A nude painting of Mexican Revolution hero Emiliano Zapata has sparked controversy and protests in Mexico due to its portrayal of the leader in heels and a pink sombrero.

By Lena Hansen
December 11, 2019

A nude painting of Mexican Revolution hero Emiliano Zapata has sparked controversy and protests in Mexico. The illustration, by Mexican artist Fabian Chairez, shows Zapata riding a white horse wearing a pink sombrero and black heels in the shape of hand guns. Chairez, an advocate for the LGBTQ community and queer art, has been under fire for portraying Zapata — who has been a symbol of patriotism — in an effeminate way.

“Zapata” became a trend on Twitter, with infinite comments both in favor and against the painting. Furious protesters gathered in Mexico's iconic Palacio de Bellas Artes, where the painting is showcased, asking that the artwork be burned and taken down. Many of the protesters are farmers who identify with Zapata's legacy of fighting for the rights of campesinos. Mexican LGBTQ activists faced the protesters outside the museum, demanding respect and freedom of expression, but according to reports, the encounter ended with members of the LGBTQ community being attacked.

Meanwhile, Zapata's grandson, Jorge Zapata González, demanded that the painting be removed and threatened to take legal action. “We are not going to allow this,” he told the Associated Press. “For us as relatives, this denigrates the figure of our general, depicting him as gay.”

The description of the artwork — titled “La Revolución” and displayed as part of the exhibit Emiliano: Zapata After Zapata to commemorate the 100th anniversary of his death reads, “Fabian Chairez gives new meaning to an icon of Mexican machismo to provide visibility to sexual diversity, particularly homosexual, dark-skinned, effeminate bodies belonging to the working class that don't fit the mold of the norm. [The painting] links the Zapatista legacy to the struggles of the LGBT+ community. It re-vindicates femininity as a revolutionary attitude in the midst of a homophobic and misogynistic society of the 21st century.”

Museum officials have said they will not take down the painting. The exhibit is scheduled to run until February 2020.