Grant McWilliams

Mexico 2006 - Day 12

This is the last day of our trip which is always sad for me. I’ve never wanted to go home after any trip I’ve ever taken. The world is there, why not explore it? Anyway when I originally planned this trip I had three things that I absolutely wanted to see - Monte Alban, Teotihaucan and the National Museum of Anthropology. Today we went to the National Museum of Anthropology and the Chapultepec Castle. Both are in Bosque de Chapultepec (Chapultepec Park) which is a beautiful park that includes many things.

National Museum of Anthropology

First I’ll talk about the Museum. I can see someone who is interested in pre-european history of the Americas getting on an airplane and flying to Mexico City just for this museum. If you walk through all rooms you will have walked 5km (3.1 miles). To do it justice you would probably have to spend 3 or 4 days here. The museum is divided up into sectionsMuseumimg_3508.jpg depending on subjects. The first section goes through cave man times and we skipped it pretty fast. The other sections focus on the La Venta (Olmeca), Maya, Toltec, Mexica, and northern people. Mixed in here is the little known western people who made many small figurines and showed great artistic talent. Outside each of the exhibits are mockups of ballcourts, temples etc. that you can wander through. Inside there are thousands of archeological artifacts. It amazes me how much stuff has been left behind by these people. I believe that Mexico is the archeologically richest country in the world bar none. It is said that they estimate that only 50% of the sites are known and only 20% have been uncovered.

With only 20% of half the estimated sites uncovered there are still 16,000 accessible archeological sites in Mexico! The maya region itself has more archeological sites than all of Egypt. Using these numbers scientists think there is somewhere around 160,000 sites in Mexico. The tourist possibilities are endless if they can ever get the water bacteria and crime issues under control. One of the areas I wanted to visit this trip but didn’t get to because of my aformentioned ATM machine problems was La Venta which is where the Olmeca people created their civilization about 1200 BC. Since we didn’t get there I was anxious to get to the Olmeca part of the Museum to see the giant stone heads. The museum did have several and a couple more mockups so we took pictures next to them. They are extremely well detailed and intrigue me to no end. These people look like Mongolians or maybe even black people and are wearing leather caps with earflaps. Keep in mind that they were the first civilization in the Mexico area. Where did they come from? Judging by their attire they weren’t underdeveloped people but rather advanced. Had they just migrated from the orient or did they grow their knowledge and culture in Mexico? Why did they look black? Where there black people in Mexico way before slavery? Maybe they were black and the later Oriental emmigration mixed with them to create the Indians we know of now hence the dark brown skintones of the Indians. The writing system and language they used is similar to a West African language known as Malinke-Bambara. Who knows but thinking about it gives me a charge anyway. The Olmecas have been called the “mother culture” of the people of Central America because of the age of their civilization. They were also advanced and the Zapotecas that founded Monte Alban descended from them. The Monte Alban people didn’t look quite as negroid as the Olmecs if their reliefs are accurate. Back to the stone heads. These stone heads weigh up to 40,000 lbs and are monolithic. Who knows why they created them but scientists think they are actually carvings not of general people but specific rulers. Here’s a good link toimg_3535.jpg pictures of more of the heads. We also got to see the Tolteca collosal statues which are of spear thowing warriors. They are 15 feet tall and come form the city of Tula north of Teotihaucan. I haven’t been that interested in the Toltecas but may investigate them later since they and Chitchen Itza had dealings. Also in the Museum is Pacal the Great’s tomb which is the Mesoamerican equivelent to King Tut’s tomb. This is the most intact tomb in all of MesoAmerica and scientists have gained a great deal of information from it. They know all about his life, how long he ruled, his geneological tree and everything. I think this was one of the unexpected highlights of the museum. Natalya has been reading a fictional diary of Pacals great granddaughter. She was very interested in seeing him. Pacal came from Palenque and was Mayan in case you didn’t already know. Panenque is the western most mayan city and on my list of things to see. It’s not real convenient as it’s 10hrs from Oaxaca and 10 hrs from Marida making it difficult to see from the east or west side of Mexico. Maybe next time we’ll drive there.

Chapultepec Castle

We also visited Chapultepec Castle. If you like French culture like I do I suggest you go here. It’s really hard to think of yourself as being in Mexico City or even the western hemisphere when you are here. It really feels like you’re standing outside Verseille or a similar French palace. This park is the oldest park in America having been created by the Nezahualcoyotl, the King of Texcoco in the 1300s. He commissioned a palace to be built at the foot of the hill where the current castle is built. Later it was expanded on and Cortez used the park as a hunting ground while he was here. It became famous when the French took over Mexico under the orders of Napoleon III (Napoleon’s Nephew). Napoleon III was the one who ordered the grand boulevards in Paris that are quite famous now and make Paris such a beautiful city. The Paseo del Reforma that runs from the Castle to near the Zocolo looks a great deal like the Champs Elysee in Paris and it’s no wonder since the French ruled Mexico for 3 years. Napoleon III appointed Maximillion (a Hapsburg) to the throne of Mexico and he added to this castle and made it very French. It is quite beautiful but if you’ve seen other French palaces (namely Verseille) it is more of the same. I do however like it’s position on the hill which gives you a grand view of the city and Paseo del Reforma. I could see a French Emporer being very happy here. After Napoleon III pulled out of Mexico Maximillion had to fend for himself and the Mexicans revolted under Benito Jaurez and killed Maximillion. Benito Jaurez to this day is a hero for this. It does’t hurt any that he is also the only president Mexico has ever had that was 100% indigenous Indian (Zapotec). We were not allowed to take any pictures of the interior of the Castle even with the flash turned off but you can find some here. We also went shopping later. Our driver Fernando took us to a market that we wouldn’t have found otherwise and it was ok but the prices weren’t as cheap as we would have like. He also took us to the silver “factories” but the prices for pure silver were also quite high. He dropped us off at the Balderas market which is where we wanted to go in the first place. I love this little in-door market of artisan products. Nobody (outside of one man) speaks English but the stuff is authentic. Jade and Piper got Sombreros, Ponchos and little Guitars. Natalya got a Poncho, skirt and I picked up some gifts for friends. The total cost was about a hundred dollars. There is also a little restaurant here that sells nothing but Quesadillas that are made on the spot. The lady out front takes some dough, sqaushes it on the tortilla press and frys the tortillas right in from of you. The quesadillas with potatoes (papas) are the best. Quesadillas here are a tortilla filled with chicken, cheese or potatoes folded over and fried. They look a bit like an American-Mexican soft taco that has been cooked. The deal is you get 3 for 25 pesos (about $2.20) so all four of us ate until we were stuffed for under 10 bucks. We ate here twice.