Culture

Meet Frederico Vigil, The Creator Of The Largest Concave Fresco in North America – Mundos De Mestizaje

When visiting the National Hispanic Cultural Center campus in Albuquerque, New Mexico, it’s easy to write-off the upside-down, bucket shape form rising from the ground. It stands alone with no distinguishing marks. There are no large crowds to hint at the remarkable secret hidden inside. Visitors will know they are in the right place when the gray asphalt and concrete beneath their feet morph into red—matching the building’s exterior.

Two, towering wood doors mark the entry into the nondescript building.

Credit: Courtesy of Ximena N. Larkin

When the doors swing open, it’s impossible to avoid looking up because the vibrant colors of the ceiling act as a magnet, drawing eyes upwards. Step into the 45-foot dome-shaped structure to get a better look, and there, in the small Southwest town of less than 1 million, the largest fresco painting in North America wraps around the ceiling.

El Torreón is the name of the structure which houses Mundos de Mestizaje.

Credit: Courtesy of Ximena N. Larkin

The larger-than-the-Sistine-Chapel fresco made by Frederico Vigil. It took the Santa Fe native almost three years to have it approved and 10 years to complete it. The aerial artwork depicts thousands of years of Hispanic and pre-Hispanic history. Depending on your cultural background, some iconography is easy to spot and place in history. If you’re Mexican, La Virgen de Guadalupe, a portrait of the beloved civil rights leader Benito Juárez and the eagle, serpent, and nopal from Mexico’s coat of arms will stand out. But walk around the room, or sit in one of the lounging chairs that allow visitors to tip back and view the work at 180 degrees, and soon you’ll realize there are hidden figures among the more popular markers of Mexican and Indigenous identity.

“I’m a mixed man with many different bloodlines,” Vigil says on a phone call. “I’m mestizo. I wanted to show the history of what that means.”

For the project, Vigil consulted with seven scholars on Mesoamerican and Spanish historical culture in order to create an accurate depiction of the past.

Credit: Courtesy of Ximena N. Larkin

He says that just by looking at the Iberian Peninsula, there’s a mix of Romans, Celts, Muslims, and Phoenicians which is all tied into Spanish identity. Then, with the Americas, there’s Maya, Aztec and Toltec. The history of these lines iS not linear. They overlap, intertwine and blend together in a dizzying ride that Vigil worked to bring to life in Mundos de Mestizaje. 

The purpose is to show the viewer how interconnected and far-reaching culture is. Islamic philosopher Ibn Rushd is depicted sitting next to Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, a Medieval Torah scholar, and physician. Chacmool, the pre-Columbian sculpture found throughout Mesoamerica shares space with George Washington and an African slave. 

“There are no purebloods, we are all mixed—or perhaps the only people who can say they are of pure blood are the Amazons or indigenous tribes that have lived in isolation,” Vigil says. “When people begin to study the past, they realize we, as a society, are not genetically one thing.”

Vigil learned the art of fresco painting from Lucienne Bloch and Stephen Pope Dimitroff. The couple might not be household names outside of the art community, but their bosses were. Bloch and Dimitroff were assistants to the world-renowned Mexican artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. 

Vigil connected with the couple thanks to the Santa Fe Council for The Arts.

Credit: Courtesy of Ximena N. Larkin

The organization reached out to Vigil to gauge his interest in a scholarship learning from the pair. Now in their 70s, the two aging artists were making strides to ensure their knowledge was passed down to a new generation of creators. Art lessons were accompanied by tales of the past that included Kahlo, Rivera, and friends such as Leon Trotsky. There, he learned the complicated and time-consuming process of fresco painting.

A surface is rough plastered with a mix of lime, sand, and cement. On average, a layer takes 10-12 hours to dry. A painter can go to work an hour into the drying process and usually has between seven to nine hours of time to complete their design. The art then needs 7-10 days between coats. If the painter messes up, they have to scrape off the layers and begin again.

“I’m a procrastinator but when the wall is wet, you have to paint,” says Vigil. “Each painting is a new experience. It doesn’t get old.”

Vigil is currently working on a new 2,500-plus square foot monumental fresco at the Albuquerque Convention Center.

Credit: Courtesy of Ximena N. Larkin

His new work tells the tale of New Mexico’s history as the oldest state in the U.S. to produce wine. He says the piece could take four to six years to complete. He’s currently in his second year.

The hours for the Torreón (where the fresco is housed) are Saturdays and Sundays from 12-5 p.m., plus it is open by appointment, which can be scheduled with Juanita Ramírez at Juanita.ramirez@state.nm.us or 505-383-4774. The NHCC presents concerts in the Torreón in partnership with the Pimentel & Sons Guitar Makers. The Torreón is available for rentals under certain circumstances and with some restrictions. 

READ: 20 Bizarre Nail Art Ideas That I Just Will Never Understand

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A Mexicana Just Broke A World Record By Making The Fastest Ascent Of The Earth’s Three Highest Mountains

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A Mexicana Just Broke A World Record By Making The Fastest Ascent Of The Earth’s Three Highest Mountains

Joe Mitchell / Getty

Mexican climber Viridiana Álvarez Chávez, might just one of the few people in the world to know what it feels like to actually be on top of the world.

