In Mexico, renowned artist and activist Francisco Toledo died last Thursday at his home in Oaxaca City. He was 79 years old. Toledo’s artwork and activism drew global attention to the indigenous traditions of his home state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico — one of the poorest regions of the country. Toledo, who was widely known as “El Maestro,” “The Teacher,” was a painter, photographer, sculptor and ceramist who tirelessly defended the authentic Oaxacan indigenous traditions. His father was a Zapotec shoemaker. In 2002, when McDonald’s announced plans to build a fast-food restaurant in the nearly 500-year-old town square in the heart of Oaxaca City, Toledo threatened to protest naked at the site. Instead, he led a protest with hundreds of people chanting “Tamales, yes! Hamburgers, no!” as Toledo gave out free tamales.
Friend and filmmaker David Riker mourned the loss of Toledo. In a statement, he said, “In an age when celebrity has become an end in itself, Toledo offered a radical alternative of what an artist can be. Immensely successful, he never enriched himself. Instead he donated everything he had to create free and open spaces throughout the city — art centers, libraries, and museums.”