When you think of Mexico the first things that come to your mind are Tacos, Tequila, and drug smuggling, all-inclusive Resorts, and Caribbean beaches. Am I not right?
Well, I want to say a couple of things on that respect.
About the tacos, well, the Mexican chef Daniela Soto Innes, was just nominated the best female chef for her creativity and I am sure she doesn’t cook only tacos. Mexican cuisine, in general, is one of the most creative and diverse in the world, combining Mexican heritage with international influences. So, no, it’s not only tacos. I will do a post specifically on Mexican cuisine. In the meantime check out the amazing Puebla food that one region alone has churned out over the years.
Tequila, yes indeed it’s one of the traditional liquor, that has its roots in the state of Jalisco. And although I don’t drink, I reckon it’s very much appreciated by spirit connoisseurs. I will take you there soon.
About drug smuggling, well I will leave this discussion for another post.
What is mostly ignored though, is the huge amount of amazing artists, extraordinary people whose genius and creativity are well recognized and admired all over the world, and make Mexico proud.
And right here I am going to give you a list of the most famous Mexican artists, my favorites. This list doesn’t want to be exhaustive, by all means.
On the contrary, I would be very happy if you could contribute to it. Let’s complete it together.
FAMOUS MEXICAN ARTISTS: PAINTERS AND SCULPTORS
FRIDA KAHLO (1907-1954)
She is one of the Mexican greatest artists. Frida was born with very delicate health which was further aggravated by a terrible incident while on a bus in Mexico City when a steel handrail impaled her through the hip. Her spine and pelvis are fractured and this accident left her in a great deal of pain, both physically and physiologically.
This situation, however, didn’t prevent her from living a fulfilled life, despite her pain and physical imperfections. Frida is also known for her profound and yet controversial love for Diego Rivera a famous painter and muralist whom she married twice. She poured her pain and love into her art, and Frida Kahlo’s self-portraits have become an icon and symbol of woman empowerment all over the world.
She is definitely a model to turn to. If you are in Mexico City you should definitely visit her home, the blue house, where she was born and died in the bohemian neighborhood of Coyoacan. It’s now a museum and you can see a display of the beautiful dresses that she designed for herself, besides her paintings and personal objects.
DIEGO RIVERA (1986 – 1957)
Diego Rivera is one of the greatest Mexican muralists of his times who turned around the traditional schools of painting and created his own style, very much appreciated internationally. He loved to represent Mexican society and political situation in the difficult times when he was living, the turbulent 20th century, the years of the Mexican revolution. His prolific body of work can be admired both in Mexico or in the US where he lived and work for some time. In Mexico City, you can check out Palacio Nacional and the Secretaría de Educación Publica whose walls are painted with his impressive work. In Guanajuato, you can admire his house that has been turned into a museum as well.[mailerlite_form form_id=1]
JOSE CLEMENTE OROZCO ( 1883 – 1949)
Prolific and complex muralist and illustrator, Jose Clemente Orozco is on the same line of political work started by Diego Rivera, but in a more profound and emphatic way, as a satirical form to condemn the political conflicts of its time especially promoting the cause of workers and peasants. His work can be admired in many cities in Mexico, especially Mexico City, Orizaba, and Guadalajara in the iconic Ospicio Cabañas. But also internationally, in New York City, California, Hannover among others.
Real name Enrique Carbajal González born on November 15, 1947, in Chihuahua. He acquired the pseudonym of Sebastian after the painting of San Sebastian by Botticelli. He’s known for his majestic surreal works in steel and concrete, in a very unique and unequal style. His most famous work is the Caballito in downtown Mexico City but his work is well known also abroad.
FANNY RABEL ( 1922 Poland – 2008 Mexico City)
She was a polish-born Mexican artist who was recognized as the first modern female muralist. She became a friend of Frida Kahlo when she participated in her artist group. She was also an assistant and apprentice to Diego Rivera. But her work was not only limited to murals. She was also known for her paintings, engravings, drawings, and ceramic sculptures. Fanny was mainly representing considered a surrealist, mainly portraying human being with children faces, in the majority of the cases sad, as she was depicting the socially marginalized and neglected. Her most significant work is “Ronda en el Tiempo” at the Museo Nacional de Antropología in Mexico City.
