17 | ENE | 2020
Emiliano Zapata’s painting sparks homophobic controversy
Emiliano Zapata was a leader of the Mexican Revolution – Photo: File photo/EL UNIVERSAL

Emiliano Zapata’s painting sparks homophobic controversy

10/12/2019
19:15
Newsroom
Mexico City
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In the painting “The Revolution,” Fabián Cháirez represented Emiliano Zapata from another perspective: naked, with a pink hat, and wearing high heels

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The poster for the exhibition "Emiliano. Zapata after Zapata” promoted by the Culture Ministry caused controversy because it includes a painting that represents the Revolutionary military in a different way.

In the painting “The Revolution,” Fabián Cháirez represented Emiliano Zapata from another perspective: naked, with a pink hat, wearing high heels, and riding a horse with an erection.

The piece is part of the exhibition that will be available until February 16 in the Museum of the Palace of Fine Arts of the National Institute of Fine Arts and Literature (INBAL). In addition, it was used by the Culture Ministry to promote the exhibition with a poster it shared on its Facebook and Twitter accounts.

In both platforms, the image caused controversy.

However, the piece is not new. It is a 30x20 cm oil on canvas from 2014 that Fabián Cháirez presented in the José María Velasco Gallery between 2015 and 2016.

Cháirez was called some months ago by INBAL to be part of the exhibition that is presented for the hundredth anniversary of the death of Zapata.

In an interview, the artist said that he had not had any problem since the presentation of the piece, he only remembers that in the José María Velasco Gallery, they asked him to erase the horse’s erection, although, for this occasion, no authority told him to do anything.

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“The controversy that sparked yesterday is interesting to me because there are people who think that the feminine, the race, or the social class are topics that can be used as offenses or insults, and in this case what it shows is misogyny. The feminine causes them repulsion with good reason: we are in an ultra sexist society. There are some people who experience discomfort from bodies that don’t obey the rules. In this case, where is the offense? They see an offense because (Zapata) is feminized,” he says.

The artist adds that his idea to represent Zapata with these characteristics came after he noticed that there are no images of the Revolutionary man in which he is not linked with concepts like virility and masculinity.

 
 
 
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Una publicación compartida de Fabian Chairez (@fabian_chairez) el

“We always see Zapata from the pictures he was taken; it is strange to find others in which his masculinity is not glorified, and this is because the image of the hero is linked to hegemonic masculinity.”

Cháirez points out that Luis Vargas Santiago, curator of the exhibition, was who invited him four months ago to be part of it.

The artists accepted; however, a week before the opening of the exhibition, Cháirez was called to a meeting in which he remembers were different authorities from INBAL, as well as Miguel Fernández Félix, director of the Museum of the Palace of Fine Arts.

“I think that meeting was not necessary. They told us that INBAL had some difficulties to present “The Revolution.” In the end, the piece was a bit segregated in the exhibition out of fear of the reaction of the public; however, I thank them for the space and the plurality, although that also says a lot of the situation of society nowadays.”

For his part, Jorge Zapata González, grandson of Emiliano Zapata, said he will sue Cháirez and INBAL for exhibiting the “The Revolution” painting.

“What we have come to expose is the foolery they’ve made by exhibiting a picture of our General in Bellas Artes. An unknown painter whom I think wants to be famous by presenting our General as gay. As a family, as a town, where we are completely Zapatistas, we are not going to allow it. We’re going to sue both the painter and the head of Bellas Artes for exposing the image of our general in that way,” he declared.

“We are working on the lawsuit, but for us, as a family, it is to denigrate the figure of our General by painting him as gay. I have nothing against gay people; many of them are my friends. I don’t know why they have exposed the figure of our General in that way in a place as important as Bellas Artes, and we will not allow it.” he said.

Tens of persons, who said to belong to the National Union of Agriculture Workers (UNTA), have blocked the entrance to the Museum of the Palace of Fine Arts and demand authorities to take down the painting by Fabián Cháirez.

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Miguel Fernández Félix asserted that he will invite the protesters to dialogue and will invite them to visit the exhibition.

The official said that it is not time to talk about strengthening security in the exhibition and he insisted on inviting the protesters.

The protesters, who assert to be under the lead of Álvaro López Ríos, said they will not move from the entrance of the museum until Cháirez’s painting is taken down. “Burn it! Burn it! Burn it!” are some of their cries.

López Ríos asserts that farmers are angry with EL UNIVERSAL for publishing on the front page the image that “denigrates” the Revolutionary leader. He also asserts that they will show their discontent. He said they will not accept to see the piece, nor to visit the exhibition, and that they will not move from the entrance.

