The National Museum of Anthropology


…As long as the world exists,

the glory and honor

of México Tenochitlán

must not be forgotten.

Chimalpahín Quauhtlehuatzin

            Neither conquest nor time, nor new foreign influences have been able to erase from the Mexican memory, the splendor of its pre-Hispanic past. Even before Mexico had achieved independence, there was already an awareness of its valuable heritage and the need for it to be  known by Mexicans themselves as well as by foreigners.

 

            Aztec, Mayas Zapotec, Mixtec, Purépecha, Olmec and many other cultures are still alive in Mexico today.

 

            As a tribute to all of them, the National Museum of Anthropology and History was inaugurated on September 17, 1964, located on Paseo de la Reforma Avenue, in the second section of the legendary Chapultepec Park

 

            Chapultepec Park is a veritable festival of the people on Sundays. Families wander along its paths, in the midst of food stands, balloon vendors, photographers’ and caricaturists’ stands, and all the other people who come to this fabled place to pass a pleasant afternoon.

 

            For parents who like to combine fun with culture, nothing is better than the many museums found in Chapultepec Park. After a day in the country, or a visit to the traditional zoo, families scatter off toward their favorite museum.

 

            One of the most traditional, since its inauguration in September, 1964, is the National Museum of Anthropology and History.

 

            At the entrance is an imposing statue of Tlaloc, the Aztec god of rain. They say that  on the day it was brought to its current location, an unforgettable, torrential rain fell on Mexico City…

 

            It was built by the Mexican architect, Pedro Ramírez Vázquez, over a period of 19 months.

 

            One of the museum’s main features is that its use of open spaces is exemplary. The museum covers an area of 79,700 square meters, 35,700 of which are in the open air! (the central patio, the entrance square, and several other patios). The show rooms surround the central patio. Each room is dedicated to a particular culture, beginning with the origins of man and encompassing the Toltecs, the Teotihuacans, the Mayas, and in particular, the Aztecs.

 

            A trip through the rooms, entering and leaving them through the patio, gives one a feeling of coolness and lightness; in contrast to so many dismal museums, this one manages to really impress the visitor without tiring him or her.

 

            Being in this museum is truly a moving, and at the same time motivating, experience. Here, pieces that witnessed greatness and wisdom share the space with works of art created by our ancestors many centuries ago.

 

            Besides its restrained beauty, the museum’s architectural structure uses very interesting symbolism. For example, the  bronze snail  in the pond found in the main patio represents the way the ancient Mexicans called each other together: by  rattling the sea snail shells whose sound still makes us tingle in remembrance of those civilizations.

 

            The complex in general is very similar to  Mayan constructions, with the first body of smooth stone and the upper one covered with geometrical bas reliefs.[1]

            The inverted fountain, also located in the central patio, is a marvelous sculpture that records on its metal column, the two races who merged, the Indigenous and the Spanish,  to create a new nation. And around this pillar a circular curtain of rain falls gently, endowing the whole place with a fresh coolness and solemnity. Although I have to say that it is also one of the favorite places of the children who visit the museum, who play at getting as close as they can to see who gets wet!

 

            If you cross this light curtain of water, you will hear only the sound of water falling and, very, very far away, the music of a flute. This is the echo of the ritual performed daily by the “Papantla flyers” in a clearing of the woods in front of the museum.

 


          


  Beyond the architectural beauty of its building, the importance of the National Museum of Anthropology  lies in the fact that through it, we maintain a close relationship with our past.

 

            In its 27 rooms, pre-Hispanic Mexico meets  the Mexico of today. This is how we keep our Aztec roots alive, perpetuating them and saving them from oblivion.

 

            There is a magical element in the coincidence  that this spot is located in the legendary Chapultepec Park, a site so respected and admired by the Aztecs, that because of its beauty was the exclusive place of the Tlatoanis, emperors of the great México Tenochtitlán.

 

            Magic and precise, because if the ancient Mexicans had chosen a space on the earth for their burial, a spot in the Anahuac Valley that would guard their essence, they would no doubt have chosen a place in this woods, witness to their arrival, development, and the splendor of their empire.

 

            The Aztec Room is especially majestic. Here we find the world-famous Aztec Calendar, the goddess Cohatlicue, a spectacular mock-up of the Tlaltelolco market, and a reproduction of Moctezuma’s headdress, among many other pieces.

 

            The museum  does not only display the magnificence of Mexico’s pre-Hispanic cultures; it also has an area for temporary expositions which has presented large exhibits of other cultures, such as “The greatness of Greece and Sicily”, or the more recent “Etruscans”. These exhibitions have given Mexicans the chance to experience the beauty of these majestic cultures.

 

            Fortunately for all Mexicans, this museum will again host various international expositions, such as for example, “Imperial China: the Xian Dynasties”, and “The Cloud Men”, from Chile.

 

            Another very interesting event will be the 12th Anthropology and History Book Fair, that attracts more than 125,000 visitors.

 

            The museum is a testimony of the legacy of our ancestors, so that it does not remain hidden, lost in the jungle or asleep under the earth, but rather rises and shows itself in all its splendor, not just to Mexicans, but to the entire world.

We hope you will be able to visit Mexico soon!

 

If you would like to make a virtual visit to the National Museum of Anthropology, click in at:

http://www.cnca.gob.mx/cnca/inah/antropologia/menu.html

And if you are interested in Aztec civilization, visit the Templo Mayor Museum:

http://archaeology.la.asu.edu/tm/pages2/mtm01.htm

And speaking of the Templo Mayor, which is very near Constitution  Square (“Zocalo”) in Mexico City,. a Mexican Rock concert by the Café Tacuba group took place last weekend in this huge square, which is the heart and soul of our city. Imagine, Rock in the Zocalo. I am surprised by the idea that this square, precisely where the Aztecs found an eagle devouring a serpent, the signal the gods gave them in order to identify the place where they were to build their city, is now the scene of a huge rock concert.

 

It is here, in the Zocalo, where the merging of times and cultures that shape the Mexico of today, is a daily occurrence.

 

Address  Av Paseo de la Reforma & Calzada Gandhi S/N, Chapultepec Polanco, Miguel Hidalgo, 11560.

Hours  Opened Tuesday to Sunday 9 AM to 7 PM.  Mondays closed.

Telephone +52 55 4040 5300


    [1]BERNAL, Ignacio, Museo Nacional de Antropología e Historia, Edit. Aguilar, Mexico, 1967. Introduction.