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Pink sombrero & aroused horse: Painting of naked national hero of Mexico triggers violent protests (PHOTOS)

Pink sombrero & aroused horse: Painting of naked national hero of Mexico triggers violent protests (PHOTOS)
What does it take to spark protests, lawsuits, mass meme-making, and even prompt the president to react? In Mexico, a painting re-imagining the country’s national hero was enough to do the trick.

The painting of revolutionary hero Emiliano Zapata wearing nothing but a pink sombrero and high heels while riding a visibly aroused white stallion was put on display at an art museum in Mexico City for an exhibition commemorating the 100th anniversary of his assassination.

Zapata was one of the key leaders of the Mexican Revolution. He led the peasantry in the fight for land rights and is especially revered in rural Mexico to this day. The painting’s modern take on the revolutionary’s masculinity has outraged the conservative segments of Mexican society.

On Tuesday, a group of protesters describing themselves as members of the National Union of Agricultural Workers gathered outside the art gallery, blocking its entrance and eventually forcing their way inside. They demanded the painting be taken down and burned, describing it as a “mockery” of the national hero. The protest briefly escalated into violence, which left at least two people injured.


Zapata’s descendants joined the fight, threatening to sue the museum if the painting is not removed. “We are not going to allow this,” a grandson of the revolutionary, Jorge Zapata Gonzalez, said. “For us as relatives, this denigrates the figure of our general – depicting him as gay.”

The scale of the scandal even forced country’s top authorities to have their say. The government expressed its commitment to “to artistic freedom and respect for diversity,” and President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador also weighed in, saying the painting does not offend him personally. Still, he noted that he is not a relative of Zapata, and called upon the Culture Ministry to address the issue “so that mediation is sought.”

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Fabian Chairez, the artist whose work triggered the uproar, defended the painting as showing “other realities, other ways of representing masculinity.” Other works by Chairez seem to indicate that the re-evaluation of masculinity is one of the main themes of his art.

Apart from triggering heated debate over tolerance and respect towards national heroes, the scandal has provided prime meme-making material. Many said the unusual depiction of Zapata was actually more fitting for other historical figures.

While the exhibition is underway and more events focusing on the painting are planned in the gallery this week, the protests and debates over it are unlikely to abate.

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