Monday, October 24, 2016

[MIGUEL HIDALGO] Castillo de Chapultepec

I forgot to say that you have to get your ticket in the mini castle right upfront before the locker area. It was only there where they checked the ticket, although I don’t know if that is always the case given how it’s free admission today. Back on topic, a part of the castle houses the Museum of National History. I went upstairs first and was immediately impressed by the wall to wall murals that I saw. The painting on the ceiling depicts the suicide jump of one of the Niños Héroes, with the Mexican flag still wrapped around him.

My suggestion is a ceiling selfie. If you have a selfie stick, point it toward the ground so you can capture the entire ceiling in the frame. The result should look like the kid is falling right above you. It’s surreal like that. Both sides of the wall are painted with murals as well while the one in front sports three identical stained glass windows emblazoned with the national emblem of Mexico on top. A lot of selfies are taken here so be extra careful to avoid accidents.

Facing the stained-glass, the hall to my right was closed while the one to the left housed a collection of royal luxury items. There were jewelry in see-through glass cases, opulent chandeliers, a giant green door made of what I can only guess to be jade, and some really huge jars of the same hue. It’s going to be Instagram heaven for those who know how to take good photos of fine intricate details. Everything from the ceiling to the walls is a good photo-op waiting to happen, if only it wasn’t that crowded.

In an adjoining room is a display of portraits of former viceroys that ruled the country back during the Spanish colonial era. You can exit either balcony for a good view of the vicinity. In the hall directly below it is an exhibition focusing on Mexico’s history, particularly the clash of cultures brought about by the Spaniards’ colonization of the country's Mesoamerican tribes. This is the part I enjoyed the most because it was an impromptu history lesson, a very visual one that wasn’t text-heavy.

There aren’t many artifacts present in this museum. Most of the art pieces are paintings and murals. If you want to see more relics, head over to the National Museum of Anthropology which should be right next to the Museum of Modern Art. As my time today was limited, I am postponing that museum visit for another week. Back to history, the murals and paintings you’ll see here are all amazing, perhaps because of their size, although I think the vivid colors are also to thank here.

Looking at those works of art and reading the short texts accompanying them, I learned a lot about Mexico's colonial history. I found out how tribes ganged up on one another by allying with the foreigners. In a way, the divide and conquer strategy the Spanish employed in their conquest of the Philippines was also used here, and it was super effective. That’s what happens when you have locals that are too regionalistic to form a united front. Betrayal becomes the rule to ensure survival until a new social order is ushered in to replace the older one.

Another favorite of mine is that hall that tackles the geographical history of the country, on how territories were gained and lost as a result of the various conflicts that molded the Mexican state during its infancy. Texas seceded in the 1830’s, while the Mexican – American war ultimately led to the annexation of California, Arizona, and New Mexico by the United States. There was even a map showing how big Mexico used to be until the US solidified its status as the de facto superpower in the region.

I skipped the halls with displays of dresses and outfits for certain eras. Somehow, I just didn’t find them interesting enough. The exit leads to an open area where you will find the fountain and that monument which I never really checked out close enough to have a clue what it’s all about. Boasting panoramic views of Reforma’s skyline, the trellis by the veranda overlooking the park was the one that caught my attention. The area has benches if you want to sit down and just admire the view.

Before calling it a day, I went ahead and checked out the Alcázar which was all about the royal family. The place used to be their abode before fate led them to death by firing squad. Disinterested, I headed straight to the balconies for more bird’s-eye views of the park and the city until my phone finally died, signaling the end of the tour. All in all, it has been an interesting half day trip, and cheap to boot! Without being charged for admission, I only spent MXN 10 (~PHP 26) for the RT ride on the metro!

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