The title América Tropical conjures images of a romantic paradise replete with lush foliage and exotic birds, yet the mural’s content defies such conventional expectations. Unveiled on the night of October 9, 1932, the expansive (18’ x 82’) mural depicted, among the foliage and birds, a symbolic central figure – a crucified indigenous man. Above his head is a perched eagle, around him the sap-driven jungle breaks apart the ruin of ancient civilizations and in the farthest corner, two soldiers stealthily advance into the scene.
This imagery unleashed a storm of controversy over art and ideology. While many praised the mural for its innovative techniques and allegorical political content, some local civic leaders believed the mural’s theme betrayed the vision of Olvera Street as a docile, folkloric Mexican village. This outrage led to the censorship of the artist through the obliteration of the mural with whitewash. This act of censorship would reverberate for nearly a century.
The nearly forgotten masterpiece languished, assaulted by neglect and the elements. During the social turbulence of the 1960s, like a ghostly apparition, the mural gradually began to reappear as the whitewash eroded. The seed that Siqueiros planted germinated into a modern mural movement and flowered thousands of murals throughout the United States, indelibly transforming our visual landscape.