Right on Paseo de Montejo sits Palacio Cantón, one of Mérida’s most iconic mansions. The grand casona, built during the Porfirian period in the first decade of the 20th century, served as the residence of the two-time governor, General Francisco Cantón Rosado.
After the Mexican Revolution, Palacio Cantón became an art school, a children’s shelter, and a library before taking on the role of Mérida’s regional anthropology museum. Given its location, it’s one of Mérida’s most visited museums. And it remains relevant despite the construction of the much larger Museo del Mundo Maya in the north of the city.
Aside from its own collection consisting of over 1,000 artifacts, the museum also often hosts temporary exhibits with themes ranging from the role of women in the Mexican Revolution to excavations at archaeological sites such as Kulubá.
Palacio Cantón recently opened a temporary exhibit centered around the theme of the material and spiritual conquest of Yucatán.
The exhibit, on the second floor, displays astounding artifacts from the Maya classic and postclassic periods, as well as a smaller collection of Catholic artifacts found in Maní from the times of the early conquest.
The exhibit also makes a point of highlighting the religious syncretism from the 15th century onwards with references to the ways in which Europeans attempted to draw parallels between local deities and Catholic figures — most famously between the rain god Chaac and Archangel Michael.
The exhibit is particularly notable for bringing to Mérida some of the Maya world’s most iconic artworks, which are usually housed in Mexico City.
When visiting the exhibit, it’s hard not to be impressed by the beauty and state of preservation of the artifacts, many of which still have a great deal of their original paint and are relatively intact.
Despite media reports that the artifacts were discovered during the construction of the Mayan Train, the reality is that these specific finds all come from prior excavations at sites that include Mayapán, Chichén Itzá, and Ek-Balam.
Among the collection are also several images depicting old men of noble rank, recognizable from their regalia.
Several of the artifacts featured in the exhibition dating from the post-classic period show evidence of influence from other peoples, including the Nahua.
Artifacts such as jewelry, carved shells, incense burners, and ceramic pottery are also featured, making the exhibit feel particularly well-rounded.
If you go
Though this temporary exhibit opened only a couple of weeks ago, it would be best to check it out sooner rather than later. Palacio Cantón is closed Mondays.
Entrance to the museum, on the corner of Calle 43, is 65 pesos and, on Sundays, is free for Mexican students with valid ID, seniors with an INAPAM card, and residents of Mexico.