While not often one of the most popular subjects in American educational institutions these days, art history is a fascinating and important field of study. This sample essay, written by one of our American writers, compares and contrasts Diego Rivera’s Pan-American Unity mural with José Vasconcelos’ piece of literature, “The Cosmic Race.”
Pan-American Unity and The Cosmic Race
Diego Rivera’s Pan-American Unity Mural reflects the ideas expressed in Vasconcelo’s essay “The Cosmic Race”. Diego Rivera was commissioned by the Golden Gate International Exposition to create a mural. The result was the Pan-American Unity mural, which was completed in November 1940 and can now be found in the City College of San Francisco. The mural depicts various cultures of the America’s hard at work. The mural reflects the unity of the work machinery that ties the various cultures together. The mural highlights several themes that are discussed in the “The Cosmic Race”.
Vasconcelo describes in his essay how the Latin races choose to assimilate and mix with other cultures. In sharp contrast to the Europeans who stay with their own kind and destroy others. Rivera’s mural depicts this assimilation and unity through depicting various Latin cultures working together to create the machinery in the middle of the mural which demonstrates what could be achieved if the Latin cultures are united. The centerpiece, which is created, is both native, as it appears to be a totem of some kind while also being a modern piece of technology. This could be tied into “The Cosmic Race” which states
“The dispersion will come to an end of American soil; unity will be consummated there by the triumph of fecund love and the improvement of all the human races” (p. 127).
The piece of machinery in the center of the mural could symbolize this improvement of humanity.
Rivera’s connection to Latin American Art and literature
Rivera’s mural depicts American’s in various shades of color to highlight the diversity that is present in this continent. This depiction of the multitude of races which represent the America’s ties into Vasconcelo’s belief in a cosmic race which is created by a mix of all the Latin American cultures. “The Cosmic Race” discusses how this mix results in a superior fifth race,
“We have the duty to formulate the basis of a new civilization, and for that very reason, it is necessary that we keep in mind the fact that civilizations cannot be repeated, neither in form and content…” (p. 128).
Rivera’s mural creates an essence that a new civilization is being created although he is actually celebrating the Hispanic civilizations that currently exists. Rivera’s artistic style is also reminiscent of the Hispanic culture and it strays from the traditional European style of other artists of the time.
Both Rivera’s mural and Vasconcelo’s essay serve to celebrate and revere the Latin cultures. They strive to evoke a sense of nationalism and pride that may have not present before this artistic revolution. The need to celebrate the culture is an aspect of these works that is not present in European cultures that may have not been repressed by other cultures. Through analyzing both the artistic and intellectual pieces of work that were around during this era for Latin Americans an idea can be gathered regarding what was important for the culture at that time.
Rivera, Diego. Pan American Unity. 1940. Mural. City College of San Francisco, n.p.
Vasconcelos, José, and Didier Tisdel. Jaén. The Cosmic Race = La Raza Cósmica. Los Angeles:
Centro De Publicaciones, Dept. of Chicano Studies, California State University, Los Angeles, 1979