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In Mexico City


Ex Convento de Churubusco
 
Witness of more than 500 years of mexican history
 
The respect with no condition to other nations’ sovereignity, the principle of self-determination of the people and the principle of no-intervention, are the main concepts of Mexican foreign policy. The goal of the National Museum of Interventions is to remind people this values.
 
Placed in the former Churubusco Convent building, this place keeps alive the heritage of 500 years of history. Brings to the same space the Prehispanic past, as well as the Viceroyalty, independent and revolutionary periods.
 
The National Museum of Interventions is one of the five INAH national museums, where the foreign armed interventions that Mexico faced between 1825 and 1916, are represented. The  governments of United States, France and Spain tried to interfere in the new Mexican Republic internal affairs, leading  to armed conflicts, one of them resulting in the imposition of a foreign emperor.
 
In the effort to maintain the country’s sovereignity, the interventions were coped, when possible, in political terms, in order to avoid armed confrontations. But the Independency was recent, and as a new nation, Mexico had to consolidate by fire, fighting foreign armies. 
 
Historical Monument and Site
 
This place, the former Señorío de Huitzilopochco, was part of the Mexica Empire. The archaeological findings of the region show that this was a Nahuatl culture city.
 
The Our Lady of the Angels Churubusco Convent was built by the Dieguina  Franciscan Order, being a monastery more than 300 hundred years.
 
Due to the good conservation of the building, it is possible to appreciate the rooms where the monks used to live, such as the kitchen, refectory, ante-sacristy, Portal de Peregrinos (Pilgrims’ Porch), garden, bathing-room, cloisters, chapels and the cells, among others. The collection of sacred art of Centuries 17th to 19th can be admired here, too.
 
This building is an important historical site, since it served as a fortress during the 1846-1848 American armed intervention. The external walls still hold the bullet tracks, and the cannons that once defended the country from the American invaders, on August 20th, 1847, are still guarding the entrance.
 
In several places near the Museum, war heroes like the Batallón de San Patricio soldiers,  are honored. These catholic American soldiers joined the Mexican Army and fought their former fellows, helping the Mexicans to defend the homeland.
 
In another square, the memory of Pedro María Anaya is honored, too. This Mexican general headed one of the most intense war resistances, known as the Battle of Churubusco, where 1,300 soldiers, including the San Patricios, fought 6,000 American invaders headed by general Davis Twiggs.
 
Other uses given to this historical building were military hospital for infectious diseases, from 1876 to 1914; an open painting school in the second decade of the 20th Century, and a museum of site and transportation, from 1929 to 1960. Presidente Benito Juárez declared this building a National Monument in 1869.
 
On September 13th, 1981, the National Museum of Interventions opened obeying a presidential decree. This Museum was created to divulge the history of foreign armed interventions to Mexico. The building was restored both in structure and ornamental elements.
 
The museology respected the original characteristics of the building. The foreign armed interventions were arranged chronologically, beginning after 1821, when Mexico became an Independent country.
 
The collection of lithographs, flags, arms, furniture, civil and military items that are in exhibition, goes back to the same period of time. Some of the objects are reproductions of INAH collections.
 
Information about the Dieguino catholic order heritage is available. Many cultural events take place here, like artistic and academic activities, some of them focused in historical outreach.
 
This is why the Ex Convento de Churubusco is an important cultural site, where 500 years of Mexican history are waiting to be visited.
 
The Visit
 
The Ex Convento de Churubusco main floor walk begins at Portón de Campo, or Countryside Gate, the entrance to Portal de Peregrinos, or Pilgrims’ Porch. Both places were important regional trading areas, where seeds and other items were sold to southern travelers on their way to Mexico City. A polychomed wood-carved retablo, estofado, or covered with a golf leaf overlay, that represents the holy Souls in Purgatory, still welcomes the pilgrims.
 
Then we find the patio de servicio, or service courtyard is found, followed by the stables, hogsty and the minor courtyard, where the monks received the peasants and people who lived near the convent. Several cooking activities were done in the service courtyard, and it was the way to the garden.
 
