January 8, 2003
There are rows and rows of ancient books here--some with untanned leather bindings dating as far back as the 16th century, and others equally old and more ornate, brought over from Spain.
Explore a little further, and you'll find four connected courtyards, housing schooling in progress and admin staff at work (mostly downstairs). Don't think this is the end of the visit. For me, the best part was walking around the beautiful courtyard squares and colonnades, halls and stairways, and checking out some of the exhibits.
Upstairs are exhibits of art and findings. Masks and sculptures were interesting: I was truly impressed with the way the ancient people of Veracruz noticed and represented details of objects such as faces, dogs, tigers, birds, alligators, bodies, etc. It's peculiar how some things were represented the same way as other places around the world in the same period, even with minimal outside contact. Yet in some cases, the Mexicans noticed things that other "more advanced" cultures totally missed (some of the Spaniards appeared to be portraying tigers by accentuating the observed differences from horses!). There were also some nice architectural drawings in perfect shape, and one noticeable illustration of an unusual treatment for an Ionic column near the doorway. Also in the museum were Chinese, Egyptian, and a few other collections. A mini-tripod or creative camera-propping and using timed exposures will allow photos to be taken (I used 8-30 seconds at F8 w/400 film).
If I recall, it was an exit from the room of architectural drawings that let you out into the fourth hidden courtyard. This is a beautiful space, more of a garden, walled in by adjacent buildings, that are so crumbling and discolored, but with beautiful flower accents, a tree, and overflowing with celadon long-grasses along a water drainway, that to sneak a short break here or snap some photos is an absolute must. I don't know if it's permitted, but I climbed into the drainway (I can't think of what else to call it: it's almost 50 yards long, about 4 to 8 feet wide, with a 5-foot arch over one part, and about 4 to 7 feet below the main grounds--it's extremely clean), and in here are some of the best picture/drawing opportunities. Or if you bend down near the tree's base and flowers, you can also see La Bufa between the buildings, giving a real sense of space in this ultra-quiet enclosure.
When I had first paid my entrance fee, I thought I had sorely overpaid and made a mistake, but on leaving, I seriously considered returning later. If you're equipped with a snack (keep your refuse--garbage receptacles aren't obvious), water, and some art supplies, and the weather holds out, you could spend a wonderful portion of a day sketching or painting. I also didn't visit every room: perhaps there a fifth courtyard/garden.
From journal Colonial Amblings 2 - Zacatecas