Palacio Cantón was built during the first decade of the 20th century, as a familiar residence of the General Francisco Cantón Rosado. General Cantón (1833-1917) was an outstanding character during his times. As a militar man, he fought in the Caste War against the rebel Maya people. He owned cattle haciendas and was a railway entrepreneur, he also was Yucatán’s Governor between 1898 and 1902. In 1932, the Cantón family sold the building to the Yucatán government. From that moment on, it became Fine Arts School, Hidalgo Primary School, and then governors’ home. After that, simultaneously, it was Yucatán’s Anthropology and History Institute and Crescencio Carrillo y Ancona Library, located in the main floor, as well as the Yucatán Archeological and Historical Museum, in the basement.
In the 60’s, the first generation of archeologists and anthropologists studied in the upper floor, at the Anthropological Sciences School. The Yucatán Anthropology Regional Museum, Palacio Cantón was inaugurated in December in 1959. Since 1980, its permanent exhibition about the pre-Hispanic Mayan society is in the main floor. In the upper floor you can visit temporary exhibitions, educational workshops, and cultural events.
The museum is located in an early 20th century property. Manor’s architecture has an eclectic style, known as Beaux Arts, enforced in Europe during the Belle Epoque and in Mexico during the Porfiriato. It is believed that the original footprints were done by the Italian architect Enrico Deserti, and the Yucatecan engineer and architect Manuel G. Cantón was in charge of the construction. General Francisco Cantón, Yucatán Governor, lived there until he died.
Property’s grandeur not only stands out for its dimensions, but for the materials used for its construction: Plaster pastillage, marble of assorted colors, fine finishes in roofs, Dorian and Ionian columns, a beautiful staircase carved in white marble, and outdoors gardens.
In 1980, it became the Anthropology Regional Museum, best known as Palacio Cantón. From that date, until 2012, its exhibition was focused on archeological material of the pre-Hispanic Mayan culture pieces. From 2012 and on, its content has been changing, presenting important temporary exhibitions of different topics. Today, after 56 years from its opening, the Palacio Cantón Anthropology Regional Museum is an example of harmony between past and present, being a dynamic place, which offers exhibitions, conferences, cultural and academic events to promote knowledge about pre-Hispanic and contemporary populations.
Palacio Cantón is with no doubt, a landmark of the city of Mérida, Yucatán’s Capital, it is a link between past and present to project it into the future.