Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Here's Looking at You Kid

IMG_4616, originally uploaded by drtaxsacto.

On Wednesday last we spent the day going through the Museum of Anthropology in some detail. I say that without reservation - we spent a total of about six and a half hours there and only got through the first floor. The museum is a wonderful example of almost too much. It is divided into several viewing areas that represent most of the major archeological periods in Mexican history. My friend thinks the place is organized wrong - and going through it in the way that he suggests is actually more useful. He would suggest that the most logical way to cover the important cultures and institutions would be to go through more or less chronologically. Thus, he would deemphasize the Aztecs and increase the review of other cultures - even though many of the cultural periods overlap. There are a lot of unresolved issues in any way that you think about understanding the histories of these cultures. Clearly, each of the preceding cultures influenced their successors. But the natural tendency to think in a linear manner is, like in most areas of life, unproductive. Human beings are infinitely resourceful and also unwilling to think about life the way their archeologists want them to think about life. Second, the interest in human sacrifice is not uniform. At the same time, as you look at the development of cultures one can understand that to be able to concentrate on those aspects one needed to have a fairly elaborate economic and communications system - not the same as today - but still pretty good. Finally, the visions of the Spaniards coming over and "civilizing" is not that simple - a lot of the cultural aspects of the cultures the Spaniards encountered were more advanced than their counterparts. None of these revelations is truly amazing but all got me to think more about the dead ends pursued in all cultures.

The trip my friend took me through last Wednesday was truly inspirational and thought provoking. If you are in Mexico City - you should take a day and go there.

Unfortunately, our trip to the Castle at Chapultapec was not as illuminating. The history exhibits have been improved significantly - both to take out the ideological rap and to make the story of Mexican history (mostly of governmental regimes) more coherent. But for some odd reason - after an extensive and largely successful renovation of the interior spaces in what once was a place of government and is now the historical museum - there are no interior pictures allowed. There is a lot of great stuff to see but no legitimate way to record it. What's more there is no CD with pictures of the key works available in the gift shop.

There is a continuing conflict among Mexican historians as to the relative importance of Benito Juarez and Porfirio Diaz. Juarez, who was a contemporary of Lincoln is important but for shear development and even time in grade - the early years of Porforio may be ultimately more important. It is sad that the curators have not gone back to the tradition of allowing photos inside without flash or of offering photos of the key exhibits on a CD.