Pan American Unity– Your Chance to Experience Diego Rivera’s Massive Masterpiece City College’s legacy, and comradery, as partnership builds with the SFMOMA

By Xela Vargas
Imani C. Davis

On Sunday September 10, the SFMOMA invited families and the community at large to welcome Latin@ heritage month and enjoy the museum free of charge. The day started with the blessing of Diego Rivera’s Pan American unity mural– Aztec dancers from Danza Azteca Xitlalli offered dances, as the indigenous dancers looked down on them from the left corner of Rivera’s mural. The blessing and the event itself to many felt like a “full circle” moment.

Many of the dancers expressed their gratitude, and excitement to be able to dance in front of Rivera’s mural, a beautiful manifestation of Latina, Mexican, American and Indigenous history. Maria Sanchez, one of the dancers, describes the feeling as “magical, as if looking in a mirror– with the danzantes, and drummers reflected behind them” As a City College alum Sanchez explains that the mural not only documents a larger history, but her own personal history.

On December 11, 2017, the SFMOMA’s announced a historical partnership between the Museum of Modern Art, and City College, catapulted by the college’s lending of Diego Rivera’s Pan American Unity Mural.

In a release put out by the SFMOMA, it is explained that the mural would be a “cornerstone of a major exhibition of [Diego Rivera’s] work at SFMOMA in 2022.” City College’s lend of the mural would be accompanied by “a comprehensive program of conservation, public education and CCSF student internships.”

Amy Díaz-Infante Siqueiros, an Art professor involved on the project in a 2022 article for SFMOMA emphasized the importance of accessibility that this new partnership offers stating, “through this partnership we have been able to connect students to opportunities to visit the museum for free, internships and workshops.” (The mural is available to the public free of charge. Due to some delays, the Pan American Unity mural will continue to be exhibited at SFMOMA until March 2024 in the Roberts Family Gallery, Floor 1.)

The mural, Rivera’s legendary fusing of generational, and cultural histories documents a changing America. The Industrial Revolution hangs front and center with a depiction of a ‘pseudo’ Coatlicue, an ancient Azteca deity of life/fertility, fused with industrial machinery. The piece is so vastly detailed, and chronicles so much history, one needs to see it to believe its scale, and appreciate its beauty.

As for its future at City College… that is currently on the back burner, as the Theater Arts Department building no longer exists. When asked about its future on campus alum/dancer, Maria Sanchez feels, “it should be more visible, and given its place– it was in the World Trade Center– why would it be placed at the back of the school? It needs to be seen.”

You can see it free of charge. Do it!