Mexico City’s Anthropology Museum, Museum of Modern Art, and Zoo are all located within walking distance of one another in a tree-covered area of the capital. Yesterday, Mexico City native Salvador Castañeda took me me to visit the Anthropology and Modern Art Museums, and then showed me around a bit of the Coyoacán district – an area near the university. Also, I learned the Mexican slang word órale, meaning “wow!”
Papantla dancers (or flyers) were performing outside the Anthropology Museum when we arrived. Four men in traditional costumes climbed to the top of a 90-foot pole, tied their feet to one end of a rope that was attached to the pole, and hung upside-down while they were spun in the air. A fifth stood at the top of the pole playing a drum. The performance is a pre-Hispanic tradition that originated when the indigenous Totonaca peoples wished to call upon their gods to send them rain. Skip to 0:50 in this video to see how it happens:
The Museum of Modern Art is relatively small, with no more than about 4 or 5 exhibit rooms, but the art rotates frequently. The Neomexicanismos exhibit seemed to hold the museum’s most “modern” or recent works, including:
Upstairs were some slightly older works by world renowned artists including Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. Interestingly, I’ve heard a lot of skepticism about Frida Kahlo’s work here – the accusation that her art was not excellent enough to deserve the type of popular attention it has received or, if she is to receive that kind of attention, then many other lesser known artists ought to as well. Frida Kahlo hype certainly runs high in the States.
The anthropology museum, by contrast with the modern art one, was huge. After entering a main hall, the museum opens up into an outdoor plaza with exhibit buildings on all sides. In a park-like area outside one of these buildings, there is a pseudo-tropical forest area with reconstructed ruins.
A bit of a drive from the two museums, Coyoacán is a young and lively neighborhood. There’s a central building that’s something like a “town hall,” a church, a park, a kiosk, many restaurants, and an indoor artisans’ market.