Oaxaca mural

Oaxaca mural

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Visiting the "Snail"

During my recent trip to Mexico City, I revisited one of the city's lesser known museums, the Gallery of History, which is also known as "El Museo del Caracol" (The Museum of the Snail).  It received that unusual name because of its circular construction with the exhibit space forming a spiral like the shell of a snail.  The museum is located in Chapultepec Park along the path which climbs the hill to Chapultepec Castle.

The museum contains dioramas portraying important events in Mexico's history from the War for Independence through the Mexican Revolution.  The last time I visited the museum was in 1975.  At that time I took lots of slides of the dioramas which I then used in the classroom when I would teach the history of Mexico.  Since then, the displays have been nicely spruced up with detailed written descriptions and audio narration. It is a very good review of Mexico's complicated story, but, unfortunately, since everything is in Spanish, it would not be very meaningful to monolingual "gringo" tourists.

Here are a few pictures of the museum...

Miguel Hidalgo is honored as the Father of Mexican Independence.  This village priest began Mexico's struggle for freedom from Spain on September 16th, 1810.

I mentioned the Battle of Chapultepec a while ago in my blog post "The Boy Heroes".  This was one of the last battles of the Mexican-American War before the U.S. army marched victoriously into Mexico City in September of 1847.

Less than twenty years later Mexico was invaded again, this time by the French forces of Napoleon III.  The invaders were temporarily halted at the Battle of Puebla on May 5th, 1862.  (This is the origin of the "Cinco de Mayo" celebration.)

Despite the setback at Puebla, the French took Mexico City.  Napoleon installed the Hapsburg prince Maximilian as Emperor to rule the country as a puppet for the French.  This diorama portrays the entry of Maximilian and his wife Carlota into Mexico City in 1864.  Three years later he was executed before a Mexican firing squad.

One of the heroes of the Mexican Revolution of 1910 was Emiliano Zapata.  Here he is shown organizing the peasants in their quest for "Land and Liberty".

The museum ends with a shrine containing a copy of the Constitution of 1917.  The adoption of the constitution more or less brought an end to the chaos of the Mexican Revolution.

I find it interesting that both this museum and the National Museum of History in Chapultepec Castle end with the Mexican Revolution.  It is as if nothing of importance has happened in the 100 years since then.

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