New museum brings lessons of genocide to Mexico

Genocide survivors from Rwanda to Yugoslavia attended the opening.

Mexico City: A new museum is bringing the lessons of the Holocaust and its grim cousins to new generations of Mexicans and reminding them the intolerance that feeds genocide can even grow close to home.

The five-storey glass and concrete building inaugurated yesterday beside Mexico`s Foreign Relations Department takes visitors through chilling displays on the Nazi Holocaust and how it was seen from Mexico, then continues through other horrors, including the slaughters of Armenians, Tutsis and Sudanese.

It moves toward the very borders of Mexico as well: the 36-year civil war in neighbouring Guatemala, where government forces exterminated scores of Mayan Indian villages during a bloodbath that cost some 200,000 lives and drove thousands of refugees into Mexico.

"It`s important as a nation to be very vigilant about any act of exclusion," said President Felipe Calderon during the inauguration.

"We have not overcome discrimination, which affects many groups of society indigenous people, women, children, people with disabilities and migrants."

Genocide survivors from Rwanda to Yugoslavia attended the opening, which featured tours of the exhibits and a reception in the cavernous wood and concrete main hall.

Vjollca Bajraj, who came to Mexico as a refugee after fleeing ethnic cleansing in Kosovo in 1999, cried when she saw images of Albanians being expelled from their land. At least 6,000 were killed and 1.5 million driven out by Serbians, according the US State Department.

"I`m very moved that a country so far from my home has a representation of the pain I suffered," Bajraj said, adding that 54 members of her family were killed. "Mexico is a tolerant place, though there`s still a lot to be done here, like in the rest of the world."

The 75,300-square-foot (7,000-square-meter) museum, a decade in the making, is the dream of Sharon Zaga, whose grandmother moved to Mexico from Czechoslovakia as World War II broke out and whose great-aunt survived Auschwitz.

At 15, she declared during a career day at school that she would build a museum dedicated to the Holocaust and began pursuing that goal in her early 20s, taking university courses on genocide and making connections among some 250 Holocaust survivors in Mexico and their descendants.


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