Papalote Musuem in Cuernavaca Mexico is Worth TWO Visits

Cuernavaca’s “Papalote” Museum: A Family Experience that’s Fun for Children of all Ages (and their Parents)

By Patricia Patton © Patricia Patton 2009

I took my three boys to Papalote Cuernavaca, the new children’s museum, the other day, and it was amazing. The staff was so friendly and helpful, and the exhibits were able to captivate a preschooler, an eight year old, and an 11 year old (as well as their mother!) There was an impressive range of activities, from a climbing room filled with tires suspended from the ceiling and spiderweb-like cords criss-crossing every which way to a giant iPod you can climb inside to quiet and inviting corners filled with good books. There was an ongoing game that had my boys traveling back and forth throughout the museum, treasure-hunt style, and a traveling exhibit featuring amazing puppets as well as a workshop where you could make your own puppet. One of my boys’ favorite rooms was focused on architecture, with enormous images of famous buildings, ancient and modern, projected on the wall, and more legos than any child could hope for available to construct amazing structures. They also loved the giant piano you could play with your feet, an enormous Simon game built into a wall, and a real bed of nails that the older two were able to lie down on (with lots of supervision by museum staff and helpers, of course).

The whole place, inside and out, is decorated with fun murals and art, some of which is obviously professional and some of which was created by kids. Even the bathrooms have cute pictures painted on the walls (as well as child-friendly stools to help my four year old reach the sinks). There are special workshops and activities daily (some of which are listed on the website), although we didn’t have a chance to participate in any of those.

The museum has a self-service baggage check with lockers to stash your bags. The lockers are free; you only have to present some form of ID at the welcome desk to get a key. The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day of the week except Mondays. Admission is only $35 pesos (currently about $3 American) per person. Babies under 6 months get in for free, but everyone else needs a paid ticket. We spent about two and a half hours there, which seemed just about perfect. It was enough time to see almost everything, linger over our favorites, and still leave before my preschooler got over-tired and had a meltdown. The museum is located in the former Muros modern art museum building, right across the parking lot from Costco and Mega. As the museum is still new, our taxi driver hadn’t heard of it, but once I gave him those landmarks, he took us there without a problem.

We’re here in Cuernavaca for another few weeks, and I am positive we will be making a return trip before we leave town.

A Few Additional Notes from the Author of Mexico: The Trick is Living Here

Papalote” is Spanish for “Kite”

Parking or Getting There by Bus

Don’t worry about parking, because there is plenty available. To get to the museum, enter the parking lot from any of the three Mega Commercial/Costco entrances. The museum is to the left of the California restaurant as you face it from the parking lot. There are a plethora of buses that will get you to the three entrances including any routes that say Plaza (for Plaza Cuernavaca, the mall almost directly across the street from one of the parking lot entrances) on them, as well as the 2 and 7 that say Tunel (enter near the grocery store named “Mega”), and the 18 (enter near the hospital).

Some History: How Community Activists Helped Create this Musuem

Before it was taken over by Papalote, this musuem was called Muros (or “Walls” in Spanish). The musuem was a community success story because it was first conceived as a kind of olive branch. It is situated to one side of a large grocery store/parking lot complex developed on the site of what had previously been the Casino de la Selva. Casino de la Selva (Jungle Casino) was a distinctive entertainment location at the heart of today’s Cuernavaca since the 1930s. It was surrounded by tall walls and had fallen into severe disrepair over the years since its closing. For many years, only trespassers saw the grounds inside the walls, but the thick tree canopy on the property was obvious to all who passed by. When construction began on the property, many Cuernavacan’s were outraged that two huge grocery stores, a restaurant, and extensive parking lot would replace the Casino and its trees. Long, intense protests were staged to try to stop the development and suggestions were made that the property would better serve the community as a park. In the end, the grocery store chain was allowed to develop the site, but the idea of the community center was generated as a way to try to respond to the community outcry.

Variety at El Rollo Water Park in Morelos

First Published on Mexico Connect October 1, 2008
El Rollo Morelos Copyright 2008 Julia Taylor

Its About Variety at
El Rollo Water Park in Morelos

By Julia Taylor © Julia Taylor 2008

Many attractions allow for pairs or small groups to enjoy them together. It’s perfect for an exotic family reunion – there’s something for everyone.

El Rollo Morelos Copyright 2008 Julia TaylorParque Acuático El Rollo (pronounced “ROW-yo”) in Morelos Mexico combines extreme fun with relaxing. It particularly stands out for groups or couples, with many rides that can be enjoyed hand in hand. If you love sun, water, and adrenaline rushes – or if you have teenagers who do, plan a day or two at El Rollo. If you have younger El Rollo Morelos Copyright 2008 Julia Taylorchildren or just want to swim and sun without the extreme adventure, El Rollo is still for you. Variety is the word.

