Mythological dragons with every color of the rainbow and other creatures are roaming the sidewalk guarding the entrance to the Museo de Arte Popular. After bravely making the way past them, for 40 Pesos for younger people like for me and 20 Pesos for Ron, we gained access to roam the wilds of this establishment.
After entering the lobby, passing a temporary exhibit hall on the left and the gift shop on the right, you enter a square open-air lobby. Starting on the third floor and working our way down seemed like the logically challenging way to take in all displays.
Little did we realize that there were so many objects on display just waiting for a thrashing to bring the contents of their guts spilling to the ground. One entire floor of the three floors was just piñatas.
Piñatas generally come heavily decorated; some have animal shapes while others are geometric. Papier-mâché, clay or cloths are choices for the construction materials. Given a long stick, participants once blindfolded are turned around for disorientation, and then their mission is to find the piñata and hit it. Successive sadists do this until the piñata breaks open, then spills its innards of small toys, and candies that all share.
There is evidence that this ritual goes back to ancient China as a ritual for a good harvest, but there are similar rituals recorded among the Mayans and the Aztecs had similar festivities to celebrate the birthday of Huitzilopochtli, the god of sun and war.
This being the Museum of Popular Arts, the items on display are showing off peoples’ talents, not necessarily things ready for destruction. Overcome with the colors, we could not help but find ourselves fascinated by the variety and the originality that took a simple pastime item and revolutionized it into an art form. Some were of traditional designs, while others were far beyond tradition and entirely playful. Regardless, each artist was able to express their talents in various shapes without restrictions of custom.
To do justice in naming the museum, two floors of assorted art forms contained exhibits other than those that needed a few good whacks. Ceramics of various sizes and shapes demonstrate the range that an artist can produce beyond the potter’s wheel.
Additionally, there were mixed media displays and those created with wood, wire, or other materials that inspired the artists’ imagination. Many of the art pieces are treasurable, but a few really appealed to my sense of humor or imagination. I enjoyed the different color renditions of Queen Elizabeth, the skeleton woman smoking and the indigenous version of Chutes and Ladders.
All told, we spent more than three hours here, a much greater time than anticipated, but thoroughly enjoyable nevertheless.
Having worked up an appetite after all of this immersion in popular arts, we ventured across the street for a very late lunch. The sign outside suggested they had tacos, so we seated ourselves. With the menu in hand, we could not spot tacos anywhere. Asking the waiter would have been the correct thing to do, but instead we ordered the pollo a la parrilla (grilled chicken). After getting a basket of bread with guacamole, the entrée arrived. The chicken breast though flattened somewhat filled the over-sized platter barely allowing room for the French-fries. There was little spice on it, but it was tender and delicious. This was a happy mistake, though Ron really wanted tacos.