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Museo de Historia de Ensenada

Last week I spontaneously decided to pull over at the history museum and finally go visit.  After 5 years and countless times passing in front of it, I finally committed myself to walking in and do a tour.  As I stepped onto the premises of the Ex-hotel Rivera (or vise versa), I couldn't help but grin and compare it to the name of "The Artist Formerly Known as Prince". His name used to just be "prince" and this used to be just a hotel. Why not just give it a new name? Maybe Rivera Cultural Center and maybe "Prince" can just go back to being "Prince" or the name his mother gave him. ...Luckily the entrance wasn't to distant and I quickly returned my focus to the history museum. I paid about 20 pesos, picked up the self-guided tour book and entered.

  At first glance, you'll see a giant fake rock with primitive etchings on it. I glanced through the first room and saw seashells of clams and skull heads of deer and birds. I semi-skimmed the self-guided tour book and decided to go to the next room. Needless to say, I walked the whole thing in less than 8 minutes.  As I was heading toward the exit, I was held up by tourist doing a docent led tour. I heard "ooh and ahhs" from tourist  taking photos next to a hand sketched portrait of a bearded man that reminded me of the brawny paper towel guy.  When I entered the souvenir shop, I returned the self-guided book and left.

  I drove happily home, feeling content that I had checked off this museum from my museum bucket list.  I couldn't wait to call my mom and tell her that I finally visited this museum. I played out my conversation with her. She'll ask me, "How was it?" and I'll reply, "It was ok." And then she'll ask, "What did you learn?"  I half smiled and my mind drifted. I saw a lot of stuff, but nothing I really knew about..."  Then I began to get this uncomfortable feeling that I really didn't learn anything from this visit.  I thought about the tourists that were taking photos with the brawny guy portrait. Who was that man? Why was he famous?  At that moment I decided I needed to return to the museum and give it a proper visit.   Possibly even get my own tour group (my family) to join me. I returned a few days later and made an appointment for a privately guided tour.

We were greeted by Patty. She asked my tour companions their names and wrote them in the guest book.  Even the guest book had an interesting story.  It is used to collect data, to see how many people from different countries have come to visit.  Which country or states have visited the most, and the people that have come from the farthest countries.  As we entered the first room she explained in such an easy-going manner the reasons for the etched rock replica and other drawings and sketches on the wall.  One that caught my eye was of a horned stick figure man drawn in red. She said the original drawing was painted hundreds of years ago, and it is found in a cave near Mexicali. As the natural light enters the cave, the eyes of the devil-like figure reflect and appear to glow!  From that moment on, she had everyone in my groups attention! Even two teenage school girls that were doing the self-guided tour decided to lingered in our docent led group tour for awhile.

  As I observed the artifacts and saw the photos of the indigenous tribal people, I realized this small space held a whole universe of information that I had shamefully missed on my first visit!  She explained the reason behind the animal skulls and the purposes of the nets (not just for fishing but also used as baby carriers. It began with the first tribe: in Spanish Yumanos (rhymes with humanos - rhyming words helps me remember names) the Yuman (rhymes with human) Indians inhabited the Baja California area. From this group, other tribes emerged such as the Kiliwa, Paipai and Kumiai who still live in nearby areas.

  We went into another room to learn about how the missions and religion became a part of the Baja California. This added another bucket list item (visit the Valle de Guadalupe Mission).  While she pointed out a baptism water fountain structure, she mentioned another interesting unrelated fact. Just below where we were standing was formerly a casino and if we looked closely at the wall behind the blessing fountain, we could see a peep hole.  We took turns peeping through the hole. She indicated the peep holes were secretly placed there during the hotel's casino era to keep a birds-eye on the gambling tables below for cheaters. "ohh ahh" I found myself saying.

  I don't want to give away all the interesting facts that we discovered, like who the brawny guy ended being. I will hint: he is so important to Baja California's history that he has a two-room exhibit!  Another interesting room, Mining Era exhibit, which houses lot of information about minerals and the miners.  This part did help tie a loose end for me as why a town just north of Ensenada would have such a long name like, "San Antonio de Las Minas".

  Remember I had observed skulls? Well aside from trailing small game, the tribal community used to hunt mammoths. In another nearby museum (just a few streets down), formerly known as a prison, an archeologist there has unveiled part of a mammoth skeleton which was found in off a beach cliff in the city of San Quintin.  hmm... (stay tuned for another museum article)

  The moral of this story is when visiting a museum, really visit it. Every town, big or small has a history and what a great way to make conversation with outsiders who come visit.  Our docent, Patty, did a wonderful job bringing together the history timeline of the tribal people to casino dealers.  Do you have any interesting stories or facts from a Baja California museum you visited or do you work in one that you recommend? Let us know, we'd like to hear it.

For more info on Museo de Historia de Ensenada:

On 11/18/2015 private guided tours cost $100 pesos plus entrance fee. 1 adult, 2- 8yr olds, 1- 5 yr old and a 3 yr old cost $85 pesos (not sure how they did the math on that one).

Boulevard Costero 2, Centro, 22800 Ensenada, B.C., Mexico
+52 646 177 0594

facebook: MuseoHistoriaEnsenada
Ensenada history

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