Mexico and the Okanagan have more connections than most people think.
“The Mexican people have an unsung history in B.C. Many of the early pack train operators when the country was first being settled were Mexican. Now we have Mexican people coming to work in the fruit industry,” said Dan Bruce, curator of the Lake Country Museum, which has a show, Hecho a Mano: traditional handcrafts of Mexico, of pieces from 500 B.C. to the present.
“We talked to Mexican people here and some were enthusiastic from the start and others joined later. We have done interviews with them and they were invited to the opening night.
“A lot of people visit Mexico and appreciate its culture but don’t think that much about what Mexico has given us: chocolate, tomatoes, chili, may agricultural products.”
The exhibit brings together items from the Kelowna Museum and private collections.
The oldest is a small pottery head. There are also examples of traditional handicrafts in glass, textiles, ceramics, woodwork, metal and leather crafts. There are also copies of ancient codices from Madrid, few survived because they were written on paper and traditional costumes.
Bruce, who has done ethnography/archeology field work in Mexico, finds one of the most intriguing exhibits is a reproduction of a head of Mayan King Pacal (b. March 26, 603 A.D.) who ruled in Palenque from July 26, 616 to Aug. 31, 683. The dates are exact since Mayan texts have recently been translated.
“You can imagine the king at his pyramid temple wearing quetzal feathers, jade, turquoise and jaguar skins. In 1952, Mexican archeologists discovered his tomb, the first royal burial discovered and so much was learned. With that and the translations, the Mayans stepped out of pre-history and became living beings.”
He finds the contemporary crafts just as interesting and said Mexicans are serious about preserving their skills and history.
“One of the remarkable things in the exhibit is a woman’s hair tie about an inch wide and four-feet long with intricate woven designs that are perfect on both sides. It was made by a 16-year-old girl,” he said.
“The museum volunteers have worked very hard on this and we are proud of it. The museum is there to preserve local history and tell that story but it is also there to expand people’s horizons.”
The exhibition also includes photographs featuring the portraits and stories of Mexican migrant workers in the community.
During this special exhibition the museum will be open extended hours: Aug.18 to Sept. 3, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. seven days a week. Sept. 5 through Sept. 29, the opening hours will 1 to 4 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. The Lake Country Museum is located at 11255 Okanagan Centre Road West, Lake Country. Admission is by donation. For more information call 250-766-0111 or see www.lakecountrymuseum.com.