DIEGO RIVERA -- MY ART, MY LIFE: AN AUTOBIOGRAPHY (WITH GLADYS MARCH)
A PLOT TO KILL DIAZ
From time to time, I continued working on landscapes. I also began to prepare an exhibition of the paintings I had brought back from Europe. I went about this task with inward repugnance because of my dissatisfaction with these works. However, I was badly in need of money. I wanted to return to Europe to resume my studies, and I had not forgotten Angeline.
I was helped in my preparations for the exhibition by my friend Francisco Urquidi, then Secretary of the School of Fine Arts, and its Director, Lebrija. My former teachers Jose Velasco, Felix Parra, and Jose Posada also took part in arranging the show.
Perhaps because I was bored and disgusted, I hatched a plot with Lebrija and the architect Eduardo Hay to give the exhibition a more worthwhile purpose. Our aim was nothing less than the assassination of Diaz, which we believed would save the lives of many brave Mexican freedom fighters.
The exhibition was to open at eleven o'clock in the morning on November 20, 1910. My part in the plot was to smuggle explosives into the school in my paintbox. My friends, the officials of the school, pulled wires to get Diaz to attend the opening. We were elated when we received word that Diaz had accepted their invitation.
I arrived at the school long before eleven and met Lebrija. A tall and gaunt Don Quixote, he was nervously wringing his hands in impatience.
He said, "All right, Diego, we are awaiting the command of the pestilente," and his eyes shone with a bright unnatural fire.
As I climbed the stairway, paintbox in hand, I saw Urquidi staring down at me. He didn't say a word but practically pushed me into his office, took the box, opened the small steel safe which contained the school funds, and locked the paintbox inside it.
"It will stay there till the right moment," he declared, embracing me warmly and whispering in my ear, "Viva la Revolucion."
But, unfortunately, the right moment to open the safe never came. A few minutes after the explosives had been stowed away, the Chief of Police arrived at the school, accompanied by plainclothesmen, uniformed police, and soldiers of the regular army. Politely, he asked for Lebrija, the Director, who, I knew, was now too scared to come down. I told the Chief that he had not yet been seen.
At last, having screwed up his courage, Lebrija appeared, exchanged introductions with the visitors, and took them on a tour of the school as he was expected to do. Along the way, the police examined everything they came upon -- except the safe. Which goes to show how their respect for property can be used against the police. I was with Urquidi, near the door of his office, when the police approached. The Chief stepped forward to shake hands with Urquidi, who then introduced me. When the cops looked around, Urquidi made a gesture as if to open the drawers to show them that nothing was hidden there, but the Chief stopped him.
"What do you mean, architect?" he asked good-humoredly, and then ordered his men to leave the building. Then, promising to return with the President to see my paintings, he bowed himself out. But instead of Diaz, his wife, Dona Carmen Romero Rubio de Diaz, patroness of the arts and philanthropy, arrived as the President's representative. It was she who officially opened the exhibition. Senora Diaz asked permission to make the first purchase. She paid handsomely for "Pedro's Place," actually the most important canvas in the show. It pictured a group of Basque fishermen and their wives returning from work. This painting, as well as many others of my early and late years, is today in the collection of Solo Hale in Mexico.
Before leaving, Senora Diaz congratulated me with a fine aristocratic smile. But I was really disappointed; there had been no occasion to open the steel safe.
Perhaps the Chief of Police was cleverer than we were. I prefer to believe that Senora Diaz was cleverer than he and the men who had hoped to murder her husband.