Rivera and Kahlo arrive in San Francisco


When Rivera arrived in San Francisco for his first commission in the United States, he was greeted with xenophobic outrage. Local artists complained that they deserved the commission instead of a Mexican. Racism against Mexicans, particularly in California, was already a widespread and growing problem. A critic described Rivera as:

By including words, like "paisano", that were used to describe ethnic minorities at the time, the critic places Rivera within the context of American racial politics. However the author of the quote uses non-threatening stereotypes to almost mock Rivera by conjuring images of happy peasants or slaves. Rivera is wearing a "rural type" of hat, and his hat in combination with his "beaming" and bulky clothes make him appear almost clown-like to the reader. Despite the way that Rivera was described in the media, Rivera and Kahlo quickly won over the critics. Indeed, this type of criticism made Rivera more attractive to conservative and liberal intellectuals because he became a well-known and recognizable spectacle of Mexicanness. Art critic Rudolph Hess described the Rivera spectacle in an article published after Rivera received the commission in San Francisco:

Frida, in what she described as her indigenous "costumes" also contributed to this image. In his daybook, famous photographer Edward Weston described Frida,


These types of descriptions made Rivera a symbol of Mexico and rural life. The intellectual right and the left may have valued Rivera's art, but it was clear that they also understood that Rivera would bring them the type of publicity capable of affecting their respective images in the public eye. At a time when businessmen created and used their status as cultural leaders to support their financial goals, Rivera gave wealthy patrons credibility. For the left, Rivera provided the artistic model called for by activists, like Edmund Wilson. Wilson challenged Americans to find "artists willing to confront daily life".

Following is a sample of the articles that were published in the U.S. about Rivera (the article in Creative Art was written by Rivera):