Today, the director of INBAL, Lucina Jiménez, presented the Fine Arts Medal to Rodolfo Reyes in the Manuel M. Ponce Hall of the Palace of Fine Arts. The event was delayed for an hour.

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In addition, the demonstrators have threatened not to allow anyone to leave the venue. Until now, there are nearly 100 people from the dance community in the hall.

Lucina Jiménez declared to media outlets that “the artist has the right to freedom and that curators have the right to build a different vision of a Mexican character” and that is an ideal moment to strengthen dialogue.

According to INBAL authorities, the exhibitions “Emiliano. Zapata after Zapata” and “Avant-garde Networks” are closed.

The demonstrators of the UNTA and the Independent Central of Agriculture Workers and Peasants (CIOAC) who are protesting in the Palace of Fine Arts attacked physically and verbally a group of LGBT+ activists that arrived at the venue to defend the exhibition of “The Revolution” by Fabián Cháirez.

Outside the lobby of Bellas Artes, one of the activists was hit by the farmers and made his nose bleed. The UNTA and CIOAC protestors, who have demanded to take down and even burn the controversial painting, have also made homophobic commentaries like “Make those faggots leave! Let’s see if they can work in the field! They want to be respected and they haven’t worked in the field!” and later said, “We’re going to beat them.”

Amidst the attack, one of the protestors attacked physically Antonio Díaz, a reporter of EL UNIVERSAL.

Due to the violent events, the Palace of Fine Arts informed that the conference “Conceiving the exhibition ‘Emiliano. Zapata after Zapata” with curator Luis Adrián Vargas would be postponed.

On Wednesday, the Culture Ministry announced in a statement that it reached an agreement with Emiliano Zapata’s relatives to keep open the exhibition “Emiliano. Zapata after Zapata” “as it is,” although next to the controversial piece by Fabián Cháirez, “The Revolution,” there will be an informative text written by the Zapata family expressing their disagreement with this interpretation. In addition, they agreed to retire the piece from the official promotion of the Culture Ministry and INBAL.

The Ministry informed that the meeting took place according to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s orders to dialogue with the family.

“In the meeting, diversity was supported and violence against the LGBTQIA community was condemned and their rights defended,” according to the statement.

This meeting was attended, on behalf of the Culture Ministry, its director Alejandra Frausto Guerrero; the deputy minister of Cultural Diversity, Natalia Toledo; the director of INBAL, Lucina Jiménez; the director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Miguel Fernández Félix; the director of the National Institute of Historical Studies of Mexican Revolutions (INEHRM), Felipe Ávila, and the general director of Social Communication, Antonio Martínez. However, the artist Fabián Cháirez was not present.

Isaías Manuel René Manrique Zapata, Julieta Ana María Manrique Zapata, Lina Marta Graciela Manrique Zapata, Ulises Manrique Zapata, Luis Armando Manrique Zapata, Hilario Salazar Flores, Alicia Zapata Fernández, Daniel Galeano Zapata, Hilario Salazar, Sen Moctezuma, and Edgar Castro Zapata were the members of the Zapata family who attended the dialogue.

The statement pointed out that the agreement was reached after visiting the exhibition with curator Luis Vargas Santiago as a guide on December 11.

The agreement includes the commitment to disseminate, on all the possible outlets, the dignity and tribute to Emiliano Zapata, including information about his figure and legacy.

Zapata’s family distanced themselves from the different groups of farmers, including the National Union of Agriculture Workers (UNTA), that have incurred in violent protests, like the one that took place last December 10. Likewise, they asked for a dignified treatment for General Zapata and reject the use of his image for the sake of economic gain.

On December 16, a statement was put next to “The Revolution” informing that the Zapata family is in disagreement with the representation of the Mexican revolutionary leader. Next to the painting, there are also two security guards.

The text says “Descendants of Emiliano Zapata expressed their disagreement with this image because they consider it an inadequate representation of Zapata. Through a dialogue between authorities of the Culture Ministry and INBAL, the Museum of Fine Arts will keep the piece based on the principle of the right to artistic and creative freedom.”

For their part, the curator and the artist have asserted that they respect the family’s opinion although they explained they do not endorse it, nevertheless, they are in agreement with the deal reached by the corresponding authorities. Museums and art are public spaces through which it is possible to have creative freedom and generate respectful and inclusive dialogues.

The exposition will be open until February 16, 2020 from Tuesday to Sunday from 10:00 to 18:00 in the Museum of Fine Arts, where visitors will be able to enjoy over 140 pieces and will be able to participate leaving their opinions on interactive screens.

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