There’s a truly wonderful and completely surprising museum in Puebla called the Amparo.
It’s housed in a large 17th Century building in Centro Historico but, once you step inside, you’re in a far more modern world, a gleaming 21st Century glass atrium with light flooding in from a skylit roof and garden terrace. The Museo Amparo is in fact one of the most important historical museums in Mexico and, sadly, one of the least visited. When we were there, there were just a handful of visitors, aside from a couple of school groups – one group of animated primary age kids with their enthusiastic teacher and another group of uninterested teenagers giggling at the Aztec and Mayan figures. It’s odd to have a place of this calibre largely to yourself – apart from the ever-watchful security guards who track your every move, ushering you (when you’re ready) from room to room – but what a privilege to be able to see this stunning collection up close and personal and for as long as we wanted.
Amparo has one of the most important (and privately-held) collections of pre-Hispanic, Colonial and Modern Mexican art in the country, with three distinct areas over two floors with a vast maze-like flow of galleries. It totals some 4,800 artifacts from many of Mesoamerica’s significant civilisations such as the Aztec, Olmec, Toltec, Mixtec, Zapotec and Maya – with a fascinating grouping of figures (human and animal), steles, jars, altars, sculptures and day-to-day utensils and tools (many from Teotihuacan), all presented in beautifully lit, crisp glass cabinets. There are fascinating multi-media presentations and installations explaining individual cultures, language, writing, religion, rituals, trade, daily life, and the symbolism of these peoples spanning thousands of years. It’s incredibly impressive, the like of which I’ve only seen in the beyond-amazing Museo Nacional de Antropología in Mexico City.
On the ground floor there is a contemporary installation presenting new works that create a dialogue between the 17th Century architecture of the museum and its pre-Hispanic collection, with, at its centre, a vivid blue tiled courtyard that positively radiates energy! Other contemporary Mexican art rooms seem to go on forever with some really thought-provoking pieces, whilst another section of the Museum recreates the colonial home of the Espinoza family over 11 rooms. These are filled with Baroque furniture, sculpture, silver, paintings, Talavera pottery, and of course, the family’s religious statues and iconography. It’s so well done that you’d swear you were intruding on a dark old 16th Century house, complete with garden courtyard and fountain, but step just outside these and you’re smack back in the 21st Century.
Sweeping wooden steps lead you up to a large light-box café with glass walls and a wrap-around garden terrace with far-ranging views across the roof-tops and cupola domes to the Cathedral and nearby churches. What a setting! What a fantastic museum!
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I love those statues, perhaps my fave of the art you’ve photographed so far 😍
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