Saturday, July 31, 2010
Just when I thought I had taken all of the notes and seen all of the museums I needed to see, Jacques took us to Chapultepec Castle! Chapultepec means "Grasshopper Hill". It was the strategic site for presidents and the military with views of the city from all points above. The tour guide began to talk about the diversity of Mexico. Over 250 million Black slaves were brought to Mexico during the colonial period. They usually intermarried into the cultures, so you don't see a black person per se today in Mexico. However, African skulls were found to be included on the Tzompantli, representing captured prisoners back in the day. There are also "caste paintings" which illustrate the social categories implemented and emphasized by the Spanish based on intermarriage. Today, Mexico is made up of Spanish, Indian, African and Asian peoples.
Mural paintings also have captured the images of mulato warriors and Africans, standing beside Hidalgo and other leaders of freedom movements in Mexico.
I began this journey with a goal in mind to discover the African Diaspora here in Mexico. Yes, I have! Vicente Guerrero, a mulatto, has a state named after him. In additon, I was not able to visit, but found Yanga, Veracruz, a leading producer of sugar cane today, was founded by an African. I have so many ideas now for a curriculum project but I know that these images of Mexico will be included!
We arrived on Saturday, July 25th! Such a rainy day, but Benito is so skilled and so professional, he gets us safely to every location!
Sunday--Xochimilco, "the floating gardens". Vendors float along beside you to sell things, flowers, food, music, jewelry. It's neverending, but fun! Casa Azul, Frida Kahlo's house and museum, brought her story to life. We had watched some of the movie on the bus, but the ending, we couldn't see!
Monday--Climbed the steps of the Basilica de Guadelupe! I have seen two Black saints in churches, Sto. Domingo in San Miguel, Oaxaca and now Sto. Benito del Palermo in Mexico City. I will have to find out about this! Uh oh, had to climb back down! Took a picture of the original Virgin de Guadelupe!
Teotihuacan is an amazing, metropolis of the Aztecs! I climbed the Citadel and several layers of steps to La Luna (the Moon temple). The Sol was just too high! Teotihuacan was the coming together of several cultures--aztecs, mayas, zapotec, etc., but always the Olmec influences.
La Gruta--restaurant in a cave! Wow!
We stopped at a little town called Tlapanal. It is a dry, hilly area that grows peanuts, corn and sugar cane. However, the families cannot grow enough so that families are left behind while the fathers go to the US to seek work and to send money back home. We actually get to talk to some of the women, children and grandparents who are affected by migration! The women left behind take charge and empower themselves by starting a recycling business. The grandmothers take care of the children. Families are willing to pay the coyotes to transport them to the border without papers to have a better life. This is such a complicated issue, but I was glad to hear first hand about the families. We shared a lunch with them. A children's book has been written by students and some adults to help preserve history and culture! A great idea!
Cholula, the widest Mayan site, covered with foliage, high on a temple--the catholic church!
We visited the Uriate Talavera house! Beautiful hand painted pieces of dining ware, pottery, etc. since 1624 when the Spanish brought over the style. Only 7 mineral colors are used. The pieces are black or white, then baked @ 850 degrees to become red. They are glazed, cooked again, stencil designs, hand crafted; then finally painted by hand!
In the museum in Xalapa, I encountered the colossal Olmec heads. There are about 14 in all that have been discovered. The Olmecs, dating back to 500 B.C. are considered the "mother culture". They had a number system including zero; social stratification and art which has influenced most of the indigeneous groups that followed. The continued mystery is where the civilization came from. Because of the resemblance to African features on some of the statues, it was first thought that the group was influenced by Africa; some say the resemblance is Asian or Mongoloid. This topic is quite intriguing and definitely requires further investigation.