Mexico’s president on Wednesday condemned hate crimes against LGBT+ people after a row over a painting of revolutionary hero, Emiliano Zapata, naked but for a pink sombrero, high heels, and a ribbon, led to an apparent attack on LGBT+ activists.
Protestors stormed a national art gallery where the painting was on display on Tuesday, to call for its removal, and videos posted on social media appeared to show physical attacks on members of LGBT+ rights groups.
Asked about the incident on Wednesday, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador urged respect and tolerance, though he did not rule out the painting being removed.
“There shouldn’t be hate crimes, I condemn it with all my soul, we don’t accept that,” Lopez Obrador told a news conference.
“We have to be respectful, not just tolerant, be respectful of all expressions, of thought, of sexual diversity.”
The work, entitled ‘The Revolution’, is part of a new exhibition at the Museum of the Palace of Fine Arts, featuring portraits and visual representations of Zapata, who campaigned for land rights for the poor during the Mexican revolution.
Members of the Zapata family said the painting, by Fabian Chairez, denigrated the image of their ancestor, who is depicted riding a horse naked in a seductive pose.
Lopez Obrador has not made many public comments on LGBT+ issues. LGBT+ activists were wary of him after he teamed up with a far-right religious party during his election campaign.
The Culture Ministry said late on Tuesday that it regretted that two young people were attacked by people expressing homophobic and intolerant insults.
Some people felt the artwork presented an “opportunity to reflect on the diversity and the relationship between femininity and masculinity that the author proposes, considering Zapata’s libertarian spirit”, it said.
The president said the picture did not make him uncomfortable, and there could not be censorship, but did not rule out its removal, saying he had ordered the Culture Ministry to meet with the Zapata family to come to an agreement.
The exhibition runs until February 16.
-Christine Murray – Thomson Reuters Foundation