Saturday, August 30, 2014

Palacio Nacional (National Palace) - Mexico City

As it turns out I was wrong.

I know! I was surprised too!

The National Palace is NOT where the president of Mexico lives.  It used to be the residence of the president but that ended in 1884.  So my information was WAAAAAAY old.

The National Palace IS still the president's official seat of power.  So while he may not sleep there he does occasionally sit there.  Close enough!

So here is the front of the National Palace, at least part of it.  It is a very large building!

National Palace Mexico City

Right in the center of the front of the building on the side that faces the Zocalo there is an opening.  That is where we went in.  There are very serious security guards at the entrance and you have to have your bags scanned and go through a metal detector.  You also have to guzzle down any water you may have because you can't take that mess in either.  

Once you are in, there are few places you can go and there are armed guards with their finger on the trigger, not joking, standing around to let you know where you can and can't go.  So don't worry about wandering into the wrong room, it's not going to happen.  Now then, why in the world would you want to go there anyways?

To see the mural The History of Mexico by Diego Rivera, of course!  If you see one mural of his, you might as well see another!

Diego Rivera Mural Right National Palace Mexico City

Diego Rivera Mural Center National Palace Mexico City

Diego Rivera Mural Left National Palace Mexico City

The entire second floor is filled with murals by Diego Rivera.  It is amazing!  Here is one more panel I would like to share of his work.

Diego Rivera Mural Flying Men National Palace Mexico City

If murals aren't your thing, you should still make a quick visit to the National Palace just for the views. 

Sun and Shadows Second Floor National Palace Mexico City

Central Courtyard National Palace Mexico City

Pegasus on Fountain in Central Courtyard National Palace Mexico City

It is free to go in and you know you will be nearby anyways when you visit the Zocalo, because you will visit the Zocalo!  I do recommend a stop in even if it is a quick one.

In my next post I will tell you all about the National Museum of Anthropology.  I didn't know what that meant either until I went there, so don't worry, you will learn.

Until then!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Metropolitan Cathedral - Mexico City

As promised this post will be much lighter than the one about the Museum of Memory and Tolerance.  I talked a little about the Metropolitan Cathedral in another post but didn't share anything about the inside.  Let's go visit the inside shall we?

First, one shot of the outside to refresh your memory.

Metropolitan Cathedral Zocalo Mexico City

Now on to the inside.  

The church is one of the largest cathedrals in the Americas.  Just look at the size of it!  This is just the first altar that you see when you walk in the doors.  There is another one behind it plus a few others in the corners and then there are many chapels along the sides.

Alter Metropolitan Cathedral Zocalo Mexico City

Walking around we saw this.  It was hundreds of locks.  When we went on our "tour"  (not sure what I am talking about, check this post) the "guide" told us that these locks were put there by people to help them remember to lock their mouths against gossiping.  It is a good visual to say the least!

Locks Metropolitan Cathedral Zocalo Mexico City

Continuing our walk around we got a great look at the dome from the inside.  I loved the vastness of the space.

Dome Metropolitan Cathedral Zocalo Mexico City

These candle holders were all around the cathedral.  I am sure they had some significance beyond "oh pretty" but I don't know it.

Candle Holder Metropolitan Cathedral Zocalo Mexico City

There were a few, what I have concluded to be, confessional booths around as there would be in any Catholic church worth its salt.  Although, I have to say I have never seen a confessional booth like this one and I have been to A LOT of Catholic churches in our travels.

Confessional Booth Metropolitan Cathedral Zocalo Mexico City

I am still not completely sure that it was a confessional booth but I did see this sign that helped bring me to my conclusion.  It says roughly, "No confessions until June 15. Thank you."

No Confessions Until June 15 Metropolitan Cathedral Zocalo Mexico City

I hope no Catholic person had anything major happen to them to the point where they needed confession between the time the sign was put up and the 15th of June!  I suppose they could go to a different church seeing how there is one on just about every corner in Mexico City!

There were a few things that creeped us out just a tad at this church.

First, this set of human bones of a martyr from the 1800's.

Relics of a Martyred Saint Metropolitan Cathedral Zocalo Mexico City

Second, this chapel that was dedicated to children.  Not sure why this one creeped us out exactly.  Maybe because it just seemed so out of place.  Honestly, I am not sure if it is a chapel or a shrine.

