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David Alfaro Siqueiros attempts to answer the question: “If you were nominated by the El Colegio Nacional to replace José Clemente Orozco, what would you say?” He replies in a long, complex, four-page essay. He eschews a yes or a no answer and instead wonders whether the duties might go beyond giving lectures and organizing exhibitions. According to Siqueiros, El Colegio Nacional should be a more political institution and should open its doors to a wider cross section of the population. It should become the general staff of Cultura Mexicana, charged with the daily function of researching and applying whatever might be deemed useful for the development of Mexican science and culture. In his opinion, there should no longer be elite forms of transmitting knowledge.


José Clemente Orozco (1883) died in 1949, and his position at El Colegio Nacional had been open for nearly 10 years when David Alfaro Siqueiros (1896-1974) wrote this ambiguous response. It is highly likely that he had never been invited to join El Colegio because of his habit of pointing out its defects rather than its positive features; to this day, El Colegio remains as influential as it was in the time of Siqueiros. The chosen few give annual lectures; artists organize an annual exhibition; the complete works of deserving members are published. A short time later, in 1961, Siqueiros was accused of committing the crime of “Civil Disobedience” and imprisoned at Lecumberri jail. The struggle against that “crime” and other fundamentals of the democratization of Mexico was energetically carried on by the student movement of 1968.

Esther Acevedo
CURARE, Espacio crítico para las artes, Mexico City, Mexico
© 2011 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SOMAAP, Mexico City, Mexico
Sala de Arte Público Siqueiros