RUFINO TAMAYO (August 25, 1899 – June 24, 1991)
Nobel Prize-winning poet Octavio Paz said about Tamayo: “If I could express with a single word what it is that distinguishes Tamayo from other painters, I would say without a moment’s hesitation: Sun. For the sun is in all his pictures, whether we see it or not”.
The author was indeed praised for its minimal use of color in his painting. A painter of figurative abstraction influenced by the surrealism, he loved to experiment with different techniques and try his own. Rufino Tamayo’s graphic work, includes woodcuts, lithographs, etchings, and “Mixografia” prints. This technique is a unique fine art printing process that allows for the production of prints with three-dimensional texture.
He lived between Mexico City and New York where he flew when he felt he could not express himself anymore in Mexico. Just like Diego Rivera, he was profoundly influenced by the political conflicts of his time which he represents in a figurative way in his work. However, unlike his fellow artists, he did not believe that conflict would resolve the problems and he was against the war.
His work reached international fame and it’s exposed in many countries including the Guggenheim Museum in NY. In Mexico City, you can visit the Rufino Tamayo Museum
An eclectic contemporary artist who lived most of his life including the years of his artistic formation, in Guadalajara, where you can visit his amazing workshop and gallery in the bohemian neighborhood of Tlaquepaque.
I discovered this amazing artist when I was housesitting in Puerto Vallarta. His beautiful bronze statues for which he’s mainly famous are displayed all along the Malecon ( promenade) for tourists’ enjoyment.
He’s a prolific artist whose work has been appreciated all over the world for its originality.
DAVID ALFARO SIQUEIROS
He’s considered one of the three most talented Mexican muralists, together with Jose’ Clemente Orozco and Diego Rivera. Like his fellow artists, with his murals, Siqueiros painted scenes of war and of the social condition of the poor and aimed to inspire the low social classes. He loved to experiment with new techniques as he firmly believed that the revolutionary purpose of art was not to be found only in the content of the artwork but also in the technique and a specific aesthetic to match the artist’s intent. Because of his Marxist political inclinations, he was most of the time in need to leave Mexico, and he lived between Los Angeles, South America, and New York where he opened a school of art where among other students, a young Jackson Pollock stands out.
FAMOUS MEXICAN WRITERS
A well-traveled writer thanks to the diplomatic career of his father which he eventually followed, Carlos Fuente is an eclectic writer who graduated in international law and received a National Prize in Science in 1984 and a prestigious literature acknowledgment, in 1987. In 1994 he published his novel Diana, an autobiographic novel reflecting the Mexican society of the 60s. All his narrative work though, is a constant reflection on the Mexican history and political situation, its origins and culture, and the issues that the country is facing. Reading his books is definitely a way to know about Mexican culture and society. Here you can check out his books.
Nobel prize for literature with the labyrinth of solitude, which is one of the best study ever written on the Mexican society and culture. Octavio Paz is a poet and an essayist most of all although he undertook a diplomatic career for a while, as the Mexican Ambassador in India “an important moment in both the poet’s life and work, as witnessed in various books written during his stay there, especially, The Grammarian Monkey and East Slope.” You can look at his work here.
I have just found out about her from a friend who suggested I should read her book about Mexico City Sidewalks. I downloaded the sample from Amazon Kindle and read a couple of pages and literally fell in love. The book is there on top of my list of books to read. Can’t wait to finish what I am reading now to jump on it. Check out all her other books here.
Elena Poniatowska was born in Paris in 1932 with the title of princess Héléne Elizabeth Louise Amelie Paula Dolores Poniatowska Amor. Her family moved to Mexico in 1942 to escape from the war and she obtained Mexican citizenship in 1969. She was destined to marry a prince but she chose the journalism career working for the Excelsior where she would narrate Mexican society through daily interviews. She was a prolific writer and all her books were about Mexican political situations and facts. She was also a professor of literature and journalism in the institutes Kairos and Nacional de la Juventud. She co-founded the National Cinema and the newspaper Siglo XXI. What stands out among her main works are her chronicles of the student massacre of Tlatelolco on October 2, 1968, the earthquake in Mexico city of 1985 and the conflict in Chiapas in 1994.