Chapel to Children Metropolitan Cathedral Zocalo Mexico City

The last thing I would like to share from the inside of the Metropolitan Cathedral is the black Jesus statue. This was actually one of the more interesting things that our "guide" told us while we were on our "tour".

Now I keep putting guide and tour in quotes, but to be fair he did tell us interesting facts about the cathedral that we wouldn't have know just from walking in.  It was just the fact that he wasn't up front about there being a charge that bothers me!

Lord of Poison Alter Metropolitan Cathedral Zocalo Mexico City

Anyways,  here is the story about the black Jesus otherwise known as the Lord of Poison.  I found this version on a website called Inside Mexico and it matched what our guide told us.
The Mexican historian Artemio Del Valle Arizpe collected in his book, 'Traditions and Legends of the Streets of Mexico', the story of two neighbors in New Spain: Don Fermin Andueza and Don Ismael Treviño, who were involved in an event that many consider a miracle and others a legend. 
Don Fermin was a gentleman whose wealth could well have saved him the trouble of getting up early every day. However, his devotion got him up every morning before sunrise. Discreetly garbed in his black cloak, he left his home and headed to mass. At the end of the mass he headed back home again, but not before stopping at a figure of Christ of great stature bearing a sorrowful expression. 
Every day, Don Fermin deposited a gold coin in the offering plate at the foot of the image, who’s bloodied feet he humbly kissed. Don Fermin never missed his morning appointment. The neighbors said that this was one of many examples of the nobility that ruled the gentleman's soul. It was said that help came generously from his wealth to aid the poor that sought him out.
Don Ismael Trevino was equally rich, but his soul was dark and envious. The good of others weighed heavily upon him, especially that of Don Fermin Azueta, of whom he felt deeply jealous. He took every opportunity to speak ill of him and bitterly cringed when anyone said something in praise of the noble lord. 
This envy, of unknown cause, moved Don Ismael to interfere in all of Don Fermin’s business dealings. But everything would backfire on him: Don Fermin overcame every obstacle and was a successful businessman. 
Hatred for the man entered into the heart of Don Ismael and the day came when he longed to see him dead. Subjugated to this evil feeling, he began planning how he could murder his enemy without arousing suspicion.

After much thought, he concluded that the best way to get rid of Don Fermin was to poison him. He found a man who had the perfect poison: a blue-colored liquid that did not kill immediately, but rather, after ingested it would spread throughout the body and after a few days caused the desired effect. It was painless and didn’t leave any trace.

Don Ismael laced a delicious cake with the deadly liquid and sent it to Don Fermin in the name of a good friend, the Town Hall alderman. Don Fermin was very pleased, and far from imagining the danger he was in, he immediately enjoyed a piece of cake with his steaming cup of chocolate... 
Eager to know the results of his crime, Don Ismael followed every step his victim took. He waited for Don Fermin every morning in church and from a distance watched his every move.
Don Fermin entered the church with the slow majesty which characterized him. He greeted everyone as he did every morning and listened attentively to the priest at mass.

When mass was over, he went to the worshiped Christ figure and prayed. Then he knelt to kiss the figure’s feet. He had barely touched them with his lips when a stain – black as ebony – spread over the pale figure. 
A look of fear and amazement crossed Don Fermin’s face and that of all who were near the figure of Christ. But the one who uncontrollably trembled with fear and dread was Don Ismael, who immediately ran to kneel before Don Fermín and loudly confessed his envy and how he'd planned to assassinate him. 
It was clear that the Christ, in order to protect Don Fermin, had absorbed the poison and as evidence, had changed color. 
The noble gentleman looked at Don Ismael and felt compassion. He softly offered him words of forgiveness and embraced him like a long lost brother.

Some of the men who had witnessed everything, wanted to lay hold of Don Ismael, but Don Fermin stopped them saying he had already forgotten the offense. Instead, he asked them to pray with him and thank Christ for saving his life. 
Don Ismael left the church pale and crestfallen. That same day he left the city and was never seen again.

News of the miracle ignited the fervor of the inhabitants of New Spain. Since that extraordinary moment people have flocked to the church to offer candles and prayers.

