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San Ildefonso College

Explore Mexican history through government-sanctioned artworks from the 1920s in this museum that was once a boys’ school.

Jesuit priests established San Ildefonso College in Mexico City in the 16th century. After the Jesuits were expelled from the country, the Baroque structure became a military headquarters and later a preparatory school. Since the early 1990s, it has served as a cultural center displaying beautiful artworks with historical and political impact. See the heritage murals painted on-site by Diego Rivera and other famous Mexican artists during the 1920s.

Enter the building to appreciate the general assembly room with a barrel vaulted ceiling and intricately carved choir stalls lining the passageway. The soft lighting recalls the atmosphere of earlier times. The building also displays a German stained-glass work, Welcome, from 1899.

Off the lobby area, visit the amphitheater which contains Le Creación, Rivera’s first mural. The artist painted in this space for more than a year after returning from a trip to Europe and completed the mural in 1923. The mural covers more than 1,000 square feet (90 square meters) and has figures over 12 feet (3.5 meters) tall. This painting contains more realism than Rivera’s later works.

See displays of more than 20 frescos by José Clemente Orozco. Study the 1926 painting under the staircase of the nude Hernán Cortés and his lover La Malinche to interpret how the artist perceived the Spanish conquest of Mexico. La Malinche is sometimes thought of as a traitor to her Aztec roots and other times as the mother of modern Mexico.

Visit the museum of San Ildefonso College from Tuesday through Sunday. The admission price is reduced for students and seniors and free for those under 12. Tuesdays often have free admission. Check the schedule to determine what temporary exhibits will be displayed during your visit. Find the museum in the historical center of Mexico City, less than a 10-minute walk north of the Metropolitan Cathedral.


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