Yucatán’s history of muralism famously dates all the way back to the elaborate frescoes of the ancient Maya.
Though much has changed since antiquity, murals have remained a popular medium in Yucatán to express ideas, recall history or simply bring beauty to an otherwise boring wall.
Some of Yucatán’s most famous murals were painted 50 years ago by renowned artist Fernando Castro Pacheco (1918-2013) and are housed in Merida’s Palacio de Gobierno. Castro Pacheco’s murals depict scenes from Maya mythology, as well as Mexican history — depicting the region’s conquest by Europeans, as well as the Caste War.
Painted signs, featuring artwork both grand and small in scale, have long been a staple of life in Mexico. In the past, these works were seen as almost entirely utilitarian in the art community, but this has begun to change. The tradition known as rótulo has long been popular as it clearly conveys ideas using multi-colored painted text and iconography to easily get an idea across, even for those who may not be able to read well.
When muralism really started to kick into gear in Yucatán, about 20 years ago, most pieces were rather simple and either more closely resembled graffiti or stencil work — though this is not to say that more elaborate murals were not being created back then or even well before.
As the types of people getting involved in muralism began to widen, so did the artworks’ subject matter.
Larger and larger murals soon started to pop up in places one would not traditionally associate with muralism.
The movement would begin to spread out from Mérida and its surroundings and before long, large bright murals would begin to pop up across the region.
With time, fledgling muralists started to work together and form looser artistic collectives to take on more ambitious projects and help legitimize their craft.
As these public artworks began to grow in popularity, businesses like restaurants and hotels decided to take the plunge and use this type of artist expression as part of their decor.
Instead of slowing muralism down, the COVID-19 pandemic has actually seen the popularity of these artworks gain in appreciation, and in a very real way has become a symbol of hope through trying times.
Created by Montserrat Pastrana, Enamora Mérida began as a pet project to cheer up Yucatán’s capital city during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Though Enamora Mérida would evolve over time and bring in dozens of volunteer artists, Montserrat’s original plan was to simply paint inspiring words on walls and facades, always with permission, of course. Once the pair had painted a few city walls, people really started to take notice and volunteer their own time and talents to the cause. “Before we knew it graffiti artists, illustrators, and even muralists were asking to work with us, we were thrilled of course,” says Montseratt.
Murals have also become popular additions to homes across the Yucatán, and have even become common reference points.
Murals located indoors have also become popular and are often more elaborate than their outdoor counterparts as they tend to age better, not being exposed to Yucatán’s ever-shining sun and other elements.
Part of what makes Mexican muralism so wonderful is the way in which it combines classical techniques with folklore and urban traditions to create stunning artworks that are sure to continue to stand the test of time.