Mexico has plenty of beautiful artifacts, but, being a realistic country, Mexicans dont assume that people will be automatically drawn to them; so they put some effort into getting an audience for their history and culture. They build a beautiful building to put their stuff in. They put the building in the sprawling greenery of the Bosque de Chapultepec park. They have a large courtyard in the middle of the museum for people to lounge about in. You might not in the least bit be interested in archaeology, but if you're curious about architecture, you'll be fascinated by the portico-like structure that, anchored only at a single central colummn, shades the courtyard. The thing is not easy to build: the portico cant be too light, for its large surface catches a lot of wind, and it might simply fly off; but if it's too heavy, it would just crush the column and collapse.
You might not know what anthropology is all about, so the first gallery is devoted to explaining something about the subject, particularly the basics of the pre-history of the Ameicas. It had always intrigued me that native Americans' faces resembled that of Chinese - now I knew the answer: groups of Mongoloids had trekked across Asia and entered the Americas by means of the Bering Strait (the limb of Alaska that seems to be trying, in vain, to touch Russia) when it was still a frozen ice-bridge, and populated the "New" World.
Two floors of galleries surround the courtyard - each gallery covering a distinct part of Mexico. By now, you might have actually developed some curiosity in the history of the land, so there is some prefatory text to each section. Unfortunately, all the text is in Spanish; however, with a rudimentary knowledge of the language, coupled with that of one or more other European languages, you could guess your way through. Additionally, you could rent an audioguide. Fascinated by the history, you might be curious to know how people in those parts live today: just climb a flight of stairs to the corresponding Ethnology section above. (This bit is LP paraphrased - we skipped the upper galleries.) At some point of time, the history becomes too much to absorb, but the art is so good, that you have to lurch through all the halls, even with aching calves, just not to miss something really beautiful.
It seemed to be the high season of school projects in Mexico - groups consisting of schoolkids (or mother and kid, in the case of young student and/or mollycoddling mom) were faithfully taking notes. I wonder, though, if some over-zealous Education Minister isnt behind all this - I saw kids leaving the museum getting their books stamped by a guard: proof of visit to be presented to the teacher?
The lunch buffet at the museum restaurant was decent - the only irritant being
that not only do you have to pay for the lunch in advance, the cashier even
asks for the tip before you've sat down at the table.
Next Chapter: Bull...