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The Fuente de Petróleos Mexicanos is also known as the Monumento a la Industria Petrolera de México, i.e.; The Mexican Petroleum Industry Monument. It may cause some culture shock for international visitors, as it’s not an easy monument to understand.
Currently, it’s only really visible for a few moments when passing west on the Paseo de la Reforma. This is a pity because, like any good monument, it is only possible to understand it by examining its intended meaning and the tribute it pays to a Mexican industry. It is also necessary to delve into part of the culture and complexity that shapes the country and its capital. You can read a little more in the drop down at the bottom of this page.
The monument celebrates the expropriation, that is, the nationalization, of the Mexican oil industry. The work is by architect Vicente Mendiola Quezada and sculptor Juan Fernando Olaguíbel Rosenzweig. It was completed and presented to the public in 1952. It’s the last of the grand traffic circles along Paseo de la Reforma, each of which has some kind of public monument or sculpture, except for the one called Glorieta del Ahuehuete.
The Fuente de Petróleos was originally located in a traffic circle with a gas station that had stood there for almost half a century. Overcoming the uneven terrain required significant architectural ingenuity. The monument includes multiple fountains superimposed on each other and a huge pillar bearing a sculpted allegorical group of figures.
Several of these represent the Mexican economic liberation through the nationalization of the oil industry in 1938. Measuring 55 meters in diameter and 18 meters high, the sculpture is cast in 18 tons of bronze.
Both Mendiola and Olaguíbel are represented as figures within the sculptural ensemble. The set contains some common allegories of the nineteenth century, the spoked wheels to symbolize the pace of progress and gears to identify the industry, are evident. Victory is shown wingless, naked and triumphant, at the highest point.
It will not be a popularly visited monument today and probably won’t be in the future either, but understanding it provides a rare glimpse into mid-century Mexico and its continuing reverberations.
Understanding monumental sculpture in Mexico, particularly until around 1960, begins with an understanding of the Mexican Revolution and the relative instability it produced being such a broad movement. This also helps to explain the muralist movement in painting. It is necessary to examine carefully the socialist realism of the Soviet Union and that of the many countries within the USSR's sphere of influence. The academic movements of the nineteenth century-and their strong use of allegory-are also important for an understanding of the state, especially a young post-revolutionary state. Such a state has a strong interest in ideological expression in art that is very much at play in much of the sculpture of this period. This tradition of commemorative sculpture was both an inheritance and continuity of 19th century art. Today located at a vertiginous intersection, the fountain is almost unobservable.