Top Ten Mexico City Museums

Mexico City, once the biggest city in the world and still the biggest city in the Americas, has more than enough museums to keep its 20 million + residents satisfied: over 100, the most of any city in the world.

An exact count is not really possible considering that new museums and galleries open every month, but seemingly every subject is covered. Do you like classic cars? Check out the Museo del Automóvil (Automobile Museum), in the south of the city. Are you fascinated by European decorative arts? You won’t want to miss Museo Franz Mayer, near the Alameda Central and home to a rich collection of tapestries, furnishings, and garments. Eager to learn more about the struggle for indigenous women’s rights? You should visit the Museo de la Mujer (Museum of the Woman), a few blocks east of Plaza Garibaldi. Curious about the agave harvest? The Museo del Tequila y El Mezcal, (Museum of Tequila and Mezcal) in Plaza Garibaldi itself, is for you – and admission includes a free tequila shot!

Some of the museums are real oddities. The delightful Museo de Arte Popular (Popular Art Museum), housed in an Art Deco firehouse south of the Alameda Central, displays fanciful alebrijes – colorful folk art sculptures that feature in an elaborate parade each October. The Museo de la Medicina (Museum of Medicine), near Plaza San Jacinto in the Centro Histórico, has more exhibits of aborted fetuses and genital warts than even the strongest stomach can handle. The adjacent Museo de la Inquisición (Inquisition Museum), which shares the same building, is of the disturbing-and-yet-I-can’t-avert-my-eyes variety. And Anahacualli, south of Coyoacán, is a cool and spooky stone hacienda that resembles an Aztec temple of sorts and that houses Diego Rivera’s formidable collection of pre-Hispanic idols.

I was inspired to write this post at the suggestion of my fellow blogger William, a retired English teacher who now spends half the year in Mexico City. (Life goals – en serio!) Check out his writings at ilovemexico2013.blogspot.com. In the meantime, here are my Top Ten Mexico City Museums:

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Barrios Bravos: Tlatelolco

I recently re-read my September post entitled “Barrios Bravos: Iztapalapa,” about the largest delegación (borough) in Mexico City and the dangerous reputations held by its various barrios (neighborhoods). I am especially proud of that entry, as I think it contains some of the best writing I’ve yet done for this blog. More than that, though, it reminded me that I still have more to say about Mexico City and its “tough neighborhoods.”

Tlatelolco (try saying that three times fast) is a hard word to pronounce and a hard barrio in which to live. Roughly speaking, it sits northwest of the Centro Histórico, between Tepito and Buenavista Train Station. During the heyday of the Aztec empire, Tlatelolco was a separate community from nearby Tenochtitlan, and it is said that Tlatelolco’s residents looked down on those from the larger Tenochtitlan. Vendors from Tepito, the market serving Tenochtitlan, were not allowed to trade with those from Tlatelolco. This segregation exists several centuries later, despite the fact that both “barrios bravos” are part of the same administrative district. The main street separating Tlatelolco from Greater Tepito, Paseo de la Reforma, can be like an invisible wall between two countries, although this divide isn’t necessarily visible to casual wanderers. (More on this rivalry later.)

Around Tlatelolco 2

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