The Reality of America
The Reality of America, as per the museum, is presented in a diorama that the visitor must activate. There is also a map of North and South America that can be observed from the bridge where the spectator is standing, simulating the viewpoint of someone in Spain, as if that were possible. In the diorama, the Americas are filled with grandiose landscapes, representative of all the ecosystems of the continent. A few animals can be seen in the deserts, glaciers, plains, plateaus and rain forest. There is no sign of humans, past or present. This absence is significant, and the biblical vision of creation is striking: first there was land and then oceans, later the animals, and finally, man, who will not make his appearance here until the next room.
In the second room of this unit, entitled simply “Man,” the continent’s population is described solely in terms of demographics. To the left and right of the doorway is the prehistory of the western hemisphere, with abundant samples of stone objects and graphics comparing the cultures of the prehistory of America with that of Europe. The central part of the room is covered with maps and graphics that present the contributions and distribution of the population over the course of history. The spread of the indigenous population at the end of the colonial period is compared with the period after the wars of independence; the room also shows the “approximate distribution of the three main ethics groups (black, white and Indians) today” in North and South America. In both comparisons, the aim is to present the drastic reduction of the indigenous population after the wars and emphasize that the original inhabitants now boast a higher population density in Latin America than in
North America, thus denying the Black Legend of the conquest. To round off this depiction, the visitor can view a sort of anachronism, the “First Europeans in America,” represented by the images of San Roque, San Antonio and the Virgin Mary with Christ the child. The following glass case shows the arrival of slaves to the New World. This display, entitled “African Immigration,” bears the following label: “Black slaves came mainly from the Western Coast of Africa, although growing demand and depopulation led to a search for natives from other regions.” This demographic show is surrounded by a series of paintings from the period that classifies racial mixing, or as it is referred to here, the “caste society.” One of the most fascinating processes of the meeting of the Old and New Worlds—mestizaje—is off to both sides, though originally there was no label. Today there is a small label that reads “Scenes of mestizaje.” The next room, “Cultural Development from One Pole to the Next,” shows the development of the different cultures of America in a succession of valuable classified objects. The criterion here is geographical, comparing that which classifies and divides the world of America between large civilizations and groups of hunters/gatherers. Here the universe of objects is displayed as if the objects themselves were responsible for writing the story, not merely pieces that help shed light on parts of a narrative. Where there are no objects to show, there is no information to be conveyed.