Mexicans mourn painter Francisco Toledo, defender of culture

Mexicans mourn painter Francisco Toledo, defender of culture

Mexicans left candles and flowers at impromptu offerings Friday for expressionist painter Francisco Toledo a day after his death at age 79, remembering an artist respected for his fights to preserve historic sites and green spaces.

In a country where politicians talk endlessly about defending culture and identity, Toledo actually did it. He gained a reputation for never yielding to power, money or influence, and became perhaps the most revered figure of Mexico's present-day art world.

Francisco Toledo.Credit:AP

His paintings were a celebration of the mystical world, the animal spirits and color of the indigenous cultures in his native Oaxaca. He fought battles to save green spaces and historic buildings, to make art accessibleand to oppose McDonalds' plans to open an outlet in Oaxaca city, considered the heartland of Mexican cuisine.

People erected impromptu traditional offerings of flowers and candles in his memory in Oaxaca and Mexico City.

An image of Toledo at a memorial at the Bellas Artes Palace in Mexico city.Credit:AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo

"The streets smell of Toledo, the streets are Toledo," said Yesica Sanchez Maya, one of the mourners. "We see Toledo as the personification of dignity in the flesh and solidarity with everyone."

Writer and environmentalist Homero Aridjis wrote, "We have lost one of the great ones."

The artist's family confirmed his death on his Facebook page, but gave no further details.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador tweeted that "art is mourning". He called Toledo "an authentic defender of nature, customs and traditions of our people."

Alberto Soto Cortes, an art professor at Mexico's IberoAmerican University, wrote that "many of the politicians and business interests that mourn Toledo's passing were the very ones he combatted."

Even though Lopez Obrador's 2018 election won almost unanimous praise across the left, Toledo still publicly opposed the president's plan to build a tourist train line through the jungles of the Yucatan peninsula. Toledo, along with others, argued that the environmental impact hadn't been studied enough and that the Maya indigenous communities hadn't been fully consulted.

Toledo played a large role in creating botanical gardens at the former Santo Domingo convent in Oaxaca, and founded several art galleries and centres in historic buildings.

"Though there will be many homages and the price of his works will go up, it is unlikely that the institutions, corporations and politicians will stop to reflect on the causes and demands that Francisco Toledo championed in life," wrote Soto Cortes.


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