When visitors to Mexico City’s National Palace ascend the winding staircase inside an interior courtyard, they come face-to-face with one of the great works of twentieth-century art: Diego Rivera’s History of Mexico mural. This epic portrayal of Mexican history from the conquest to the 1920s is meant to illustrate the centrality of class conflict. In the center just beneath the ceiling, Rivera placed the figure of a slim, brown man in overalls pointing forward, as if leading a march. To his right, three men carry a placard with the revolutionary slogan “Land and Liberty.” The Mexican Revolution of 1910 was largely a rural affair, and its great grassroots protagonists were peasants, not industrial workers. But muralists like Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, and David Alfaro Siqueiros, moved by their communist and socialist sympathies, strove to incorporate the plight of the working...

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