We started the day at the wonderful Museum of Anthropology. The museum has rooms for each of the major areas of pre-conquest Mexican civilization as well as sections on the lives of indigneous communities today.
The museum is large, spacious and well layed out, it seems to swallow a huge number of people without ever seeming busy.
Miguel, our guide on Thursday, had told us that two days would be sufficient to do it justice. We had 3.5 hours.
The museum has so many interesting artefacts, from tiny figures an inch high to parts of temples many metres tall.
Two things stood out, the quality and creativity of the workmanship at a time when Europe was still in the dark ages and the way that so many faces look like real individuals with personality and expressions that you might see outside on the street.
The Mayans were particularly advanced in mathematics and astronomy, they had a detailed calendar and had invented the concept of a zero long before Europe had imported it from the Arabs.
We treated ourselves to lunch at Quintonil, if these things mean anything it’s currently rated twelfth in the world. The food is as far from any stereotype ideas of Mexican food as you can get. It was subtle, original and beautifully cooked and served. The theme of insects and guacamole continued – although highlighted as vegetarian by the waiter it comes with ants so again it was a no.
Last attaction of the day was Diego Riviera’s murals in the Palacio National. These huge works have many themes in them from the lives of pre-conquest Mexicans to the workers of Mexico’s Socialist struggles. His exuberance and confidence come through all of the work but at the same time his Socialist beliefs and dislike of foreign powers from the Spaniards in the past to the US at the time are also clear.
In the centre is an Eagle with a snake in its beak; Aztec history says that this is the sign that showed them where to build Tenochtitlan, now Mexico City.
We return to the hotel to meet Valeria, our tour leader for the next fifteen days and the rest of our group – both of them!