was founded as a convent for Spanish and Criollo women, becoming the largest and the richest in the city, allowing each nun here to have her own apartment with servants. It was able to accommodate guests such as the Marchioness Calderon de la Barca, who declared the convent to be a palace, telling the nuns that of all the convents she had visited in Europe and Mexico, none were as large or fine as this one.

The convent with its church were built between 1639 and 1648, and consecrated in 1645. The project was funded by Alvaro de Lorenzana, who spent 100,000 pesos, an enormous sum at the time. It underwent major repairs in the 18th century due to deterioration. This was done by architect Miguel Constanzó.

Reform War until 1923

Like all other convents and monasteries in Mexico, this convent was disbanded after the Reform War in 1861, but its associated church continued to operate as such until 1917. The property became state property and the complex has housed a number of institutions such as the Jurisprudence School, the National Girls’ School and others until after the Mexican Revolution. From 1911 and 1922, the new Secretariat of Public Education (SEP), took over the building at the corner of San Ildefonso and Rep. de Argentina and extensively remodeled it, hiring engineer Federico Méndez Rivas. Since that time, the SEP has taken over a number of other buildings in the city to house offices, but this one still remains the main headquarters.

Becky Mawson
Becky Mawson
2019-11-07
Verified review
Beautiful space This hotel was perfect and clean with lots of thoughtful touches. The management were really helpful with suggesting things to do during our stay too. It’s a little bit out of the way but only a 30 minute Uber to the historical district so was still easy to get around.
qianis
qianis
2019-05-07
Verified review
A perfect hotel in Mexico City! This is our first time in Mexico, we booked Mex Suites Casa Azul B&B for 4 nights, we enjoyed it so much in the end we extended our staying to a week.The hotel is located at a mid class neighborhood area, where you can experience a real Mexico City rather than only the tourist part. This area is really safe, we walk on the street at night time with no worries at all. There are a couple of convenience stores just a few steps away. It takes about 20mins to Uber to the airport and 15mins to downtown.Maurice is such a great host and a wonderful person. He helped us a lot and we felt so lucky to get to know him. We came to Mexico without any plans and without knowing nothing about Mexico. Maurice helped us made our trip gradually during our stay, not just in Mexico City but also the whole country.We love taking Metrobus a lot, it is a great way to explore the city. Maurice gave us a metro card on our first day, which is super helpful.We hope we can come back to visit Maurice again in the future:)
campbells05
campbells05
2018-01-15
Verified review
Comfortable, peaceful and great host I spent 3 nights here in early December as a single female traveller. The owner Mauricio has converted his former business building into this very comfortable and peaceful oasis in Mexico City.My room on the second level was large and beautifully decorated with traditional Mexican tiles, pottery and rugs. The bed was comfortable and there was a microwave and fridge in the room. The personalised welcome note, bottle of wine and fruit were nice touches. My room was at the back away from the road (which is a reasonably quiet side street). It only had a window in the bathroom so it was a bit dark but this didn't bother me and allowed me to relax away from the chaos and noise of the city! There is a shared guest dining area for breakfast with a kitchen and also a tiny outside terrace where I enjoyed sharing my wine with a fellow sole female traveller.Mauricio is a thoughtful host who shared interesting insights into Mexico and its history. He is a former chemical engineer who studied in the USA and is now developing an eco-tourism experience in Belize. He has a wide range of interests and I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with him. He was very helpful in providing suggestions for what to see, advice about safety and transport options, and can also organise a private driver for a tour to Teotihuacan at a reasonable cost.I felt very safe staying here and highly recommend this place for sole female travellers and first time visitors to Mexico. It is about 30-40 minutes from the airport and Mauricio gives useful instructions for where to catch an Uber (which is safe and a bit cheaper than taxis).
Cartelita V
Cartelita V
2017-08-04
Verified review
Superbe Un petit coin de paradis au cœur de Mexico... Un très bel accueil, des conseils avisés de la part de Mauricio le patron et beaucoup de tranquillité. La suite Dali que nous avions est très spacieuse, très bien équipée. La décoration de cette maison est typique et chaleureuse. Les petits déjeuners sont parfaits. Promis, nous reviendrons!
Kristin P
Kristin P
2017-07-15
Verified review
Beautiful, great staff, will be coming back! We spent four nights here on a trip to Cuernavaca last week. We cannot say enough good things about this hotel. First, the people who work here are lovely. A+ service. (for example, one night at midnight I was feeling poorly and they gave us phone numbers for clinics, doctors and pharmacies, and made phone calls for us to be sure they could accommodate if needed). The rooms are lovely- all decorated with different regions of Mexico. Each room is unique. We were in a room with Guerrero furnishings and I wanted to take everything home with me! They have two pools, both lovely, and a nice little restaurant. Prices are modest. This is a great hotel for families. We will be back!!! Oh, we love Patricia...I'm not sure what her role is, but she showed us 10+ rooms so we could see the furnishings. She is the epitome of excellent service!
EviBr
EviBr
2017-07-10
Verified review
The friendliest hotel owners ever!! We just finished our stay at casa azul and we felt blessed to have stayed there. Mauritio and Ely, the owners, go out of their way to help their guests. We had the unfortunate experience that our luggage did not make it to Mexico City after our long flight. One of our suitcases arrived at the hotel in the middle of the next night. Ely woke up to handle this and never complained about it. Unfortunately the other suitcase was missing. As from that point, Ely did everything she could to help me, she called a million times to every possible service that could help us, which is obviously a frustrating job that I would not be able to handle myself. Meanwhile she insisted that we took the time to explore the city instead of waiting around. In the end she was the one that got me my suitcase back and we were so so great-full!!! Also, besides this, upon arrival, Mauritio took the time to give us all kind of suggestions on how we could make the most out of our short stay in MC. He gave us maps, a metro card, tips on restaurants and so much more. We had a truly wonderful stay despite our troubles and we really cannot thank this couple enough. If we ever go back to MC, without a doubt we will be staying here!!!
Jennifer L
Jennifer L
2016-10-17
Verified review
Lugar lindo! Adorei a decoração! Estilo casa colonial mexicana, do jeito que imaginava. Equipe nota 1000! O Mauricio é super solicito e explica TUDO sobre a cidade! Sempre tem água no quarto e vários agradinhos sutpresa. Bairro tranquilo. Quarto grande com linda decoracao mexicana e ótimo banheiro e ducha! O ambiente é muito tranquilo! Fiquei encantada pela a casa!Para o meu gosto o colchão era duro e por esse motivo não dormi bem, o que não incomodou outras pessoas do grupo. Não é tão perto do metrô quando se está com pessoas idosas. Usamos muito o Uber e o preço é bem acessível. Café da manhã é a lá carte, mas bem servido, tem fruta, suco, mas tb não é minha opção preferida, pois gosto de escolher na hora.
Betthillo
Betthillo
2016-09-19
Verified review
Excellent for relaxation Excellent family run small hotel...mexican ambiance...good for relaxing after running in the city...close by top and also neighborhood bars and restaurants..sure to be back. Good price range. Don't expect amenities from a big hotel as bar or exercise room.