Recently, the climber managed to scale three of the world’s highest peaks to break the Guinness World Records title. And she did it all in under just two years.

Incredibly, Viridiana climbed to the top of the three highest mountains in a year and 364 days.

According to the Guinness World Records, Viridiana’s quest to break the record started on May 16, 2017, with Everest (8,848 meters; 29,029 feet high), followed by K2 (8,611 meters; 28,251 feet) on July 21, 2018, and ended at Kangchenjunga (8,856 meters; 28,169 feet) on May 15, 2019.

Viridiana is the first Latin American to climb K2, the world’s second-highest mountain. To celebrate her amazing accomplishments, Viridiana was honored with a remote ceremony in which Raquel Assis, the Senior Manager of Guinness World Records Latin America Records Management Team, also attended.

Speaking about her accomplishments, Assis congratulated Virdiana saying “We continue to inspire the world through our record holders. Records motivate people to recognize their potential and look at the world differently.”

Before Viridiana, the Guinness World Records title was held by South Korean climber Go Mi-Sun who climbed the three mountains in two years and two days.

Viridiana says her next mission is to climb the 14 highest mountains in the world which would make her the first North American to do so.

Besides being a climber, Viridiana is a public speaker who encourages young people to break standards. Her talks emphasize the importance of accomplishing goals through emotional intelligence, positivity, discipline, and consistency.

“My career as a mountaineer started with an unusual and inspirational purpose: a simple personal challenge to exercise, but I ended up giving up my office job; risking comfort to experience the magic of the mountains, Viridiana told Guinness Book of World Records. “It was proof that dreams do not have to be lifelong dreams and that anyone who sets them can achieve even what are considered ‘unattainable goals,’ such as breaking a world record.”

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A Recently Shared Letter From Frida Kahlo To Diego Rivera Details Her Struggle The Day Before Having Her Leg Amputated And It Will Break Your Heart

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A Recently Shared Letter From Frida Kahlo To Diego Rivera Details Her Struggle The Day Before Having Her Leg Amputated And It Will Break Your Heart

Fotosearch / Getty

Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera have been known for having one of the art world’s most notoriously turbulent marriages. Both artists were guilty of having multiple affairs and straying away from their marriage, breaking up and getting back together only to become one again. Yet, despite their hard times, the Mexican artists had a bond that transcended the ages and one that has stirred countless discussions about their passion and love.

In a series of love letters from Kahlo to Rivera published in The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self-Portrait readers are given insight into both the anguish and longing that was woven into their marriage.

One letter, recently shared by the Instagram page @historycoolkids, shows a momentary rift in their marriage when Kahlo was preparing to have her leg amputated.

Written in 1953, the letter for Rivera was written while Kahlo was in the hospital.

It reads:

⁣”I’m writing this letter from a hospital room before I am admitted into the operating theatre. They want me to hurry, but I am determined to finish writing first, as I don’t want to leave anything unfinished. Especially now that I know what they are up to. They want to hurt my pride by cutting a leg off. When they told me it would be necessary to amputate, the news didn’t affect me the way everybody expected. No, I was already a maimed woman when I lost you, again, for the umpteenth time maybe, and still I survived.⁣

I am not afraid of pain and you know it. It is almost inherent to my being, although I confess that I suffered, and a great deal, when you cheated on me, every time you did it, not just with my sister but with so many other women. How did they let themselves be fooled by you?

Let’s not fool ourselves, Diego, I gave you everything that is humanly possible to offer and we both know that. But still, how the hell do you manage to seduce so many women when you’re such an ugly son of a bitch?

The reason why I’m writing is not to accuse you of anything more than we’ve already accused each other of in this and however many more bloody lives. It’s because I’m having a leg cut off (damned thing, it got what it wanted in the end). I told you I’ve counted myself as incomplete for a long time, but why the fuck does everybody else need to know about it too? Now my fragmentation will be obvious for everyone to see, for you to see… That’s why I’m telling you before you hear it on the grapevine. I’m writing to let you know I’m releasing you, I’m amputating you. Be happy and never seek me again. I don’t want to hear from you, I don’t want you to hear from me. If there is anything I’d enjoy before I die, it’d be not having to see your fucking horrible bastard face wandering around my garden.⁣

That is all, I can now go to be chopped up in peace.⁣

Good bye from somebody who is crazy and vehemently in love with you,⁣

Your Frida”

Despite the letter, Kahlo didn’t “amputate” Rivera out of her life completely.

In fact, in her last days, Kahlo lived with Rivera and even made a public appearance with him in a demonstration against the CIA invasion of Guatemala. After her death, Rivera stated that her loss was “the most tragic day of my life.” Three years after his death, Riva requested to have his ashes mixed with Kahlo’s (this despite the fact that he married again after her death). Instead, the Mexican government opted to inter his remains in Mexico City’s famous Rotunda of Illustrious Men.

The message from Kahlo is being celebrated by her fans on Instagram as the “best letter in history.”

Fans of Kahlo called her letter “badass” and the greatest they’d ever read. “She was such a talent and such a twisted soul,” one user wrote in the post’s comment sections.

That part where she wonders why Diego was able to be such a womanizer despite being an “ugly son of a bitch” does pretty much make her badass.

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