One afternoon, some of the candles fell and ignited the Christ figure. It was soon replaced by another beautiful figure, black as well, and was taken to the altar of the Metropolitan Cathedral in Mexico City's Historic Center, where it is visited by many faithful to this date.
It is an interesting story and we did indeed see many people kneeling in front of the Lord of Poison statue praying.

I leave you with one repeat picture from the first post about the cathedral of the outside, just because I liked and it is MY blog, so I can do as I please.  (sarcasm alert there, I know some people can't sense it....)

John Paul Statue Made of Keys at Metropolitan Cathedral Mexico City

We started on a happy note and we end on a happy note as promised.  The next post will be about the National Palace, where the president of the entire country lives and we were allowed to walk right in!!  Crazy!!

So until then!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Museo Memoria Y Tolerancia (Museum of Memory and Tolerance) - Mexico City

The Museum of Memory and Tolerance (Museo Memoria Y Tolerancia) in Mexico City has a purpose and that purpose is to create tolerance of fellow human beings through the process of keeping in memory the genocide of people for on one aspect of their entire being.  A large portion of the museum focuses on the genocide of the Jews, the disabled, the homosexuals, the Gypsies, and the Jehovah Witnesses by Hitler (aka the Holocaust).  

(I didn't know that Jehovah Witness' were targets.  We later found out that it was because they refused to join the Nazis.  They would not take up arms and fight.  If you were not for Hitler, you were against him and therefore your only worth came from being killed.)

It was interesting to see such a museum in Mexico City. According to their website they really wanted a place where the youth of their country could come for dialogue, reflection and participation.  They want to keep the memory alive of those who died for no reason and with that memory build a nation of tolerance.

They have English audio guides, which is good, because everything is in Spanish.  You really do need the audio guides, they contain a wealth of information that you just can't get walking through the  museum and looking at the pictures.

The museum starts in a room overlooking Juarez plaza.  The audio guide gives a definition of genocide and why the museum exists.

Juarez Plaze from Museum of Memory and Tolerance Mexico City

Then you start the actual tour.  The first part of the museum and the largest is dedicated to the Holocaust.  It is very informative and interesting.  The first room was filled with pictures from floor to ceiling  of Jewish people.  It told how they were ordinary people living amongst the rest of the world in peace until the reign of Hitler.

One of the pictures showed Anne Frank.  There was also a picture of Albert Einstein among the hundreds of others.

Anne Frank Museum of Memory and Tolerance Mexico City

The next room told of how the rest of the world was starting to see Hitler.  It showed a newspaper article from Mexico declaring Hitler a dictator.

Hitler is a Dictator Museum of Memory and Tolerance Mexico City

Another room showed how Hitler started measuring people, trying to find the perfect measurements for the perfect race.

Measuring People for Perfection Museum of Memory and Tolerance Mexico City

It went on to show the propaganda that Hitler and his regime force fed the public.  Joseph Goebbels was the Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, in other words, he controlled everything the people heard, saw, or read.

He is often quoted as saying, “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it."

And man, did he do that!  This is just one example of an advertisement put out by the Nazis.  Here we see that a healthy family of five uses the same amount of money as one disabled person.  It is basically saying that disabled people take up taxes and resources that should go to you and your family therefore let's get rid of the disabled.

Advertising to Show Handicapped Were Taking Money from Families Museum of Memory and Tolerance Mexico City

Jews and others being persecuted were desperate to save their children, to get them out of harm's way.  Some even elected to send their children to different countries in the hopes that when the war was over they would somehow find a way to reunite with them.  It was called the Kindertransport program.

There was a film showing crying mothers handing over their babies to people on planes.  The planes then flew off with their babies to England where someone had promised to care for them until the parents could get them.  Often, the child was the only member of the family to survive.

I couldn't even imagine.

Jewish Childern Separated from Parents for Safety Museum of Memory and Tolerance Mexico City

I have seen many yellow Star of Davids in museums that the Jewish people had to wear on their clothing.  There were examples of those at the museum as well.

Jewish Star of Davids Museum of Memory and Tolerance Mexico City

But there was one thing there that I have never seen and that was an entire sheet of the yellow stars.

Sheet of Jewish Star of Davids Museum of Memory and Tolerance Mexico City

One of the most eye opening displays to me was the actual train car they have on sight.  This is one of the many train cars that carried so many undeserving people to their deaths.

