When we first arrived in San Augustine Etla, I was surprised to see that the new museum Hector had spoken of was still under construction. Obviously I’d missed something during our discussion! Teams of architects and designers clutching 3′ rolls of plans and drawings mingled with work crews and scaffolding. Unlike litigious America, they kindly told me it didn’t matter and that I was free to walk around wherever I liked. Words can never really express the emotions I felt wandering the grounds of a 19th century textile factory brilliantly (remarkably) being transformed into a contemporary art school and museum. Someone in the government had the foresight to not tear down this fabulous building or the magnificent old-growth trees around it. Another group obviously had the knowledge to select an architectural team from Mexico City, headed up by a woman, that was world-class. Industrial details of the past were left butted next to the most contemporary materials and fixtures of the present. And pools of cascading water would be everywhere. The museum was stunning and as progressive as anything being done in Frankfurt or Tokyo. I had no idea.
When we returned four months later the museum, water running and the first exhibition installed, lived up to all we’d hoped. The incredible pale green rock unique to the state was in use everywhere – some crushed into gravel and scattered around the trees in the newly created gardens. Brochures with schedules of classes being offered had been printed and we saw that the emphasis would be on textiles, printmaking, photography and restoration. It didn’t take much to imagine the special events that would take place standing on one of the many balconies and terraces surrounded by breathtaking views. (No website, info re classes difficult to get)
There’s a handmade paper factory within walking distance of the new museum and the Wednesday market in Etla, spilling out from the church plaza and spiraling down the steps is one of the most picturesque in the entire valley. In addition to being a terrific place to sample an abundant variety of foods, there are a couple of simple but excellent restaurants and I can’t imagine a more perfect day trip to get the feeling of life in the villages that surround the city.