Emiliano Zapata’s Descendants to Sue Mexican Museum for Queer Nude Portrait of the Revolutionary

Lead Photo: Emiliano Zapata (1879 - 1919,) leader of the agrarian rebels, in South Mexico in 1915. Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Emiliano Zapata (1879 - 1919,) leader of the agrarian rebels, in South Mexico in 1915. Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images
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The descendants of Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata plan to sue Mexico’s Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes and artist Fabián Cháirez for displaying a nude, effeminate painting of the late general, El Universal reports.

In 2015, Cháirez, a Mexican painter based in Chiapas, presented the world with his take on Zapata, who led peasants and Indigenous people during the Mexican Revolution and founded Zapatismo. In the portrait, Cháirez depicted the general atop his infamous white horse, sporting a pink sombrero, a shoe with a gun for a heel, a ribbon with the Mexican flag’s colors and, well, nothing else. The artwork, titled La Revolución, portrays Zapata in a flirty, gender-bending light.

Four years later, the painting has a new, temporary home at el Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes for an exhibition called Emiliano. Zapata Después de Zapata, which features 141 works of art about the revolutionary from around the world.

Landing La Revolución in the exhibition has brought greater attention to the piece, including from Jorge Zapata González, Zapata’s grandson, who isn’t pleased.

He and other relatives announced they will be taking legal action against the museum and Cháirez for their portrayal of the leader.

“An unknown artist who I think wants fame [shows] our general as gay,” González said, according to El Universal. “As a family, as a community, donde somos netamente zapatistas, we will not allow that.”

While González said he has nothing against queer people and that he has LGBTQ friends, he believes “it’s denigrating to paint our general as gay.”

Cháirez’s art has long questioned ideas of masculinity, painting heavily tattooed men in quinceañera dresses, lucha libre characters with pointed claws and otherwise macho-macho men in a feminine light.

The 32-year-old’s paintings have upset others in the past – with one commenter on social media saying, “if you’re [gay], that’s great. But stop denigrating an icon in Mexican history.”

In a recent interview with Playground magazine, Cháirez, who doesn’t consider himself a provocateur, said the world is “very accustomed to seeing the feminine image represent desire without a problem” but the “situation changes” when we represent the masculine body and eroticize it, making it an object of desire.”

Unlike Zapata’s descendants, the artist, who does not regret the piece, believes the late general would take no issues with his work.

“If Zapata was a contemporary person, surely he’d be on [my] side,” he told the magazine.