A Sample of What’s Available

The park is divided into four major aquatic activity areas, each with its major attractions, plus a hotel and convention center. The aquatic areas are La Cascada (the waterfall), El Rollo, Las Olas (the waves), and Surfing. Some 40 different attractions include (in no particular order) two giant wave pools, one with a safe cushy surface for tender bare feet; many areas El Rollo Morelos Copyright 2008 Julia Taylorfor tiny and young children, some on dry land, and most with water slides, water falls, and even water guns; freefall water slides; many water rides that you can enjoy in small groups, in boats, on inner tubes, etc; a large boat that dips from side to side like an extreme skateboard ramp; a log ride in the dark; water tubes with and El Rollo Morelos Copyright 2008 Julia Taylorwithout inner tubes; a surfable tidal wave; a huge wave river; a slow moving children’s river; a jacuzzi; and beach sand for digging. All of this is surrounded by immaculate gardens, palms and shade trees. Could it get any better?

Our favorite attraction is El Revolcadero (the tumbler), located El Rollo Morelos Copyright 2008 Julia Taylorjust behind the surfing wave. A huge mass of water is released down a wide chute and everyone in its path is swept off of his or her feet and deposited downstream into the “wave river.” I was able to relive my water rafting days without the fear of submerged boulders and cataracts.

El Rollo Morelos Copyright 2008 Julia Taylor

The Park for Groups

El Rollo Morelos Copyright 2008 Julia TaylorEl Rollo stands out in a couple of ways. Probably the least obvious – but most important – are the many attractions that allow for pairs or small groups to enjoy them together. It’s perfect for an exotic family reunion. You can enjoy the wave river by yourself or with the entire family. Three more examples are the Mamut, which allows four to six people to sit together in a giant inner tube, El Péndulo, which swings two to three people at a time, and Toborruedas, which takes two people through its twisting turns. If you’d rather not get wet, you can watch the free falling bathers at Kamikaze and Stuka from the observation bleachers, lounge on the beach chairs near the wave pool, dip your feet in a wading pool, play on El Rollo Morelos Copyright 2008 Julia Taylorthe dry-land children’s interactive areas, watch a concert (if there is one playing that day), or even play video games. Of course everyone will enjoy the Mexican sun, the sparkling colors, and the exotic flowers that bloom year around.

Facilities and Picnic Options

El Rollo Morelos Copyright 2008 Julia TaylorThere are bathrooms and changing areas available throughout the park, though they vary in size and convenience. One of the best is just to your right as you enter the Las Olas section of the park. There are several restaurants throughout the park. Picnic tables with charcoal grills in the shade are available in the La Cascada section. Remember to pack your items in plastic, leaving all glass containers, alcoholic beverages, pets, and personal barbecues at home. If you need a picnic table on a weekend or holiday, arrive early because Mexican families take full advantage of their weekends to play and eat together.

El Rollo Morelos Copyright 2008 Julia TaylorThe author visited the park on a Sunday during exam week at school, so it was a very busy day at the park. But if you like things less crowded, don’t be daunted by all those people in the photographs. Just plan your visit for midweek. Even on busy days, don’t worry. When we visited, only a few attractions had lines and these moved quickly. The waiting areas are shaded by awnings. Occasionally some attractions are closed for maintenance, and the La Cascada section is sometimes closed during the week, so you might want to call the park prior to visiting to ask about the availability of specific attractions. Their phone numbers are on the web site.

El Rollo Morelos Copyright 2008 Julia TaylorTicket to Freedom

Visitors are issued a plastic bracelet called the pagamático (pay-matic) with a bar code. This is the key to real freedom at the park because it sets you free from your stuff! At the entrance to the park you can load up your pagamático with however much money you’d like to spend during the day on food (there is no additional cost for attractions). Once inside, you can put all of your belongings into a locker and be free to play. In a busy park, this is the key to true relaxation. Parents of teens will love this option for helping them set a budget for the day and stick to it. Unspent money will be returned to you at the end of the day.

El Rollo Morelos Copyright 2008 Julia TaylorDress for Fun

The park is vast. Bring a comfortable pair of thongs or sandals to protect your feet from the red brick pathways. Your sandals must be left at the entrances of attractions, since shoes are prohibited. Only swimwear is allowed, so leave your modest T-shirt in your locker or you’ll be leaving it at the entrances to the attractions.

