Museums for Human Rights
May 2, 2018

By Adalberto Méndez López

According to the World Tourism Organization, Mexico hosts the sixth most tourists in the world, and its capital, Mexico City, is in second place for number of museums, just after London.

Museums are always one of the main attractions for any travel destination, and Mexico is no exception. Just during the last year, one of the best art museums was inaugurated in Puebla, the Baroque Art International Museuma world class museum, with comparable collections to the Moma in New York or the Louvre in Paris.

But museums also serve a great social purpose. In Memphis, Tennessee, the history of the civil rights movement can be understood thanks to the Civil Rights Museum located in that emblematic city. In Winnipeg, Canada, the government opened the Canadian Human Righs Museum in 2014. Noted as well is the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia hosted by Ferris State University in Michigan, which represents a great place to understand the negative effects of racism and discrimination through a huge collection of commercial products.

Museums, without a doubt, can be a great tool for teaching human rights. What if tourist destinations start using their museums to promote the human rights? In Mexico, this is already happening.

In October 2010 the Memory and Tolerance Museum opened its doors in Mexico City, supported by the local Jewish community. This Museum is focused on the Holocaust, but also has a permanent exhibition related with Human Rights violations in Mexico, another one with genocide around the world, and it has a space for non permanent exhibitions where they are currently hosting an LGBTQ rights history exhibition. A world class museum dedicated to human rights in the heart of one of the biggest cities in the world.

Recently, the Autonomous National University of Mexico (better known as UNAM for it’s acronym in Spanish), just released an interesting digital collection that could be consulted by the entire public at the University Cultural Center of Tlatelolco. A digital collection of different materials like pictures, newspapers, letters, flyers, videos and other documents, related with the social movements in Mexico during the last 50 years. 

Mexico is showing that it is not just a simple tourist destination. With these initiatives, universities and civil society are promoting popular historical memory and are pushing for a new path for human rights advocacy. With Justice Travel, human rights defenders have found in tourism a strategic ally to build a better society by launching effective promotion campaigns to spread the word about inclusion and human dignity in México and around the world.

Adalberto Méndez López is the Justice Travel Country Representative in Mexico.