Saturday, November 16, 2019

Up at the Castle

Today I took my visitors to Chapultepec Castle, a building which today serves as Mexico's National Museum of History. 

The castle was built on Chapultepec Hill during the late colonial period as a summer palace for the Spanish viceroys.  However it was never used for that purpose.  After Mexico won its independence from Spain, the castle became the "Colegio Militar", the nation's military academy.  Located in those days on the outskirts of the capital, it was the scene of one of the final battles of the Mexican-American War as the U.S. forces pushed toward Mexico City.  Six of the teenage cadets from the academy refused to retreat from the castle and were killed in the battle... the celebrated "Niños Héroes" (Boy Heros) who have become a part of the nation's patriotic folklore.  Later, French invaded Mexico and in 1864 installed Maximillian von Hapsburg as the puppet emperor of Mexico.  During their brief and tragic reign, Maximillian and his wife Carlota lived at the elegantly refurbished castle... making Chapultepec the only  royal castle in the Americas.

Much of the museum's artifacts are not of great interest to those who are not knowledgeable about Mexico's history, so for our tour, I concentrated on the royal apartments of Maximillian and Carlota and the mural paintings done by some of Mexico's outstanding 20th century artists.

Maximillian and Carlota's carriage

The dining hall

Empress Carlota's bedroom

Upstairs we saw the roof garden which was planted for Carlota around the castle's watchtower.

Also upstairs is a corridor lined with beautiful stained glass windows.

Perhaps the most dramatic of the numerous murals in the history museum is this painting by Gabriel Flores located on the ceiling of the stairwell.  It depicts the death of one of the "Boy Heroes", Juan Escutia.  According to the legend, Escutia wrapped himself in the Mexican flag and threw himself from the castle to his death rather than surrender to the Americans.  As you look up at the mural you see the image of the young cadet hurtling downward.

The noted painter Juan O'Gorman painted this mural devoted to Mexico's War for Independence.  

This is a small portion of a monumental mural by David Siqueiros depicting the Mexican Revolution.

Gail and Annette enjoyed their visit to the castle and learning a bit about Mexico's history.

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