Monday, March 1, 2010


(Edit: Lupe incorrectly identified this museum, Missouri History, as the Natural History Museum, and that mistake is still reflected in blog post url. But is corrected in the body of this post.)

One great thing about the Loop is that you don't have to travel very far to get to the cultural and relaxation headquarters of St. Louis: Forest Park.

Forest Park is 500 acres larger than Central Park. It is home to the St. Louis Art Museum, Zoo, Municipal Opera, Jewel House atrium/greenhouse, 2 golf courses, the Planetarium and the Science Centre; The Boathouse with paddle boat rentals and a great little restaurant; the original 1904 World's Fair Pavillion, and the Missouri History Museum.

Both Museums and the Zoo are free, except for special exhibits, and the RACE exhibit was only $8!

The exhibit is part science and part cultural attitudes about race, and the history of racism in America. Lupe could not absorb all of it in one visit. It was an emotional as well as intellectual/cultural experience. Some of the exhibits and photographs could make a person feel a little "verklempt."

Lupe learned a lot, too. For instance, high blood pressure affects African-Americans in higher numbers than other Americans. However, when Africans with similar biological profiles were tested, their blood pressure was not comparable. In other words, high blood pressure in African-Americans is not a genetic trait. (However, sickle cell is a genetic trait. It protects against malaria in Africa.)

Lupe also learned, that unfortunately St. Louis has the distinction of being the first city to file for segregation laws. And that many tricky laws were passed that did not allow former slaves from occupying any neighbourhoods but the original 14 blocks that formed "North" Saint Louis. (#5 on the headphones.)

Another interesting feature was the list of how skin colour and "race" are perceived in Brazil. There are over 100 ways to describe skin colour in Brazil. The family photographed said that they leave the U.S. as one race, and enter Brazil as seven! Each member of the family has a different skin colour.

Lupe was very glad to see how well attended it was. And the museum was hopping! The Katherine Dunham exhibit is still going strong. There was a performance in the lobby of a local high school band and cheerleaders and baton girls.

Sunday was the last day for the "Race" machine. The machine was like an old photo booth with a big screen inside. A camera took your picture. Then you used a toggle stick to mark points on your face (eyes, nose, mouth, etc). The machine then showed what you would look like as another race. (Lupe looks fabulous in all colours!)

The exhibit runs through April 4th and Lupe suggests hopping on the train to Debaliviere. If you walk across the bridge and squint your eyes and generally pretend, it is kind of like the walk across the Pont Alexandre III bridge to the Place des Les Invalides in Paris.

Okay... maybe you have squint your eyes ALOT! But the comparison is there, and Lupe is confident that someday a city planner will see it, too. Besides, Lupe had France on the brain because of the French Festival that was going on this weekend!

Maybe next year, French Festival! It was worth it for Lupe to see herself as the strong black sister she knows she is!!! (Also got to see Asian, Hispanic, and herself aged 20 years.)

Be sure to ask for the headphones with the additional information. There are markers throughout the exhibit for when to tap into the extra information.

Also, if it is a sunny day, consider going to the Boathouse before or after. Lupe recommends the fried greens & calamari, greek salad, and the bread pudding a la mode. The Boathouse bar is not very good however. The bread pudding is so good, though, it makes up for the watery drinks.

See you in the Loop!!!

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