Unpacking the Many Stories in Diego Rivera’s ‘Sueño de una tarde dominical en la Alameda Central’ Mural

Susanne Ramírez de Arellano
 | February 16, 2023

Credit: Nuestro Stories

If anyone could paint bourgeoisie complacency and values before the 1910 Mexican Revolution, it had to be Mexican painter and muralist Diego Rivera. His Sueño de una tarde dominical en la Alameda Central (Dream of a Sunday Afternoon at Alameda Central Park) depicts it as a walk in the park with historical and fantasmagorical figures.

The mural, created in 1947 and one of the most important of Rivera’s career, is 15.6 meters wide and was painted by the great master between 1946 and 1947. It is the principal work of the Museo Mural Diego Rivera in the historic center of Mexico City.

The architect Carlos Obregón Santacilia asked that the mural be painted for the Versailles Restaurant of the Hotel Del Prado, located across the street. Unfortunately, the hotel was uninhabitable after the 1985 Mexico earthquake, so the mural was restored and moved to the Diego Rivera Museum. 

Read more: Behind Diego Rivera’s ‘Baile en Tehuantepec’: A Reminder that Latin American Art is Extremely Valuable

The mural ‘Sueño de una tarde dominical en la Alameda Central’ tells many stories 

The mural illustrates various historical periods throughout Mexican history with a surrealist perspective. 

The painting is about a dream, pregnant with the symbolism of more than 70 figures that compose over 400 years of history and are having a day at one of the most important parks in America, La Alameda Central.

The mural illustrates several famous people and events in the history of Mexico, passing through the Alameda Central park in Mexico City. Some of these notable figures are Frida Kahlo, Benito Juárez, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Porfirio Díaz, Agustín de Iturbide, Ignacio Manuel Altamirano, Maximilian I of Mexico, José Martí, Hernán Cortés, and La Malinche.

“The composition (of the mural) are memories of my life, of my childhood and my youth and span from 1895 to 1910,” Rivera said in an interview. “The characters are all dreaming, some are sleeping on the benches and others while they walk and talk.” 

Besides including important characters in different periods of Mexican history, Rivera also depicted ordinary people one would find on a Sunday afternoon in the park – a balloon and sweets salesman, poor workers, and indigenous groups. 

The figure that instantly captures one’s attention is La Catrina, or the Dame of the Dead, a satirical caricature created by Mexican artist José Guadalupe Posada, who the Dame is holding by the arm. 

To the left of La Catrina is Rivera as a child, dressed elegantly and with a serpent and a toad in his pockets. Behind him is Frida Kahlo, his wife, and muse. 

The mural can be divided into three parts: The section to the left speaks about Mexican history from the conquest to the end of the 19th century. The middle section illustrates the artists and people that left a mark on Rivera with their surrealist vision.

The last section is about the Mexican Revolution. Again, we see important figures such as Francisco I. Madero and Porfirio Díaz. One can also see a gendarme kicking out an indigenous family from the park as an upper-class family casts a shoulder glance. This was a direct criticism of the racism that existed at the time. 

Sueño de una tarde dominical en la Alameda Central is one of Rivera’s most profound works. It is a must-see whenever you are in Mexico City. 


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Featured image is from the image Hoja Suelta, by José Guadalupe Posada, 1901.
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