El Rollo Morelos Copyright 2008 Julia TaylorThat Catchy Name

In 1542, Cortés had a 40-meter-high watchtower built on the banks of the Yautepec River. The locals called this tower “el rollo,” because of its cylindrical shape. The park’s founder, Dr. Ignacio Rodríguez Saucedo named the park after this tower, which can be seen as you enter the park. The ancient monument is currently under the supervision of INAH (Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia / National Institute of Anthropology and History) as a National Historic site (Patrimonio Nacional).

El Rollo Morelos Copyright 2008 Julia TaylorThe name is catchy because in Mexican Spanish, el rollo means more than “the roll,” though this shape nicely conjures up an image of a rolling wave. It is often used to refer to something heavy, long, or problematic and is used in a variety of informal slang phrases. Advertisements for El Rollo play down the bothersome connotation and emphasize its uniqueness by saying: “El Rollo es otro rollo,” which means “El Rollo is a whole other thing,” as in “this park is special.”

Getting to El Rollo

El Rollo Morelos Copyright 2008 Julia TaylorEl Rollo is located near Jojutla in the “hot lands” of Morelos. It is easily accessed by car or bus from Cuernavaca or even Mexico City, Puebla, and Toluca. Taking the bus is a relaxing and cost effective way to get to the park. On weekends and holidays, direct buses leave from Cuernavaca every half hour until noon, and at 8:00 a.m. from the Taxqueña bus station in Mexico City. Package deals that include transportation, entrance fees, and even food are available at a savings. If you wish to take the bus on weekdays, you can take a regular buses to Jojutla and ask how to get from the station to the water park.

El Rollo Morelos Copyright 2008 Julia TaylorIf you are driving from Cuernavaca, head south to Alpuyeca. If you take the toll road, at the first pay toll booth exit and pay 40 pesos (as of April 2008) then follow signs to Los Balnearios (the water parks). After this, follow signs to Jojulta and, once you pass through this small town, El Rollo is located near the next town, Tlaquiltenango. There is ample parking, and the music at the entrance will set the tone for a fun day after the drive in the Morelos heat.

El Rollo Morelos Copyright 2008 Julia Taylor

Park Schedule and Costs

Parque Aquático El Rollo currently charges $160 pesos per adult and $80 pesos for children under 90 cm tall, declaring that this price is discounted from $200 pesos due to the recent increase in the cost of living in Mexico. Package deals that include transportation and entrance fees cost as little as $188 pesos. Regular bus fare one way to Jojutla from Cuernavaca is currently $26 pesos. Food at the park costs more than regular food prices in surrounding areas, for example, a single unaccompanied hamburger costs about $30 pesos.

El Rollo Morelos Copyright 2008 Julia TaylorFor Further Reading

To Check for National School Holidays, see the SEP calendar

To learn about the term “el rollo”

SourceEl Rollo Morelos Copyright 2008 Julia Taylor
El Rollo Morelos Copyright 2008 Julia Taylor
El Rollo Morelos Copyright 2008 Julia Taylor
El Rollo Morelos Copyright 2008 Julia Taylor
El Rollo Morelos Copyright 2008 Julia Taylor
El Rollo Morelos Copyright 2008 Julia Taylor
El Rollo Morelos Copyright 2008 Julia Taylor
El Rollo Morelos Copyright 2008 Julia Taylor
El Rollo Morelos Copyright 2008 Julia Taylor
El Rollo Morelos Copyright 2008 Julia Taylor
El Rollo Morelos Copyright 2008 Julia Taylor
El Rollo Morelos Copyright 2008 Julia Taylor
El Rollo Morelos Copyright 2008 Julia Taylor

3 de Mayo Morelos’s Handmade Art

First Published on Mexico Connect September 1, 2008
3 de Mayo Morelos Copyright 2008 Julia Taylor

Handmade Mexican Art
from 3 de Mayo, Morelos
and …
getting it home in one piece

By Julia Taylor © Julia Taylor 2008

Remember Mexico at Home with Unique Handmad Art

3 de Mayo Morelos Copyright 2008 Julia TaylorIf you are planning a trip to the state of Morelos in central Mexico you’ll probably want to enjoy a fun day of shopping in the small colonia of 3 de Mayo. (Yes, they spell it with a real number “Three.”) Spending some of your time and money on any of the distinctive products for sale in 3 de Mayo‘s little locally owned shops will allow you to both support the local economy as well as find some unique treasures to enjoy in your home or garden. In fact, you may even want to bring your next holiday gift list with you when you come. 3 de Mayo is just 30 minutes from downtown Cuernavaca and makes an easy and rewarding day trip.