Train Car Jewish Transport Outside Museum of Memory and Tolerance Mexico City

I was able to walk up in it.  I listened to the audio guide tell me about how many people were crammed in there and the conditions that the people had to endure.  These were people just like you and me.  They were successful before all this started.  They had luxuries just like you and I do.  They mostly hadn't seen truly bad times in their lives.  All of that was taken away from them and they were put in train cars not knowing where they were going or what would happen to them.  They were separated from their family.  They watched in horror as loved ones were killed right in front of them.

Train Car Jewish Transport Inside Museum of Memory and Tolerance Mexico City

It is a REALLY good museum.  The layout is thought out.  The topic is well researched.  It is a great museum, BUT by the time you get to the section on concentration camps you are feeling the pangs of depression.  The Jews and the other people who were called out by Hitler have been through all this torture and then they go to the concentration camps.

In one example the museum showed the people arriving at one of the camps.  They had been told this was a work camp.  Technically it was but only for the ones who could work. They were separated, healthy men this way all others down a flight of stairs.  Those stairs, led to gas chambers.

Jews Being Lead into Gas Chamber Museum of Memory and Tolerance Mexico City

Before concentration camps and gas chambers they had squads of men go round up Jewish people.  Those Jews had to dig a ditch, then they all lined up at the edge of that ditch and then were shot and killed.  All the Nazis had to do after that was throw the dirt back on the bodies that fell into the ditch when they died.

Hitler didn't find this method efficient enough so the plan of gas chambers was executed.

It allowed hundreds of people to be killed and only two Nazis to do it.

Hundered of Jews Killed by Only Two Germans in Gas Chamber Museum of Memory and Tolerance Mexico City

Jews in Gas Chamber Closeup Museum of Memory and Tolerance Mexico City

Those that worked received some form of clothing and just enough food to keep them semi-alive.

This picture was actually of the clothing the Jews were given.  Since it was behind glass it was catching the reflection of a picture of some men on the other side of the hallway in their clothing.  I liked the way the photo I took turned out.

Concentration Clothes with Jews Reflected Museum of Memory and Tolerance Mexico City

Seriously, by the time we were through the Holocaust we just needed to sit and take a break.  I needed to see blue sky and people walking about.  I needed to know that this particular episode was in the past.

But we were not done.  The museum then goes into genocides that have happened around the world since the Holocaust.  There were sections for Armenia, the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Cambodia, Guatemala, Sudan, and Darfur.   They are going to have to extend the museum so they can add in Iraq, South Sudan, Nigeria, Israel, Palestine, and on and on the list goes!

I question and so did the museum.  When does it stop?

Never Again Museum of Memory and Tolerance Mexico City

After going through the memory section of the museum you head towards the tolerance part.  You see a large cube with an oak tree carved in it.  Oak trees are strong and stand through even the worst storms.  They also have come to symbolize wisdom.  The carved oak tree was between the two section of memory and tolerance for the symbols it stands for.

Oak Tree Cube Museum of Memory and Tolerance Mexico City

We ended up going through the section on tolerance very quickly.  We had been in the museum for two hours already and honestly, the Holocaust section, while extremely good, is mentally exhausting.  Because of this I am just going to share two of the things I liked the best from this section.

The word tolerance in many languages.  The museum wanted to show that tolerance is the war for a culture of peace.   I may sound like a beauty pageant contestant but I really would love world peace!  I don't understand why or how people can kill other people.

Tolerance in Many Languages Museum of Memory and Tolerance Mexico City

The other part that I liked was this display.  It shows all different kinds of people but the one thing they all had in common was the fact that they were people.   How can you hate someone for something they have no control over.  I will never understand that.

Tolerance of All People Museum of Memory and Tolerance Mexico City

Just in case you are depressed now too, I want to you leave you with a pretty photo from the museum.  When you are going up the stairs from the memory section to the tolerance section there are these transparent beads/bubbles/stones hanging from the ceiling all the way down and then back to the wall.  It creates the prettiest illusion. And now I am happy again.

Decor at Museum of Memory and Tolerance Mexico City

My next post will be more chipper, I promise.  I am going to tell you about the Metropolitan Cathedral, the largest cathedral in all of the Americas!

So until then!