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Founded in 2006 the Estanquillo Museum collection includes better than 20,000 objects and images collected by the writer, historian, and activist, Carlos Monsiváis. Estanquillo, literally an “official seal,” refers to a small shop, something like a tobacco shop or kiosk, that sold goods likely to have been imported and therefore, to bear a duty stamp or seal. Monsiváis himself suggested the name because his collection appeared rather disparate.
That very collection includes photography, miniatures and models, drawing and cartoons, prints and engravings, and objects from everyday life. In general, the collection focuses on 20th century Mexican life and popular art.
The museum opened in 2006, and it’s remained a highlight of any visit to the city center. In part, that’s still because of its magnificent setting.
Born in 1938, Carlos Monsiváis Aceves died only in 2010. A journalist, writer, critic, and political activist, his long life included many opinion columns in the country’s leading newspapers. Widely recognized, he was considered a leading intellectual of the later 20th century. His writings frequently documented the themes of contemporary Mexican life, values, class struggles, and societal change. A founding member of the “Gatos Olvidados” animal shelter, he was also one of the earliest LGBTTIQ activists, and is often considered a founder of the Mexican gay rights movement.
The Estanquillo Museum is at home in the magnificently eclectic La Esmeralda building. It was the home of La Esmeralda Hauser-Zivy and Co. A Paris-based jewelry store, it opened at the turn of the 19th century in 1892. It survived in that role for more than fifty years. It later came to include an art gallery and a French clothing boutique, as well as, for a time, a bank and an office building. A nightclub also held court in the building for a short time.
In the early 21st century, the property was adapted by the Mexico City government. The city worked with the Historic Center Trust which commissioned architect Gabriel Mérigo Basurto to restore the building. The project also received support from the National Institute of Anthropology and History and the Foundation of the Historic Center of Mexico City Foundation. The ground floor is still a retail space. But the museum now includes a cafe and a rooftop terrace from which some of the most remarkable views of the city can be taken in.