Born in 1950 in México City, she specialized as an educator and in theater for children but it was with the book Like water for chocolate that her name gain international fame as the book was translated into 30 different languages and so the movie. Sho received 10 Ariel prices from the Academia Mexicana de Artes y Ciencias Cinematográficas.
An amazing human being, a journalist, activist, feminist, writer, and speaker she is dedicating her life to fight for human rights and condemn crime to such an extent that she put her life at risk investigating and bringing up name involved in sex trafficking and child pornography. Despite the number of threats and scorn, she doesn’t stop her mission to bring the truth to light. She received international acknowledgment and admiration for her investigations and activism in such delicate matters. Besides, after 14 years from the publication of her poignant book Los demonios del Eden and the persecutions that followed, the Mexican state apologized 5 times for violating her human rights and neglecting her rights of expression.
FAMOUS MEXICANS ON THE BIG SCREEN
ALEJANDRO GONZALEZ IÑARRITU
Mexican film director, producer, and screenwriter, he became worldly famous for winning a second Academy Award for Best Director for The Revenant (2015), making him the third director to win back to back Academy Awards, and the first since 1950. The Revenant also won Iñarritu a DGA Award, making history as the first person to ever win two in a row. But most of all Iñarritu is known for telling very emotional stories about human conditions.
GAEL GARCIA BERNAL
Mexican actor and producer, mainly known for playing Che Guevara part in The Motorcycle diary in 2015. But in 2016 he won his first Golden Globe Award for Best Actor — Television Series Musical Or Comedy for Mozart in the Jungle.
Antonio Rodolfo Quinn Oaxaca, known as Anthony Quinn, was a Mexican-born American actor, painter, writer, and film director. He was born in Chihuahua and his family moved to Los Angeles at his early age where he began his career as an actor. I confess I didn’t know about this one.
FAMOUS MEXICAN MUSICIANS AND SINGERS
The rolling stone magazine classified Santana nr 20 among the best guitarist in the world.
Of course, the list doesn’t end here. If you have any suggestion and you think I forgot someone important please let me know
“In 2015, Billboard listed Gabriel among their list of the 30 most influential Latino artists in history, citing his “dramatic performance style” and his redefined concept of romantic Latin pop music. The publication noted Gabriel’s appeal among several generations of Latino Americans and artists. In his list of the most influential Latin music artists in history, Carlos Quintana of About.com, ranked Gabriel number six for shaping the sounds of Mexican music and exploring genres from ranchera to Latin pop.” (Source)
Check out here below this amazing live performance with Marc Anthony the very same year he passed away.
I have to be honest, I am not a great music connoisseur, and I happen to know about Armando Manzanero when he died because I read the news, that mentioned him as one of the greatest Mexican composers of the post-war era and one of the most successful in Latin America. Armando Manzanero Canché (7 December 1935 – 28 December 2020) was a Mexican Mayan musician, singer, composer, actor, and music producer. He received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in the United States in 2014. He was the president of the Mexican Society of Authors and Composers (Sociedad de Autores y Compositores de México)
I know this one! Pheww!
I don’t think he needs any presentations. One of the best and most famous Mexican voices since his early age. I confess I remember listening to him and falling totally in love (like all the Italian women of all ages) when he was 14 and I was a few years younger. He was in Italy participating to the most famous Italian song competition. Great voice, and cute face.
Since music is definitely not my forte, I’ll stop here but I will be happy to add more artists if you want to share your favorite and why you liked them of course that goes for any Mexican artist that you wish to mention. I would love to hear from you. Don’t be shy!
FOR FURTHER READING
- 25 Unmissable Pueblos Magicos – Mexico
- How to make the most of the great Mexico transportation system
- 39 fun facts about Mexico that you will enjoy reading
- Mexico historical facts in a nutshell
- The most famous Mexican artists of all times