SANTO DOMINGO CULTURAL CENTER
The Santo Domingo Cultural Center is a cultural complex that is located in what was one of the most important convents in the colony. It is a large convent in which the Museum of the Cultures of Oaxaca, the Fray Francisco de Burgoa Library and the Ethnobotanical Garden have been established.
The Néstor Sánchez Public Newspaper Library is located in a building that is part of the complex but dates from the 19th century. Apart from all these institutions brought together, the Santo Domingo Cultural Center has multipurpose spaces in the former convent, in which temporary exhibitions, conferences, courses, book presentations and concerts are held, among many other activities.
Ex-convent of Santo Domingo
The former convent of Santo Domingo de Guzmán is perhaps the largest and most important standing viceregal construction in Mexico and probably in all of America, due to its monumentality, its artistic value and the role it played as a center for evangelization and cultural promotion. for the territory of what is currently the State of Oaxaca. Santo Domingo is part of the historic center of the City of Oaxaca, which has been declared a cultural heritage of humanity by the United Nations Organization for Education and Culture.
The construction of the convent began in the middle of the 16th century and would last until the beginning of the 17th century, on an area that reached 40,000 square meters. During the colony, Santo Domingo was the center of an evangelization practically monopolized by the Dominican order throughout the State of Oaxaca.
As a result of independence and when the confiscation of the assets of the clergy was decreed with the Reform Laws, the building was evicted and occupied by the armed forces. The Temple was closed to worship in 1866 and reopened in 1902, but the building that occupied the convent remained in the hands of the Mexican army. Parts of it were gradually transferred until in 1993, the army definitively evicted the property and it was used for cultural purposes.
During four years, architectural and movable property restoration works, museum planning, historical research, anthropology and the natural environment of the Oaxacan territory were carried out, thanks to the joint effort of the federal and state governments, private initiative and civil society.
With the purpose of rescuing the original appearance of the building, for more than fifty months, at least six thousand square meters of construction and ten thousand square meters of flattening were restored Direct employment was given to around a thousand people in the most intense seasons of the process restoration; Some construction techniques used by the Dominican order in the 6th century were recovered and a set of trades that were little practiced by Oaxacan artisans and workers such as ironwork, stonework, and plasterwork were removed from oblivion.
Of the restoration work carried out in Santo Domingo, the restitution of six thousand square meters of vaults stands out, almost 50 percent of the original total. This required the intervention of a large interdisciplinary team, made up of archaeologists, architects, and historians, among others, who undertook the task of investigating, both in the archives of the cities of Oaxaca and Mexico, as well as by making coves. in walls and floors, what were the original characteristics of the building, in order to justify, from the historical point of view, all the architectural replacements that took place.
Finally, on July 24, 1998, the Santo Domingo Cultural Center opened its doors to the public, which integrates activities of four institutions: the Museum of Cultures of Oaxaca, the Ethnobotanical Historical Garden of Oaxaca, the “Fray Francisco de Burgoa” Library. , the Public Newspaper Library “Periodista Néstor Sánchez Hernández”, in addition to the areas dedicated to conferences, congresses, seminars, temporary exhibitions, courses, concerts, etc.
On the upper floor is the Museum of the Cultures of Oaxaca, through a new museum language and along 14 permanent exhibition rooms and 13 thematic rooms, visitors are provided with a broad panorama of the historical development in the entity. In this new enclosure, visitors can appreciate the permanent and determining presence of indigenous groups in shaping the current physiognomy of Oaxacan society.
In its rooms it is possible to admire the most outstanding archaeological pieces from Monte Albán -for example, the world-famous jewels of Tomb 7- Mitla, Yagul Lambityeco, Dainzú, Huijazoo and other pre-Hispanic sites, as well as various objects that account for the traits and continuity of the millenary culture of Zapotecs, Mixtecs, Mixes, Huaves, Triqui and other ethnic groups of the State of Oaxaca, emphasizing that these groups are a dynamic part of everyday Oaxacan events.
This site has been organized around a museum proposal that seeks to simultaneously meet the informational requirements of the different types of visitors (students, tourists, researchers, etc.). A novel aspect is the incorporation in the rooms of computer monitors where in an agile and even fun way it is possible to delve into some aspect of the history and anthropology of the entity.
The museum is divided into fourteen rooms that cover 10 thousand years of the state’s history, from the emergence of the first sedentary settlements and the flourishing of the great pre-Hispanic cultures, passing through different aspects of the conquest and the colony, the independent era, to reach the twentieth century. Room 3 stands out, where the jewels found in the early 1930s are on display in Tomb 7 of Monte Albán, considered one of the most important treasures in all of Mesoamerica.
The so-called “interactive rooms” are located in rooms V to VII in thirteen small cells. They have been conceived as spaces in which the public can touch the objects they appreciate and obtain more information, with the support of multimedia technology. They are dedicated to different craft trades in Oaxaca: textiles, ceramics, goldsmithing, wood carving and sculptures, saddlery, tinsmithing, etc .; the production of natural dyes, such as cochineal grana; traditional medicine; music; gastronomy; and the production of beverages such as mezcal, among others.
The next cultural space of this complex is the Ethnobotanical Historical Garden of Oaxaca, whose objective is to make known the abundance and peculiarities of the flora of the State, traditional crops, and rescue the knowledge that the indigenous peoples of Oaxaca have about the flora of your region.
By showing live links between the biological and ethnic diversity of Oaxaca, the Ethnobotanical Garden complements and enriches the Museum of Cultures of Oaxaca and the “Francisco de Burgoa” Library. This relationship between the Garden and the Cultural Center is unprecedented in Mexico.
Another space of the new Santo Domingo de Oaxaca Cultural Center is the “Fray Francisco de Burgoa” Library, formed with the historical collection of the “Benito Juárez” Autonomous University of Oaxaca. The library occupies the space of the old chapel of the Third Order, one of the largest rooms in the Ex-Convent. It has more than 23 thousand volumes published between 1484 and 1940, mostly collections owned by different religious orders settled in Oaxaca.
These collections were seized in the 19th century, following the enactment of the Reform Laws. Among its most precious treasures are eleven incunabula, some first Mexican prints, a Latin manuscript by Fray Bartolomé de las Casas and the work: “Comments on the philosophy of Aristotle” by Juan Versor, published in Latin in 1484. It also has the important bibliographic collections of Benito Juárez Maza, Matías Romero, Jacobo Dalevuelta and Aurelio Valdivieso, whose consultation is reserved for researchers.
The Public Newspaper Library “Periodista Néstor Sánchez Hernández”, located in the old cavalry building, built by the Dominican fathers for the Mexican army in 1902, in gratitude for having returned the Temple of Santo Domingo to that religious order, has two spacious rooms for reading, where it is possible to consult the main newspapers of local and national circulation, as well as various publications in other languages. In the first one are newspapers and magazines of the current day and month. In the second, the oldest, among which are newspapers in the region dating from the middle of the last century, and a newspaper with national circulation since 1978.
In addition, the center has several rooms, classrooms and an auditorium, in which exhibitions, congresses, forums, concerts, courses, workshops, recitals, stage presentations, book fairs and a wide range of activities are organized. A cafeteria and a store-bookstore complement the services of a center that is destined to further enrich the artistic and cultural life of the city of Oaxaca.
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