Pan American Unity Mural, Diego Rivera at City College of San Francisco

Yesterday a trip to San Francisco to deliver my art to a show at CCSF  lead to viewing Diego Rivera’s Pan American Unity Mural for the first time. It knocked my socks off…and I still can’t find them!

You may feel a desire to click on images to see them enlarged.  Indulge yourself!

section of Pan American Unity Mural by Diego Rivera
Section of Pan American Unity Mural by Diego Rivera


Helen Crlenkovich, graceful diver from CCSF


Central motif of Diego Rivera's mural at CCSF
Coatlicue, Central motif of Diego Rivera’s mural at CCSF

Coatlicue is the central unifying image of the mural.  She is divided in half, flesh and stone sculpture on the left (South) side, and industrial steel on the right (North).  I have to keep reminding myself that Rivera thought of the industry of the North as something good.  He could not know the peril that the oil wells and the deforested redwoods – which he so lovingly depicts – would bring us to.

The title of this work – translated – is “The Marriage of the Artistic Expression of the North and of the South on this Continent”.  It is curious that the shape of Coatlicue’s nipple is repeated in the nightmarish panel showing part of the North’s contribution to this marriage.

Section of Diego Rivera's mural at CCSF
Hitler, Stalin, Lenin, Charlie Chaplin

At the tip of the soldier’s outreached fingers, it looks like the tip of a bomb.  Coatlicue is the Mexican mother goddess, holder of life, death, and rebirth.  It is appropriate that the light/dark of the South be repeated with light/dark in the North.  Oh, but such a darkness!

Frida Kahlo in Diego Rivera's mural at CCSF
Frida Kahlo in Diego Rivera’s mural at CCSF

At the foot of Coatlicue, Rivera painted Frida Kahlo who being from the South with Roots in the North becomes the compositional hinge, the human marriage of the North and South. (Frida and Diego were re-married in San Francisco City Hall around the time of this painting.)

This composite is borrowed gratefully from

Rivera painted the Pan American Unity Mural on 10 steel framed panels during the Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island in 1940.  It measures 74ft wide and 22ft high.  It was intended for the new library at CCSF, but then World War 2 began, and funding for the library stopped.  The monumental mural was kept in storage until 1961;  then it was installed in the foyer of the new theater at CCSF.  The only negative thing to say about the mural is that it does not command the kind of space it needs to be seen comprehensively.

But, OH!, the color, and the masterful visual organization of the narrative!  Don’t miss this one.

City College of San Francisco
50 Phelan Avenue, San Francisco, CA. 94112
(415) 239-3000

Monday, 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
Tuesday, 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM
Wednesday, 10:00 AM – 3:00 PM
Thursday, 1:00 PM – 4:00 PM
Friday, 10:00 AM – 3:30 PM

The Diego Rivera Mural will be closed during school holidays.


Open to the public and free of charge.
Donations greatly appreciated.


Viewing Hours: 415 / 452-5313
Directions: 415 / 452-5550
Purchase Posters: 415 / 452-5210

By jandove


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