As you see yourself, I once saw myself; as you see me now, you will be seen.
      Mexican Proverb


México is the most populous Spanish-
speaking country in the world. According to the latest statistics, México's total population is over 99 million. Mestizos, of Indian and Spanish blood), make up 60% of the population, followed by indigenous peoples  (30%), whites (9%), and other ethnic minorities  (1%).

Carnaval in Mazatlan

Visitors and locals scream, sing, shout and dance amid confetti and ribbons. Bands of all kinds play the infectious rhythms of the State of Sinaloa. And the food–oh, the food–camarones (shrimp) prepared in every way possible, washed down with ice cold Pacifico beer, for it’s Carnaval Time, Mazatlán’s biggest pachanga (fiesta). 
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March 12, 2006

by Bob Brooke

Queretaro is both a city of religion and history. Every block houses a convent or a church. It was also the stage for some of the greatest events in Mexican history. The 1917 Constitution was signed here, events that accelerated the proclamation of Independence took place in its colonial buildings, and the city witnessed the downfall of Maxmillian, the pretender king. For today's visitor, remembrances of the past can be found in the city's Regional Museum, housed in the old San Francisco Convent.

The Renaissance-style building is a local variety of the baroque, a serene structure with wide-open patios, corridors, flowery arches, and elegant stairways. The16th-century Convent of San Francisco, which also served as a fort during Maxmillian’s reign and as a hospital and surgery ward for American troops in 1867, adjoins the church of the same name. Its spacious atrium–the broad area in front of the church where the unbaptizede Indians used to gather to hear mass, has been eaten up by Avenida Corregidora, so that the church’s enclosed arches and windows now seem alarmingly close to the curb. The atrium of the Convent is now occupied by both the Plazas de la Constitucion and Galerias, as well as a large portion of the Zenea Garden.

The cloister within the Convent, begun by Sebastian Bayas Delgado in 1660, is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful in Mexico. Although the ambulatories are somewhat narrow, the open areas and courtyard are enormous, with an unquenchable thirst for light. The combination of repeated concentric lines in blue, yellow and pink creates a truly outstanding rhythm. This enthusiasm runs over into the great stucco flowers that form the vaults above the ambulatories.

The tower of the Church of San Francisco, adjoining the convent, rises from a square base to an octagonal section and finally flows into a rounded section at the top, representing strength, intelligence and sensuality, respectively. It served as the city’s cathedral for 200 years.

The museum, established in 1936, displays exhibits covering the prehistoric, colonial, independence, imperial, revolution and post-revolution periods of Mexican history.

Historic Treasures
Among its many items, the Queretaro Regional Museum contains many unique objects such as the jawbone of an animal that lived in the Sierra Gorda region millions of years ago and pre-Hispanic vases which, despite their primitive nature, bear drawings that dazzle the eyesight like the midday sun. The collection is greatly enhanced by features such as the museum’s Otomi Room and the curious portrait of Nicolas Montanez, an Otomi captain who, like Fernando de Tapia, fought alongside the Spaniards on Sangremal Hill.

Then there are the bloody portraits of Juan Diaz and Jose Moreno, two of the first missionaries to reach Sonora, subsequently executed by indigenous warriors on the banks of the Colorado River on July 17, 1781, as well as the fantastic portrait of Jose Escandon, Count of Sierra Gorda and killed while wearing the brilliant white cape of the Knights of Santiago. The painting, The Education of the Virgin by Luis Juarez, done in 1615, is an allegory of the alliance between Spain and England against Napoleon, painted at the beginning of the 19th Century by Jose Castro. There’s also the Archangels of the Passion, an anonymous 17th-century painting.

Two small city maps, one drawn on canvas and the other on parchment, are also worth noting.

In addition, the museum incorporates the Pio Mariano Museum, considered by many to be one of the finest museums in the country outside Mexico City. It houses many colonial relics, including paintings by Miguel Cabrera and an outstanding library of more than 8,000 books, mostly parchment manuscripts from the 17th and 18th centuries. Some huge hand-lettered choir books, intended to be legible to the singers in a gallery above the choirmaster, are especially noteworthy.

Not All Exhibits Are Noteworthy
But not all the exhibits in the Regional Museum are worth seeing, so visitors should be selective. The collection of religious paintings, for example, isn't as interesting as that at Tepotzotlan. The most interesting historical items include the keyhole and door latch of a house where Josefa Otiz de Dominguez, also known as La Corregidora, was under house arrest. Through it she whispered instructions to a neighbor to get a horse and warn the Allende brothers and Father Hidalgo that their plot had been discovered. As a result of this information the date of the revolution was pushed ahead by three months.

In the same exhibit is the table on which the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed in Queretaro in 1848 by interim Mexican President Manuel de la Pena y Pena. Although Mexico's foreign relations minister and the U.S. representative signed the treaty elsewhere, the exchange of government ratifications took place in Queretaro. A plaque near the table notes that Mexico turned over to the U.S. the territory of Texas, the territory between the Nueces and Bravo (Rio Grande) Rivers belonging to the state of Tamaulipas, the territory of New Mexico, and the territory of Alta (Upper) California. The plaque states, "Mexico ceded no territory from the states of Sonora and Chihuahua and maintained land communications with Baja California though Sonora," adding that "Mexico lost 851,598 quare miles of territory for which the United States paid Mexico $15 million in compensation."

In an adjoining room stands the desk at which sat the council of war that heard the case of Emperor Maxmillian and signed his death sentence in the Teatro de la Republica in 1867.

Also on display is the flatbed press, manufactured by Walter Scott and Co. of Plainfield, New Jersey, that printed the first copies of the 1917 Political Constitution of the United Mexican States, still in effect today. The museum is free but is closed on Mondays.


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