I am a museum nerd. When I’m kinda tired, overwhelmed, and don’t really know what I’m doing a museum is just the place for me. And if I’m alone, so much the better. No one to urge me to hurry up. No one to judge my choices. No one to insist it’s time to 1. eat, 2. leave 3. find the bathroom 4. chatter about and comment on the nature of my current object of fascination. It’s really best if you just leave me alone and arrange for a time and place to meet later in the day.
I have this dandy little book published by Phaidon and authored by Wallpaper’s City Guide series on Mexico City. It’s a guide that is very carefully curated and makes no attempt to be a comprehensive guide to the city. It’s only interested in places and sites that are laudatory. The introduction is most complimentary of the city of today: “Mexico City no longer begs a visit. It demands one.”
Being slightly brain dead, I took a taxi–Yes, a taxi. I know there’s a great metro.–to Museo Jumex and it’s neighbor across the tracks, Museo Soumaya both in Nuevo Polanco. The austere design of the Jumex is clothed in sand colored travertine blocks and topped with an unusual sawtooth roof. Cutting edge modern work occupies three floors. There is a cafe that offers simple but good food at reasonable prices. The 50P entry fee is waived for mature visitors. Very kind indeed!
I started at the third floor showing an exhibit on the impact of TV on modern culture. The piece I most enjoyed was a video which I took to be a commentary on the Mexican soaps which are notorious for their dramatic plots and divas. The video featured a cast of individuals ranging from a 9-year old boy to several good looking men and women. Every single actor cried, wept, sobbed, and struggled to control trembling lips, and leaking eyes. They hugged and sighed and threw themselves on couches, chairs, and beds throughout the video. It was well done and amusing. I don’t know how the actors were able to produce so many tears.
Next Museo Soumaya. I saw the train tracks when I arrived but was surprised that they were functional. As I was exiting, a long train rumbled along the space between the two properties .
The Soumaya is a breathtaking design. The exterior is covered in scale-like metallic tiles which mold to the sensuous structure.
Entering, the first piece I was drawn to was a large mural by Diego Riviera “Bano de Tehuantepec” or “Rio Juchitan” 1953-1956.
A scene of women bathing in the river and a man with his son who doesn’t want to have a bath. It is composed of glass Venetian mosaics. It is vibrant and beautiful. (I just photographed the ends.)
The interior stairway circles up the 4 floors each dedicated to artifacts ranging from coins to furniture to paintings of Mexican history and life. It is an interesting collection. My favorites were a collection of folding screens that are remarkable and in superb condition.
Even more noteworthy was the behavior of the numerous elementary and middle school students who stood quietly and respectfully listening to the docent. I found it amazing. It caused me to reflect on the children I taught when I was a teacher in California many years ago half of whom were Mexican American. They too were absolutely respectful and polite.
I had a light lunch and realized I needed to rest. I almost took advantage of the floor mats scattered about for napping art patrons.
Instead I taxied back to the hotel and slept for 12 hours!
The next morning I headed out to the highly touted Museo Nacional de Antropologia located in Chapultepec park.
On Sundays major streets are closed to traffic and people on foot, bikes, pushing strollers and walking dogs fill them.
There is only one entrance open to the park on Sunday and getting there takes much longer since the taxi has to circle the entire “forest” depending on the direction you are coming from. Nevertheless, I arrived and entered. There are ticket kiosks which I recommend using as the lines at the ticket windows are long. The entry fee is 75P about $4.00.
I would guess that the majority of the visitors were Mexican families. No strollers. Children either walked or were carried. A sea of multi-generational families Many of the kids had workbooks they were writing in as they gazed at exhibits. I gathered schools assign their students to go to the museum. And why not! It is amazing.
Lots of the exhibits are replicas–clearly the Pyramid of the Serpent no longer exists–but the replica is fabulous and huge conveying some of the dimension and splendor of the original.
The building is a U-shape two story modern building which begins at ancient history and anthropology and concludes at modern times. The tall fountain in the courtyard is a wonderful way to cool off.
The first floor circuit took me 2 hours.
The second floor which I almost passed on–I was tired and hungry–I liked the best. It is focused on the indigenous people of Mexico stretching to the Chaco in New Mexico and Anasazi of Mesa Verde in Colorado.
The statue below is a member of Los Raramuri “Niki raramuri ju.” I am a raramuri. I have light feet.
I was amazed. I watched all the very well done and informative videos and left hungering for more. I told you I’m a nerd!
One of the nicest features of the museum allows visitors to exit the exhibit rooms to relax outside and enjoy the gorgeous gardens and the pleasant weather.
The entire property is enclosed making this possible. I spent two more hours but it was time for my comida–3 o’clock the big mid-day meal.
I read that there was a restaurant and headed toward it. I had very low expectations. Boy! was I surprised!
Sala Gastronomica “Sabores Mexicanos” was perfect. It offers a menu that celebrates regional favorites using ingredients sourced locally.
I hadn’t had a proper meal since I arrived. I ordered a glass of vino tinto, agua minerale, pollo de Oxaca and mole poblana con arroz. This was my first mole poblana a sauce made of ground seeds and nuts, chilis, spices, masa and Mexican chocolate–it will not be my last. It is delicious!
For dessert I chose a sampler of Mexican dulces which varied from tamarinda dulce and tamarinda con chili (didn’t like) to marzipan and coconut dulces, but my favorite was a lime split and filled with juice soaked shredded coconut. A superb espresso made with beans from Chiapas concluded the feast. The wait staff are excellent. The open patio and banquettes where I sat are divine. This dinner set me back $50 plus a 20% tip.
Back I went to the hotel totally satisfecha!
What a great day!
Here’s an offering for the soundtrack to your adventure. Seems like it could have been written just for you!