Curious Minds Want to Know…La Paz Museum of Anthropology and Natural History

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By Mary Anne Harmer

¨Curiosity is one of the great secrets of happiness.¨  Bryant H. McGill

Many brain researchers and clinicians over the past decade state that curiosity, which leads to new learning, is one of the best ways to keep the brain young. A study published in Neuron magazine suggested that as we become curious, our brain’s chemistry changes and in turn, helps us to retain information and increases our learning.

I like that proposition.  And, I must admit, living in La Paz makes it
easy to be curious. Questions about the whale sharks, the pelicans in the bay,
the diverse cactus in the area, the Mexican culture itself, are all paths to
new knowledge.  So, in my attempt to
learn at least two new things every day,  I discovered the La Paz Museum of Anthropology
and Natural History.   

It is not fancy or sophisticated like the big museums that we may be accustomed to, but in an authentic and simple way, visitors gain an understanding of the history of the area.

For example…do you know the origins and life of the early Pericú Indians on the islands? Have you ever wondered about the creation of the mountains, the geology of the area? Do you know the history of the early Jesuits and Dominicans in Baja Sur… and what about the mining and pearl industries that put La Paz on the map?

All these questions and more are answered at this small but well-designed museum in the center of town.  It is an easy walk from the Cathedral on Revolucion.  I spent several hours there, going through the three floors, which take you on a chronological journey from the first indigenous peoples to Independence and creation of the State of Baja California Sur.

There are professional collections of artifacts, that rightfully belong in a museum, and along with the dioramas of the earlies Indians, and a mock up room of a typical rancher’s home; visitors are given a glimpse of early life.  There are displays that feature the early mining in the area  with the tools used to uncover silver and other sought-after gems and stones, and photos and history of the missions. I particularly liked the more recent history of Mexican independence and creation of the State of Baja with the revolutionary characters and drama.

Myths and legends of the area are also described throughout the museum, including one of my favorites, the tale of the warrior Amazon women that lived on a Baja island.  The myth was highlighted in a History channel program on Baja:

When the Spaniards arrived in the Baja California area in 1539, they believed they had reached a mythical island of female warriors governed by Queen Calafia. The earliest record of this myth appears in The Exploits of the Very Powerful Cavalier Esplandian, Son of the Excellent King Amadis of Gau, written by Garcia Ordonez de Montalvo 18 years earlier.

The museum continues to intrigue visitors with the pictures of noted heroes; politicians and early settlers of the more recent era are displayed on the walls, carefully painted by a local artist from old photos.

There is a small admission fee at the entrance.  Make sure to sign the guest book. Also, all the placards throughout the museum are in Spanish, so you will enjoy it much more if you speak some Spanish or go with someone that can help translate.   I was able to understand most of it, with my conversational Spanish.

It is rarely busy. I must admit this is my third time I have visited over the past few years, and each time I learn something more, as it continues to add exhibits. On the outside of the museum, there is also a cactus garden, with the names of many of the diverse cactus seen growing in the area.

So, my curiosity was satiated that day with my visit to the museum and I learned many things. But when a museum is not nearby, here are some other tips to keep our minds curious and healthy.

  1. Go outside of your four walls. …as
    we say, step out of your comfort zone
  1. Interact with others. … be open to learning about
    different cultural  values and
  2. Grow from unseen circumstances and outcomes… surprises
    in life may teach us
  3. Question everything.  ‘Why’… is not a question just reserved
    for children.
  4. Observe nature, and wonder ‘how‘
  5. Do not hesitate or be embarrassed if you do not know
    something… Ask!

Hope to see you at the museum…and take my pledge to stay curious and learn
two new things every day.

Museo de Antropologia e Historia de
Baja California Sur 

9am to 6pm

:  53 612 122 0162

Ignacio Altamirano and Cinco de Mayo, Centro La Paz

Mary Anne brings passion and energy towards improving the physical, emotional and spiritual health of ALL individuals, families and communities across the spectrum of economics and cultures.  She is the co-author of the book, 25 Building Blocks to Create a Conscientious Organization and the recently released book Putting Soul Into Business: How the Benefit Corporation is Transforming American Business.  She lives part-time in La Paz.