|Forastero (stranger) - entrance exhibit to Amparo Museum|
Museums have never been my #1 thing to do while traveling. I like learning but quickly find myself in information overload with the facts leaking away and the images blending together as I walk through, typically, long white halls.
Mexico museums seem to be different. Frequently I find myself weeping or feeling like my chest is in a vice or that my head has been turned inside out. Because I’ve always been lukewarm about museums, I didn’t start exploring the ones in Mexico until I went to Zacatecas last month. Now I may be addicted to the emotional and intellectual charge that precedes museum exhaustion.
|A snapshot of one wall|
Take, for instance, Amparo Museum here in Puebla. Having done three stunning museums in Zacatecas, I had no expectations of this one. I definitely didn’t expect to be gobsmacked just walking through the door. The cavernous entrance is an exhibit in itself ... before you ever get to the desk where you pay a fee … except this was Monday and entrance is free on Mondays and Sundays and a mere pittance the rest of the week.
The ballroom-sized exhibit titled “Forasteros” (strangers) focused on words and numbers related to refugees, immigration, and exiles … in a way that made it clear that it is a world problem … a growing world problem … related to violence. One of the patterns I’ve noticed in Mexican museums is that they go for a reaction, emotional or intellectual.
There was definitely a reaction as I wandered randomly about in this overwhelming white space, reading the startling quotes and numbers that made me feel like a small bouncing object in an uncertain world. To bring the staggering international statistics down to a human level, two video booths showed people emotionally describing their personal journeys.
Xenophobia: It is fear, rejection or hatred of the foreigner. With manifestations ranging from rejection, contempt and threats, to assaults and murders. Many times xenophobia is linked to racism or discrimination based on race.
And that was just the opening space …
The first actual exhibit stunned me with its beauty. “Vestigios” (Remains) … a huge, quilted shawl embroidered with epitaphs. “I take with me only a handful of dirt.” “Here I rest.” “I found my way.”
|Huge, pieced shawl with epitaphs|
|Detail with epitaph|
The next one made me cry.
|Knitted mandala on the floor|
In a darkened room, with a brightly colored, knitted mandala on the floor, we watched a video as it told the story of a group of older women dancing together every week. The women, dressed all in white, moved together, sometimes in ballroom moves, sometimes in free form. As they danced they began to ritually unravel the mandala that had been created by younger women. "Disappearing it," rolling the yarn into balls as they went. While the symbology for me is uncertain, it made tears flow.
This museum deserves a return trip later this week.
The Amparo Museum, located in the historic center of Puebla, is one of the most important historical museums in Mexico. It was inaugurated in 1991 and sponsored by the Amparo Foundation, which was founded in 1979 by Manuel Espinoza Yglesias in honor of his wife.
It was one of the first museums in Mexico to integrate technology such as multimedia systems and interactive CDs, which can provide guided tours in English, Spanish, French and Japanese through twenty one computer stations located in the fourteen halls of the permanent collections. Because of its collection and avant-garde use of technology, this museum is considered to be one of the most important in Mexico and Latin America.