Set on a sugar plantation, this portable mural introduces the tensions over labor, race, and economic inequity that simmered in Mexico after the Revolution. In the foreground, an Indian woman, with the traditional braids and white clothes of a peasant, cuts papayas from a tree while her children collect the fruit in reed baskets. Behind them, dark-skinned men with bowed heads gather bunches of sugar cane. A foreman, with distinctly lighter skin and hair, watches over them on horseback, and in the background a pale hacendado (wealthy landowner) languishes in a hammock. In this panel, Rivera adapted Marxist ideas about class struggle—an understanding of history born in industrialized Europe—to the context of Mexico, a primarily agrarian country until after World War II.
Rivera used drawings like this cartoon for Liberation of the Peon to work out the compositions of his murals. In both study and fresco, he focused on the relationship between the figures in the group and the limp body of the peon. In order to facilitate transfer of this image, Rivera drew diagonal lines over the composition, with their intersection marking its center. These lines helped him to position the foreground figure, which is more completely finished than the rest of the drawing.