The tree lined, four-lane Paseo de la Reforma Avenue is a pretty picture in the light of the winter sun. Gentle rays cajole its way past branches and kisses the sidewalk as we walk past black and white photographs. Photos of moustachioed men - Emil Zapata, Pancho Villa et al - adorning bullet belts and striking determined poses are put up on the fence to commemorate the centenary of the Mexican revolution.
The verdant Reforma Avenue and the temperate clime take me back to pleasant memories of pointless walks in Bangalore’s Cubbon Park. This morning though, there is a destination we are walking to – Museo Nacional de Antropologia, the National Museum of Anthropology. Our purposeful walk is halted by the sight of a familiar name on the street sign. A huge grin appears on my face as the museum resides on Calzada Gandhi – Gandhi Road. The appearance in the heart of Mexico City of this most common road sign in India is a brief moment of joy and an obvious photo op.
The most visited museum in this city with over 150 museums is an impressive building. A large umbrella like structure greets you once you make past the turnstiles. The umbrella stands at the top of a large courtyard and the rooms containing the exhibits surrounds the courtyard. The ground floor of the museum has exhibits from the glory days of Mexico’s famed civilizations – Aztec, Mayan, Olmec, Toltec etc. The prescient accuracy of the Mayan calendar, the intricate works on stone, the numerous rituals - the ground floor exhibits are illuminating history lessons. My ignorance of the greatness of these civilizations aids my imagination take trips back in history. But these flights of imagination crash land in the first floor.
The first floor exhibits are a present day mirror of the past. Photos, handicrafts, wardrobe and other artefacts showcase the stark present day existence of these Native American civilizations. The white man brought with them a new language, a new religion and a near complete destruction of written records of the past and death to the native way of life.
PA speakers announce that it’s nearing closing time and we exit with the multitude. A familiar figure of a ‘half naked’ bespectacled old man with a walking stick stands at one end of the road. Ironical that on a road named in tribute to the idea of non-violence stands a monument showcasing the violent end of civilizations. Peace.
Mexico City, Mexico, December 2014