The shops in 3 de Mayo are all located on about four interconnecting streets, each with it’s street-front wall wide open so that there is no window shopping – just welcomed customers. As a shopper, you can wander the streets,
3 de Mayo Morelos Copyright 2008 Julia Taylor slipping easily in and out of the shops that catch your eye. The first things you will probably notice are all of the ceramics, which was the original specialty in 3 de Mayo.

Have you ever seen those giant Mexican ceramic suns displayed on the outside of houses? 3 de Mayo is a good place to find one –3 de Mayo Morelos Copyright 2008 Julia Taylor but you’ll have to plan how to get it home (See below)! There are all sorts of finished ceramics, including Talaveralike pottery. Or if you’re the artsy-type, consider getting a piece of unfinished pottery that you can paint yourself. The paints, glazes and other supplies are also available. Some other art genres available in 3 de Mayo include 3 de Mayo Morelos Copyright 2008 Julia Taylorpunched tin, pewter, blown glass, wooden toys, and cut metal wall hangings – all of high quality that would make worthy gifts. If you want to display a lovely piece of Mexico in your home – such as yard ornaments, kitchen ware, or gorgeous mirrors – 3 de Mayo is the place to visit.

Not a Tourist Trap

If by now you are imagining one of those tourist traps that grow like warts next to cruise ship ports, you’ll be glad to know that while 3 de Mayo is a tourist destination, it is mostly frequented by Mexican tourists and Cuernavacans. You get the real feel of Mexico while you are there, though enough foreigners visit that proprietors can assist international clients with skill. There are plenty of restaurants and small stores so you can buy bottled water and re-nourish yourself after searching for thrilling finds. If you walk toward the westernmost streets in the shopping area you can see some lovely views across the Cuernavaca Valley. There is even a tourist information office (open Thursdays through Mondays from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.)

Spanish for Shoppers

Would you get that down for me (to see it)?
¿Lo puede bajar por favor?
(Low pooday-thay ba-har poor fa-vore)

How much does this cost?
¿Cuánto cuesta?
(Kooan-toe Koo-ay-sta)

Do you have any more of these?
¿Tiene más como éste?
(Tee-en-eh mas komo este)

Can you wrap this up for me?
¿Me lo puedes envolver?
(May low pooay-thays en-vole-bayr)

Where was this made?
¿En dónde lo/los hacen?
(Ehn doe-nde lo/los ah-sen)

To shop at 3 de Mayo it would be best if you knew some basic Spanish for shoppers.

How 3 de Mayo Put Itself on the Map

According to the Spanish version of Wikipedia, 3 de Mayo was utilized for farming and was called Cerro Pelón [Bald Mountain] or Texcal de Tlanexpa until 1961, when it was founded as a neighborhood or colonia by the people of the ejido [communally owned land]. In 1972, the streets were named and three thousand square meters were marked off as the site for the church. A white cross was placed on the site reserved for the church and the town was named in honor the Day of the Holy Cross, which is celebrated on May third [3 de Mayo].
It was in 1966 that the first ceramics store, Vista Hermosa, was founded by Eloy Hernández. After him, four more people opened stores and the handmade art destination of the neighborhood was formed. C3 de Mayo Morelos Copyright 2008 Julia Tayloronstruction on the church site began twenty years later, in 1986 with funds donated by community members. Additional financial help was received from Adveniat, Germany in 1993.

Naturally, the day of the Holy Cross [el día de la Santa Cruz], there are special activities. People carry crosses decorated with flowers and paper to be blessed by the priest. The celebration includes a Chinelo dance, special masses, and a fair that includes the typical mechanical rides, table soccer, special sweet bread, wheel of fortune, traditional dances, bull riding, typical fruit-based candies, fried bananas, live music, sales to benefit the church, raffles and more.

Shipping Large Pieces Home Can be Tricky

3 de Mayo Morelos Copyright 2008 Julia Taylor
Large pieces of handmade Mexican art really make a statement in your home. They aren’t little souvenir afterthoughts that clutter up your house and say, “Yeah, I went on vacation in Mexico.” They are home decoration keystones and, whatever they say about you, they do so boldly, colorfully. However it can be a bit dicey getting larger items home in one piece. You have three options: mailing items to yourself or carrying them in your luggage. And very occasionally, shop proprietors can package and ship your item for you.

