Tlalpujahua

Tlalpujahua

Sunday, January 29, 2017

A Museum in a Dangerous Neighborhood

In a city filled with all sorts of museums, one of the most unusual (some would say surreal) is the Museum of Old Toys.  I had never been there, but when I read that this private museum might close its doors because the government has denied it funding, I thought that I should perhaps visit it.  It is within walking distance (albeit a long walk) from my apartment.  The only problem was that it is located in the "dangerous" neighborhood of "Doctores".

"Doctores" gets its name from the fact that most of its streets are named after famous doctors.  It borders the "nice" neighborhood of of "Roma Norte", which in turn is next to "Condesa" where my apartment is situated.  I read that most of the crime in infamous "Doctores" was centered around auto theft and "chop shops".   Well, I wasn't intending to drive a car there, and I would be going in broad daylight.  I checked Google Maps and saw that I could walk through "Roma Norte" along Querétaro Street.  Upon reaching the border with "Doctores" the street changes its name to Dr. Olvera... and it is along that street, several blocks into the neighborhood, that the museum is located.

I decided to throw caution to the wind and go to dreaded "Doctores".  I took my credit cards out of my wallet, took off my watch, put my camera into my shoulder bag and sallied forth.  I crossed Cuauhtemoc Avenue, the dividing line between the two neighborhoods.  It was not immediately noticeable, but "Doctores" was indeed seedier than "Roma Norte".  But it didn't look any worse than many neighborhoods that I have visited.  The people on the street did not look disreputable.  There were no gangs of suspicious teenagers loitering on the street corners, and the elderly people, women, and children were not looking fearfully over their shoulders.  I reached the museum without any problem at all. 

The entrance is unlike the entrance to any museum that i have ever seen.  A sign at the narrow door directs you to climb the stairs to the next floor.

  
The walls surrounding the little parking lot next to the museum were supposedly painted by Mexico City's top graffiti artists.


  Peaking over the pile of toys is a portrait of the museum's founder, Roberto Shimizu.
  


Shimizu's father immigrated to Mexico from Japan and in 1940 opened a toy store.  Throughout his life the elder Shimizu collected toys.  The son continued to add to the collection, and opened the museum.  Now, the third generation of Shimizus runs the place.  It claims to be the largest toy museum in the world with over 40,000 objects.  The toys come from all over the world, but the collection highlights Mexico's once flourishing toy industry.

The museum covers room after room on four floors in what was once an apartment building.  It looks like a junk store with stuff piled to the ceiling and crammed into showcases.  There is very little organization, and not much identification of the toys.  The place is bizarre. But in spite of that, it is a unique and fascinating place.  It's is a shame that there isn't the money or space to display all of it properly.  A lot of the stuff is perhaps junk, but there are many valuable antiques and collectibles here also.

Forgive the quality of the photos since I was frequently trying to deal with the reflection on the glass showcases. 









  




Dolls representing the famous Mexican actor, Cantinflás



Apparently, Mexico had its own version of "Barbie".  Her name was Bárbara, her boyfriend was Ricardo, and her best friend was Lili.

 


There were lots of figures of wrestlers from Mexico's "Lucha Libre".

 





  
The motto of the museum is:  "The child who doesn't play is not a child." 

8 comments:

  1. Since you've been in the same house virtually all your life, is your childhood in the attic?

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    1. Actually, I think that the only toy up there is my old tricycle... which would probably by this time be considered an antique.

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  2. I definitely need to start using your posts about Mexico City as a guidebook. You have a knack for finding the interesting and offbeat.

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    1. Thanks, Marc. After all the times that I have been to Mexico City, I have seen all the typical tourist sites. But this huge city always has something different to see.

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  3. You made me remember those days of my early childhood when I used to play with a friend of mine's ring and wrestlers...

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    1. Of course I didn't see EVERY toy in the museum, but oddly enough I didn't see any of the toys that I played with as a child. For example... Lincoln Logs or Etch-a-Sketch.

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  4. I gave a Saturday class in Doctores for the best part of 5 years. I never thought of the area as being overly dangerous. It does have 'character' though, for sure. The Toy Museum has gained a bit of fame these days. I went there almost 10 years ago - the guys running it were amazed that a gringo had found the place. It's one of Mexico's lesser visited gems. It's be a shame if it disappeared.

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    1. I'm not sure that I would want to wander "Doctores" in the middle of the night, but I did not feel at all unsafe there during the day.
      There were quite a few visitors at the museum when I was there, but I was the only "gringo". There are quite a few reviews of the place on Trip Advisor, so it is becoming known.

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