Museo Maya de Cancún is one of the newest arrivals in the Cancun’s Hotel District and it is also one of the oldest.
The museum and cultural center was designed by Mexican architect Alberto García Lascurain, with the forecourt fountains (the three white columns which represent vegetation) by Dutch sculptor Jan Hendrix.
Before entering the museum, we decided to stroll around the San Miguelito ruins. The area was home to Mayans from the 1200s to the arrival of the Conquistadors. It was a trade center, with its close proximity to the Carribean and the 1000m2 site has up to 40 structures, though only a few can be visited currently. The landscaped path is clean and well tended. Wildlife abounds with all sorts of giant reptiles basking on logs in the diffused light of the sun. The shade also attracts swarms of mosquitos, which in these days of Zika scares forced us to cut the walk short before making it to the ruin of the pyramid.
The ultra modern museum stands 30FT above sea level to protect the collection from flooding and probably rising sea levels (apparently its last iteration was destroyed in 2006 when a hurricane hit). The core collection spans two galleries, with a third for special exhibits. Arranged chronologically, it takes the visitor on a journey through the development of the culture of the people of the state of Quintana Roo.
Larger format sculptures and friezes taken from regional ruins show the beauty of the Mayan alphabet. Intricate jade carvings demonstrate the skilled craftsmanship of their artisans, while gold jewelry shines through the years. Stylistically, there is a common thread of humor. For example, one room is devoted to the rather randy art of the people, including masturbating statues.
Like many cultures, the local museum lacks the firepower of the likes of the Museum of Natural History or Smithsonian – both of which have benefited from taking the treasures of the Mayan people in times when it was acceptable. What it delivers on is the immediacy and proximity of being in the area where this all happened.
A few tips:
1. Admission is in pesos only, with no $US accepted.
2. Larger bags and handbags are not allowed inside. Free lockers are available.
3. Most of the exhibits’ signs are in Spanish only, but look out for large format cards hanging nearby on the walls. These are give explanations of each room in most major languages including English.
4. If you plan on walking around the small area of ruins, wear mosquito repellent as the shade and rainforest-like canopy of greenery attracts the bugs.
5. The gift shop is barren and not worth the visit.
The Museo Maya de Cancún is a good place to get a taste of the rich Mayan history of the Yucatan Peninsula if you don’t have time to get to Chichen Itza or Tulum.
Blvd. Kukulcan km 16.5, Zona Hotelera, 77500 Cancún, Q.R., Mexico
The website is in Spanish only but get more details here
No bags are allowed inside but lockers are available.