In the garden, where vegetables and fruit trees grew, there was an aljibe, fountain of water, that provided the convent, the laundries, and the whole neighborhood of Churubusco, being the monks the ones who controlled the supply of water.
 
The kitchen, pantry, sideboard, refectory and ante-refectory were the rooms where meals were kept, prepared and served.
 
The Baño de los placeres, or pleasure bathing-room, was the place where the monks washed and healed their bodies, using showers and steam as it is done in a health spa.
 
The lower cloister, the ante-sacristy and the porter-lodge were public places, since the convent was an important space for the community life. Other areas, like the Profundis hall, were only used by the monks, who met there to pray or discuss matters of the internal government.
 
The walls of the staircase that leads to the second floor, or Claustro alto,  are covered with huge oil paintings. Two of them, El Tránsito de San Francisco de Asís and San Francisco como el Profeta Elías, show scenes of the life of Saint Francis of Assisi, who founded the Franciscan religious order.
 
The corridors of the Claustro alto were used by the monks attending the seminary to study, learn and discuss their lessons; the Holy Rosary was prayed here several times during the day and night. The Talavera tiles on the corridor walls represent the Stations of the Cross, or Via Crucis.
 
The entrance to the church choir had a portico where the people attended the religious services. The place where the monks’ private ceremonies took place was the Capilla doméstica, or domestic chapel, decorated with religious mural painting.  Here we find an altar, and niches that once held images of saints and virgins.
 
At last, the cells, the small dormitories where the monks kept their personal belongings, like books and clothes, and their cot. They had a desk to read and work, illuminated at daytime by a little window that also let in fresh air.
 
A Historic Visit
 
All along the 10 halls, the visitor finds helpful explanations about the historical processes that ended in armed interventions, from the first half of the 19th Century to the second decade of the 20th.
 
The names of the halls are Introduction, Independency, Spanish Intervention of 1829, French Intervention of 1838, also known as Guerra de los Pasteles or Pastry War; American Intervention of 1946, Second French Intervention of 1862, when the Mexican defeat resulted in the enthronement of Maximiliano I as Emperor of Mexico. The other halls are Restoration of the Republic, Porfiriato, Revolution and the second American Intervention of 1914.
 
An important part of the collection is the armory. Cannons, rifles, handguns, bullets, sables, swords, bayonets and machetes can be seen around the museum. Other relevant historic documents, like photographs, lithographs, etchings, paintings and maps, as well as flags and uniforms, are remarkable, too.
 
The historical periods are represented in three-dimensional life-size scenes, or dioramas, where original historic objects, such as medals, emblems, badges, jewelry, pottery and furniture, are settled next to reproductions of items from the same period of time.
 
Sala de Introducción. In this hall, the resistance adopted by the Mexican government to confront the foreign interventions is illustrated, and so is the origin of the American expansionism.
 
Sala de Independencia. The process that led Mexico to Independency from the Spanish Crown, and the Mexican Republic conformation, headed by President Guadalupe Victoria, are represented here.
 
Sala de la Intervención Española. The Spanish Intervention of 1829, attacking the Mexican harbors of Veracruz and Tampico, and the defeat of the Europeans, are narrated in this hall.
 
Sala de la Intervención Francesa, o Guerra de los Pasteles.1838-1839. An unfair commercial treaty that France wanted to impose to Mexico, led to a French blockade of the Mexican harbors in the Gulf of Mexico. This conflict was resolved in diplomatic terms.
 
Sala de la Intervención Norteamericana. 1846-1848. The national approach to the Mexican-American War is represented in this hall. The annexation by the United States of almost one-third of the territory led to this armed conflict. The Mexican Army resistance on the northern and western fronts, as well as in the central region, though courageous, ended with the capitulation of Mexico and the signature of the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo in 1848.
 
