Taylor Explores the World

Caste War Museum

I saw there was a Caste War Museum, Museo de la Guerra Castas, in Tihosuco. I tried to research it more in-depth prior to our trip with little success besides a website with its address and hours. When we left the Church of the Divine Child, I was very excited to see what the museum had in store for us, especially after seeing the reality of the historic war and its effects on the community, even today.

We drove literally down the street from the church to the museum. There stood a 19th century Spanish Colonial building complete with a smooth beige stucco façade edged in burgundy paint that created a freshly clean and new look yet allowed its warmth and history to still invite you in.

Upon entering, a gentleman greeted us. He informed us that we were welcome to explore the museum but to please bear in mind it was not yet complete and he apologized for that.     We thanked him and for a moment I began to worry that maybe this is why there was not much information on the museum because there was not much of a museum yet.   WRONG.

They have a rather large and lovely collection. Well laid out, it focuses on the Maya’s  perspective throughout time and the effects of contact with the European world. Paintings by local Maya artists depict the terror the Europeans inflicted on the Maya: destroying their cities, villages, records, way of life, belief system, while making them submit and convert to Western ways to save themselves. Tons of artifacts and displays focus on the lives of the Maya during colonization and the revolt against it. Several displays discuss the Cult of the Cross, la Santisima Cruz, and Chan Santa Chan of 1860.
As we wandered through, I took too long reading and taking photographs, as usual, and fell behind. From the next room, I could hear Leroy talking to someone in Spanish. It continued and, not wanting to miss anything, I joined him and the speaker. A local Maya woman introduced herself as Beatrice or Betty to most.  She stood shoulder high to the kids, at most, while wearing black leather, open toed, slip-on sandals with a 2” heel. She was wore a traditional Mayan Huipil dress of white cotton, whose neckline and bust were adorned with brightly colored embroidered flowers while the bottom hem was edged with a  half of foot of delicate white lace. 

After learning of our interest and my studies, Betty’s gracious hostess skills took over and her excitement to share her language and ways with us beamed through.

She sat us down in the museum’s beautiful courtyard, a sitting area with a garden back drop  of ancient Maya plants and trees, beaming with a smile she told us about her language. She spoke of how the Maya keep time, a named time, a descriptive time not a numeric time like ours; there was so much more meaning in it. Betty pronounced their names slowly as she read them aloud, glancing at us and pausing… waiting for us to repeat it back to her. She then told us the equivalent in Spanish; Yax k’aay t’el became Al primer canto del gallo (the first cock crow); our morning begins with the same cock-a-doddle-doo theirs does, but we do not call it that.

We struggled trying to make our mouths form the new phonetic combinations and sounds. We tried to do so correctly as to not offend her and to show our excitement, but sometimes we could not make the sound no matter how hard we tried which resulted in giggles. In a funny turn of events, Betty tried to pronounce my husband’s name and could not get the two sounds to go together, throwing her hands in the air as if to signal enough; we all laughed quite hard as she chuckled because she now understood how we felt.

She offered us a booklet on the Caste War for a $10 or $15 USD donation, which we happily gave. She and a coworker provided us with contact information for local homestays, shamans, language schools, etc. Betty spent at least an hour and a half with us; she was honestly the best museum guide I have ever had. She loved sharing her culture with us and we loved learning it from her. She was an excellent teacher, so enthusiastic, warm and genuinely friendly with a wonderful laugh. Beatrice honesty made this the best museum experience we have ever had.

Ironically, we found out later that night while we were watching television in our hotel room, Betty is somewhat of a local spokesperson and star.  A local station was playing a show about local attractions and, low and behold, there was Betty discussing the Caste War Museum, the Maya culture and language.

Betty provided a warm inviting presence in a  place filled with historical opposition that was once considered the last holdout of the Maya Resistance. The Museo de la Guerra de Castas is a beautiful museum created by dedicated hands wanting to share their great culture and history. 

The museum was created, assembled, arranged and maintained by local Mayas, who take pride in their culture while wanting to share their history. This is not a commercialized museum, nor is it constructed by outsiders or the usual writers of history. It is one put together by a community of Mayas, wanting to preserve itself while publicizing their own voice on its culture and history through their own language, art, stories and histories.

Cost: $58 MXN pesos
Hours: TUES-SUN 10 AM – 6 PM
Address: Calle 17 near Calle 26, Colonial Centro, Tihosuco, Quintana Roo, Mexico
Phone: 983-20-8-92-03
Email: museogcastas@hotmail.com
Website: www.MuseoGC.com


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