Skip to main content

The Q? Blog

Explore Latin American Collection Objects in Q?rius During Hispanic Heritage Month

by Efrain Tejada -- Sep 5, 2018
Efrain Tejada

Efrain Tejada is the Manager of Q?rius, The Coralyn W. Whitney Science Education Center and Q?rius jr: a discovery room at the Smithsonian National Museum...

Efrain Tejada sits in Q?rius holding a piece of atacamite from Chile. On the table is a textile wedding mural made in Peru, and a Carnival lion mask from Mexico. Photo by Jennifer Renteria, Smithsonian.
Efrain Tejada sits in Q?rius holding a piece of atacamite from Chile. On the table is a textile wedding mural made in Peru, and a Carnival lion mask from Mexico. Photo by Jennifer Renteria, Smithsonian.

My name is Efrain Tejada and I am the Manager of Q?rius, The Coralyn W. Whitney Science Education Center and Q?rius jr: a discovery room at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. I have always been fascinated by the world that surrounds us and how we are related to it. Growing up in El Salvador, I developed a strong interest in pre-Columbian cultures and the way they interacted with the natural world that surrounded them. Fast forward a few years and my passion for learning things has only increased. I recently traveled to Colombia and Mexico and had the opportunity to learn more about the rich history and the amazing biodiversity in these countries. Both countries share a common language, but are so culturally and ecologically diverse. 

Every morning when I come to work, I am amazed by the collections housed in the Q?rius Collections Zone. I can open any drawer and be transported to Peru, Mexico, Panama or many other countries by looking at one of the many objects that tell stories about the people who made them and collected them, and how the materials were sourced from the environment that surrounds them. I get the unique opportunity to hold the specimens, learn from them and share their unique stories with the thousands of visitors that come through Q?rius. Next time you come into Q?rius and interact with an object, think about the many stories that object has to share.

Some of my favorite Q?rius Collections Zone objects from Mexico, Central America, and South America include:

Carnival Lion Mask: (Mexico) A paper maché mask depicting a lion or tiger, likely made in Mexico for use in Carnival, which is celebrated in about 225 communities there. Carnival celebrations include costume parades, music, food, art exhibits, and more.

Red, yellow, and black Carnival chicken mask. This image was obtained from the Smithsonian Institution. The image or its contents may be protected by international copyright laws.Carnival Chicken Mask: (Mexico) This brightly-colored paper maché mask was likely used during Carnival.

Wedding Mural: (Peru) A textile mural entitled "Matrimonio," depicting a wedding party outside of a church. The mural was made by Bertha Carlos in a town near Lima. 

Animal Shaped Effigy Vessel: (Central America – Panama, Chiiqui Province) This ceramic painted vessel was modeled to resemble an animal—possibly an armadillo—with its head, tail, and legs decorated with black banding, and its “shell” hollowed out and surrounded by black and red painted geometric designs.

Halide Mineral Atacamite: (South America – Chile, Atacama Region) Atacamite is a copper halide mineral discovered in deposits in the Atacama Desert of Chile, for which it is named. The mineral was formed in hydrothermal veins, where magma heated water that carried dissolved minerals into fissures and cracks in the Earth’s crust.

Giant Blue Morpho butterfly showing its blue side. This image was obtained from the Smithsonian Institution. The image or its contents may be protected by international copyright laws.Giant Blue Morpho: (South America – Peru) The blue morpho butterfly is not only beautiful, but it exhibits amazing physical properties in the way its scales reflect light to display what appears to be a vivid blue color. You can learn more about the blue morpho by viewing magnifications with our microscopy educator, Juan Pablo Hurtado Padilla, in Q?rius on Fridays and on the first Sunday of every month from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Juan Pablo will give presentations in Spanish and English. Read Juan Pablo’s post about why blue morphos are blue.

Come see these objects and many more when you visit Q?rius. Visitors can handle some of the objects and even view them under microscopes.

Learn more about cultural artifacts from around the world at our upcoming Archaeology Family Day on October 20, featuring educators, volunteers, and experts who speak Spanish and English.

Categories: Q?rius News
--> -->