3 de Mayo Morelos Copyright 2008 Julia Taylor
International courier costs are quite high, though may be worth it for something really wonderful. Be sure to allow the better part of a day to adequately package and take your items to a courier. There are many offices for FedEx, DHL, and Estafeta (a Mexican courier company that connects 3 de Mayo Morelos Copyright 2008 Julia Taylorwith FedEx somewhere before delivery in the U.S.) in the Cuernavaca area. These companies are professional and well organized, and will be able to assist you in filling out your NAFTA-required paperwork. They may have bubble wrap and other protective packaging to sell to you. If they don’t, ask the employee for a recommendation on a 3 de Mayo Morelos Copyright 2008 Julia Taylornearby place to purchase such things. You can wrap your items yourself, but don’t close the box up until the courier company attendant tells you to.

Beware of inadequately packaged purchases. We have had some items break in transit after well-meaning, but ill-prepared store attendants 3 de Mayo Morelos Copyright 2008 Julia Taylorwrapped items in the meager supplies they had lying around the store. A jagged glue-line across a fine handmade platter tends to muffle the bold, home décor statement it might have otherwise made.

Please don’t expect stores to have the necessary packaging and shipping experience to get your items ready for the long 3 de Mayo Morelos Copyright 2008 Julia Taylortrip home. Packing supplies are expensive or hard to come by, and are not included in the cost of the items sold. To be helpful, store attendants might use a small amount of newspaper or dusty, half-spent bubble wrap to try to protect your purchase. From their perspective, they are doing us a favor and going the extra mile to help us out. But be careful – cultural differences can cause hurt feelings. Tourists from up north can be shocked at the seemingly slipshod way shop people may wrap things. Since we tend to show the surprise on our faces, or even tell the 3 de Mayo Morelos Copyright 2008 Julia Taylorother person that we don’t like how they are doing it, we can really hurt their feelings. Please, just graciously accept the items as wrapped and fix the packaging on your own later, if need be!

While limiting size, bringing your handmade art back with you in your checked baggage is the easiest option. A friend 3 de Mayo Morelos Copyright 2008 Julia Taylorbrings two nesting suitcases when she travels. She limits her personal items to the smaller bag and nests them. On the way down, she has one bag, on the way up, two. Remember to measure the available inside volume of your suitcase before you head out to 3 de Mayo – or bring it with you. Wouldn’t you look like the fanatical shopper, rolling your suitcase around behind you?

How to Get to 3 de Mayo

Bus number 14 goes to 3 de Mayo from downtown Cuernavaca every few minutes 3 de Mayo Morelos Copyright 2008 Julia Taylorand you can catch it behind the Palacio de Cortez. As the buses approach, scan the words on the large cards hung in the window for “3 de Mayo” and get on that bus. Taking the bus is a safe and easy way to experience the areas around Cuernavaca the way many residents do. Taxis are faster and make it easier to carry purchases. Fares downtown Cuernavaca are approximately 50 to 80 pesos as long as you don’t forget to agree on a price prior to getting into the taxi.

If you want to drive, it’s not a long trip to 3 de Mayo, but may require some previous Mexican driving experience. There are signs that will point you in the right direction, but somehow it is still easy to get lost. One way is to take Avenida Alta Palmira south out of Cuernavaca, taking a left at a tight turn (no, there is no sign) onto Prolongacion Palmira and following that road until you reach the front gates of the former Tech de Monterrey campus. Follow the main road, keeping the Tech to your right. Note that the main road isn’t the widest road at that intersection; this is normal in Cuernavaca and is just another example of why drivers experienced in Mexico are likely to have better success at actually getting to 3 de Mayo. It’s only about another half mile and you arrive at the edge of the grid pattern streets that comprise the neighborhood.

You can also take the Autopista towards Acapulco, take the “Burgos” exit, following the curve of the exit ramp around to your left, coming up the hill a bit and taking the second left onto Paseo de Burgos, which will swing around in a long, wide curve. Once you’ve done 180 degrees, look for a sign to 3 de Mayo indicating where to turn left onto a small unnamed road, then a right (it’s the only right if you are on the correct road), then a second left. This will bring you to the edge of 3 de Mayo, but you won’t see any shops at first. Just peer down the streets until you see one and head toward it. If you get lost, use the tried and true Mexican navigation technique of asking people along the way.

Some information came from:

http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colonia_3_de_mayo

Additional information:

Church donations:
http://www.deutschland.de/link.php?lang=2&category2=89&link_id=1881

and
http://www.adveniat.de/ [official web site in German]
3 de Mayo:
http://www.morelosturistico.com/espanol/pagina/z_121_Temixco__Turismo.php [in Spanish]
http://www.sonoma.edu/anthropology/wahrhaftig/Calendaroffiestas.html [in English, with photos taken in State of Mexico]