Documents of 20th-century Latin American and Latino Art Home


Document first page thumbnail
  • ICAA Record ID
    Vasconcelos pasa del misticismo budista al catolicismo imperialista : aspira a ocupar el Alcázar de Chapultepec
    El Machete : periódico obrero y campesino (México, D. F., México). -- Jun., 1927.
    Newspaper article – Essays
    Siqueiro, David Alfaro. "Vasconcelos pasa del misticismo budista al catolicismo imperialista: aspira a ocupar el Alcázar de Chapultepec." El Machete: Periódico obrero y campesino (Mexico City), June 1927.
Editorial Categories [?]

David Alfaro Siqueiros claims that José Vasconcelos has undergone a metamorphosis that led him to shed his Buddhist mysticism and move to the far right. Siqueiros goes on to present an outline of the writer’s political career, from the presumed abandonment of his educational plans until his “delahuertismo” balancing act and his pursuit of the governorship of Oaxaca with the support of local landowners. He also mentions his activities overseas, which he characterizes as imperialist, catholic, and anticommunist. The author ends his article with an ironic comment on Vasconcelos’ presidential ambitions and predicts a crushing defeat in that arena. 


From 1924 to 1926, the writers and editorial staff at El Machete magazine took a neutral approach to José Vasconcelos (1882-1959). Though they constantly ridiculed the major figures of the Mexican intellectual community, they refrained from criticizing Vasconcelos in either his role as Minister of Education (1921-23) or as leader of the cultural elite. While admitting that their ideological differences placed them is opposing camps, they respected his efforts and benefitted from them. In 1927, however, an anonymous writer of an article attacked Vasconcelos for the first time, discounting his presidential ambitions and condemning his political platform and his international campaign of self promotion. 
Communist painters shared that point of view. For example, in the panel titled “Los sabios” [The Sages], on the third level of the patio at the SEP, Diego Rivera painted a person sitting on a white elephant. He was clearly alluding to Vasconcelos and his “Buddhist mysticism” although, for some reason the person in the painting is seen from behind. This irreverent scene would have been inconceivable between 1922 and 1924, but by 1928 it seems an accurate portrayal of the painters’ diminished gratitude toward the man who had once invited them to paint murals on the walls of many public buildings. 

The communists would eventually not only refuse to support Vasconcelos’ presidential campaign in the 1929 elections, but would also work hard to discredit his political philosophy. They, in fact, fielded their own political alternative in the elections under the banner of the Bloque Obrero y Campesino [Workers and Peasants Block] (BOyC) with Pedro Rodríguez Triana as its presidential candidate. Diego Rivera was appointed president of the BOyC, which left no doubt about his split with Vasconcelos. 
It is interesting to note that the communists were the first to identify Vasconcelos with the far right, since that transformation was generally attributed to the disillusionment he experienced following his defeat in the murky maneuverings of the 1929 elections.

Adela Cedillo
CURARE, Espacio crítico para las artes, Mexico City, Mexico
© 2011 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / SOMAAP, Mexico City, Mexico
Biblioteca Guillermo Bonfil Batalla de la Escuela Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Fondo José Toribio Medina del Instituto Panamericano de Geografía e Historia