----------------------------------------------- Google Site Map ----------------------------------------------- Cindy in ...: Costa Rica: Banks, Insurance Companies, and Museums

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Costa Rica: Banks, Insurance Companies, and Museums

Banks, insurance companies, and museums are intertwined in much of Latin America. For some reason they all seem to have started acquiring archaelogical artifacts, or sometimes art, perhaps for the offices of their to executives. Then somewhere along the line, the collection grows a bit too large, and they open a museum to display the works they own. The Museo de Jade, or Jade Museum, is one of them.

Central American jade isn’t really jade, technically, but nephrite. The author of "1421", uses this as a point in his argument that the Chinese sailed to the new world, and circumnavigated, early in the fifteenth century. Not only do some jade artifacts found in the Americas look as if they had been crafted in China, they are really made of jade from Asia.

The Jade Museum doesn’t actually have much jade on display, but it does have some wonderful pre-Columbian pottery, with faces on the jars and vases shaped like animals. Archeologists assign all kinds of meanings to these artifacts, probably with more accuracy than in many other areas. After all, the Maya still exist, there are oral traditions, and the language is still spoken and can be read with reasonable confidence. However, I still think that a lot of these objects simply reflect a sense of humor.

The Museo del Oro, or Gold Museum, focuses much more on the daily lives and the influences of trade on design and function. The wide extent of trade always amazes me. The Maya in the Yucatan influenced and were influenced by the work of people in Ecuador.

The Gold Museum does an excellent job of explaining all the various techniques used in making the delicate gold jewelry and the decorated pots. Most of the children visiting the exhibits spend their time pushing buttons that match drawings of animals with their equivalent rendered in gold, then hunting for the same animal to light up in the diorama behind the displays. I played for a while, too.

I can't help wondering, though, about bankers sitting in oak paneled conference rooms, surrounded by handmade gold jewelry from hundreds of years ago. Did they notice? Did it make them think of time and change and the end of cultures? Or did they discuss exchange rates and loan terms without a thought to the past?

No comments: