Now enjoying historical monument status, the Escuela México (Av. O’Higgins 250, 10 a.m.–12:45 p.m. and 3–6:30 p.m. weekdays; on weekends and holidays, hours are 10 a.m.–6 p.m., admission is free) probably gets more attention than any other local attraction because of its famous frescos by the Mexican muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros and his countryman Xavier Guerrero. The school itself was part of a relief effort by Mexican president Lázaro Cárdenas’s government after the cataclysmic 1939 earthquake.
Like other Mexican muralists and many other artists of his time, the outspoken Siqueiros was a Communist. His library murals, collectively titled Muerte al Invasor (Death to the Invader), reveal his commitment to the rebel and the underdog. Dedicated to Mexico, the north wall depicts individuals such as Aztec emperor Cuauhtémoc, revolutionary priest Miguel Hidalgo, President Benito Juárez (a Zapotec Indian), 20th-century revolutionary Emiliano Zapata, and President Cárdenas himself—not to mention Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés.
Devoted to Chile, the southern wall features Mapuche leaders Caupolicán, Lautaro, and Galvarino (the latter’s bleeding hands amputated on the orders of Pedro de Valdivia, also depicted here), independence hero Bernardo O’Higgins, and reformist president José Manuel Balmaceda, who committed suicide after defeat in the civil war of the 1890s.
Less obviously political, Guerrero’s Hermanos Mexicanos (Mexican Brothers) fill the library’s stairwells and their ceiling with muscular figures symbolizing their country’s dedication to the relief effort. Unfortunately, Siqueiros’s murals in particular are in serious need of restoration.
Though the Escuela México is still a public school, the library is open to the public.