 Sala de la Intervención Francesa. 1862-1867. The internal struggle between the conservative and liberal factions, led to the French armed intervention that resulted in the imposition of Maximiliano de Habsburgo as Emperor of Mexico. In this hall, the figure of Benito Juárez outstands as a symbol of the defense of the National Sovereignity, managing to restore the Republic in 1867.
 
Sala de la República Restaurada. Although in this period there were no armed interventions, the purpose of this hall is to emphasize the condition of Mexico as a free country, and its quality as a producer of raw materials, that led it to incur in the international economic markets.
 
Sala del Porfiriato. The 30 years of the leadership of Porfirio Díaz as  President of Mexico are represented here. The modern Mexico begins here, and though there were mayor technical and scientific developments, the great inequity and poverty of most of the people, led the country to the civil war known as Revolución Mexicana.
 
Sala de la Revolución. The outbreak of the armed movement led by Francisco I. Madero in 1910 is represented in this hall, and so is the political treatment of the foreign affairs during this period.
 
Sala de la Intervención Norteamericana. 1914-1916. The American government support to the dictator Victoriano Huerta due to economical interests, and the later reject of his regimen, resulted in the second intervention of the American army to the Veracruz harbor, where the people and the Navy fought together. In 1916, the Pancho Villa’s attack to Columbus originated another American armed intervention, known as the Punitive Expedition.
 
Sala de la Colección Churubusco. Although there is no relation with the armed interventions to Mexico, this hall is relevant because houses an outstanding collection of colonial art, such as paintings by Juan Correa, Cristóbal de Villalpando and Nicolás Rodríguez Juárez, as well as anonymous work of New Spain artists. Sculptures and woodcarvings that represent angels and virgins, improve this Novohispano art exhibit hall.
 
Cultural Forum
 
The National Museum of Interventions is a place of cultural outreach, where the historical past coexists with several activities that promote knowledge.
 
A ludic educational experience is the guided tour called Juglares en el Convento, or Jugglers at the Convent. Dramatic performance combines with a tour around the museum. Children and young people can reach history by it’s characters, making the learning experience a more enjoyable one.
 
Jugglars at the Convent brings in monthly the presence of a historical character that tells his/her story in an agreeable and entertaining way. The baroque chants, the violin and clavichord, are  important companions for the theatrical experience.
 
In July and August, the Juana de Asbaje Classic Theater Company brought general Antonio López de Santa Ana, with his wooden leg and a fighting cock on his shoulder, to explain how he managed to be President of Mexico in 11 ocassions.
 
Captain John O’Reiley, leader of the San Patricio Batallion, narrated how the former American soldiers fought along with the people of Mexico, in order to repel the foreign enemies, in this building.
 
Known as the Catalejo de la Historia, or Telescope of History, the library offers the opportunity to learn more about Mexican history, not only through books, but also magazines, videos and music discs. For those willing to go further in the historic knowledge, historian Raymundo N. Alva Zavala, who is in charge of the Educational Communication Area, will be very helpful.    
 
There are also live concerts in the garden area, as well as sonoric art assemblies, and lectures and history courses in the Gastón García Cantú auditorium.
 
Come along!
 
Do not miss this interesting place, located in Coyoacán, D.F., on 20 de Agosto St. and General Anaya St., in the San Diego Churubusco neighborhood, Mexico city.
 
The visiting hours are Tuesday to Sunday, from 9:00 Am to 6:00 PM. The admission fee is 37 MXP. Children under 13, teachers, students and senior citizens presenting a valid ID card do not pay. The entry is free on Sundays.
 
If you are willing to shoot with a videocamera, there is a 30 MXP fee. Other services offered by the National Museum of Interventions are temporary exhibitions, auditorium, library, bookstore, museum miniguide, cloakroom, guided tours, summer courses and student advisory.
 
The easiest way to get to the museum is by Metro. The General Anaya station of the line 2 (the blue one) is just a block away. Further information can be solicited by phone, (55) 5604 0699, (55) 5604 3699 or (55) 5688 7926, or to the e-mail address This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..