June 2022. Although I have been in Mexico before, the last time was in 1994-1995. Twenty-seven years later, Oriol and I are doing a classic tour of the United Mexican States, featuring Mexico City (CDMX); Palenque in Chiapas; Villahermosa in Tabasco; Uxmal, Mérida, Chichen Itza, Ek’ Balam, Valladolid, and a few cenotes (waterholes) in Yucatán and Tulum in Quintana Roo. We returned via Cancún to CDMX and Amsterdam Airport Schiphol.
The National Museum of Anthropology or Museo Nacional de Antropología (MNA) is the largest and most visited museum in Mexico. Located in the area between Paseo de la Reforma and Calzada Mahatma Gandhi within Chapultepec Park in Mexico City, the museum contains significant archaeological and anthropological artifacts from Mexico’s pre-Columbian heritage, such as the Stone of the Sun (or the Aztec calendar stone) and the Aztec Xochipilli statue.
The museum (along with many other Mexican national and regional museums) is managed by the Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia or National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH). It was one of several museums opened by president Adolfo López Mateos in 1964.
Designed in 1964 by Pedro Ramírez Vázquez, Jorge Campuzano, and Rafael Mijares Alcérreca, the monumental building contains exhibition halls surrounding a courtyard with a huge pond and a vast square concrete umbrella supported by a single slender pillar known as el paraguas, Spanish for ‘the umbrella’.
The halls are ringed by gardens, many of which contain outdoor exhibits. The museum has 22 or 23 rooms – sources vary and I did not count – for exhibits and covers an area of 79,700 square meters (almost 8 hectares) or 857,890 square feet (almost 20 acres).
Archaeology exhibits are located on the ground floor and ethnographic exhibits about present-day indigenous groups in Mexico are shown on the upper level.
When you enter the museum, the rooms on the right hand side show the cultures that developed in Central Mexico and are organized in chronological order. The tour runs counter-clockwise.
On the left of the entrance are halls devoted to other cultural areas of Mexico. The Oaxaca and Maya rooms are also very impressive.
Several of the rooms have recreations of archeological scenes: murals in the Teotihuacan exhibit and tombs in the Oaxaca and Maya rooms. This gives the chance to see the pieces in the context in which they were found.
COVID-19 countermeasures are still very much in place in Mexico. So we had to follow arrows and fixed routes. Also, some areas were closed.
We visited the museum quite quickly. We barely read the texts, which were often not translated into English by the way. But we did walk through all the exhibitions halls and we did pick out the highlights.
If you want to visit the museum thoroughly, you need at least half to a full day.