Interview with Guadalupe Rivera Marín
By Jade Arroyo
Guadalupe Rivera Marín is a lawyer with a Ph.D., an economist, a teacher both in Mexico and abroad, a former congresswoman, a lecturer, the author of four books about Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, and an activist for women’s rights. Lupe (whom her father and stepmother, Frida, called “Piquitos”) was in San Miguel on August 17, 18 and 19, invited by the Literary Sala and the Writers’ Conference, for a weekend of special events (book presentation, talk and dinner featuring family recipes) to raise funds for the scholarship program sponsored by the Writer’s Conference, mainly benefitting rural communities. Lupe and her Mexican grace and knowledge about and passion for Diego Rivera captivated the audience, who were eager to hear more about Diego (and, inevitably, about Frida, about whom she refused to say a word). Atención was at her lecture, “My Life with Diego: One River, two Riveras,” held on Monday, August 19, and we had the chance to talk to her.
Jade Arroyo: The San Miguel community greatly admires Diego’s life and work. How do you feel about that?
Lupe Rivera: I’m very glad. My Dad being a guanajuatense, I find it great that there is so much interest about him in his home state, and it’s great that San Miguel has become a town of artists who want to keep his memory alive. Some admire him, some others criticize him, but no one can deny he was a great artist.
JA: For many, your father represents the best of Mexican art. How do you feel about the art scene nowadays in Mexico?
LR: There are many artists in Mexico; almost all of them have moved into nonfigurative painting and modern art, but often I find that uninteresting.
JA: How did you see muralism in the present day?
LR: I think it is beginning to make a comeback. Recent governments weren’t much interested in art or culture, and that’s why it has been somewhat forgotten. The mural is a public medium, which can be polemical or not, depending on the content.
JA: What have you done to preserve you father’s memory?
LR: I created the Fundación Diego Rivera (Diego Rivera Foundation). I’ve published several books about his life and work. My father was one of the creators of modern Mexico. He collaborated on renewing public art and the pre-Hispanic mural tradition, along with David Alfaro Siqueiros, Clemente Orozco, Tamayo, and others, who in their time helped forge a new Mexico.
JA: As a politician yourself, how do you see the political panorama in Mexico?
LR: Very hard, facing many problems, above all highly pressured by the drug dealing. There’s a lot of pressure because of the sick population: We are the most obese country in the world. That’s a serious health issue. The government has been very weak in dealing with public health.
JA: You lived in San Miguel during the 1960s and ‘70s. Could you tell us a little about those times? Did you find the city changed?
LR: I found a city completely different from the one I used to live in. I love the historic center, which is beautifully preserved. I believe the growth has been good for sanmiguelenses, especially for the middle class. I can also appreciate the interests of the people here to help the campesinos and less fortunate.
JA: How was Diego Rivera as a father?
LR: He was as feminist and raised us to be independent, educated and professional women. When we were little girls, he went to school with us wearing denim overalls just like the workers.
JA: Most of us have heard about how fun and memorable the parties were that Diego and his friends threw. Did you experience them? What were those parties like?
LR: The parties were incredibly fun! There was always mariachi music. We all danced and sang, we ate pozole, tamales and tostadas, and people came from all parts of the world. My father was really amusing.
JA: What your favorite dish in the recipe book?
LR: The one that I love is manchamanteles (table cloth stainer), which is a type of sweet mole made with fruit. It can be made with chicken or pork, and it’s an absolutely delicious mole sauce.
JA: What’s your most lasting memory of him?
LR: That he died in my arms.