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Reference Question of the Week – 4/17/11

   April 23rd, 2011

Statue of Foundation of Tenochtitlan, a.k.a., Monumento a la Fundación de Gran TenochtitlanThis was an interesting question, but what impressed me most was my own ethnocentrism.

A patron came to the desk, asking for help in locating the Statue of Foundation of Tenochtitlan. The statue commemorates the initial founding of Tenochtitlan by the Aztecs, which later grew into Mexico City - so, a fairly significant statue. He said he knew it was in Mexico City, but he wanted to know the exact location, so he could visit it when he went there. He said he had been looking for days online, but was coming up empty.

My first thoughts were to search online and also check our Mexico travel books. Since he was convinced there was nothing available online, we walked down to the 917's and started checking the indexes of all our guide books. We checked under Statue, Foundation, and Tenochtitlan, and found nothing - really, nothing at all, except Tenochtitlan entries referring to the Aztec ruins sites.

At this point I began to question whether he had the name correct. We came back to the desk and searched on Statue of Foundation of Tenochtitlan, which lead to a Wikipedia photo of the statue - so it seemed he had the name right. A few other flickr photos came up too, and I checked them all hoping they would be geotagged, and we could find it on a map that way, but no such luck.

I tried a few more searches, all the while with the patron saying he tried the same thing and saw the same unhelpful websites. I could tell he was getting antsy and frustrated, so I told him I could take his name and number and keep looking, and I'd contact him when I found something. He was happy with that, and was appreciative when he left.

The rest of the day was very busy, so I could only search in bits and pieces as I had time. However, driving to work the next morning, it suddenly struck me why we couldn't find anything: we had been searching with English words for a Spanish-language phrase.

When I got to work I put my (obvious and long-overdue) breakthrough into action, translating from English to Spanish, and then searching on Estatua de la Fundación de Tenochtitlan.

Reading through (as best I could) those results, I noticed most websites refered to it as "Monumento" rather than "Estatua," so I did a new search for Monumento a la Fundación de Gran Tenochtitlan.

Again fumbling through those sites with only the Spanish I learned from Sesame Street, I found http://www.joyasdemexico.com/cgi/index.php?Section=ArqCivil&Op=2&seleccion=DFederal which, using Ctrl+F on the page for Tenochtitlan, led me to this paragraph:

Al oriente de la plaza, el Palacio Nacional, construido sobre las ruinas del Palacio de Moctezuma. Al sureste de la Plaza el edificio de la Suprema Corte de Justicia que anteriormente fue el Mercado del Volador, es la sede del poder judicial. Frente a la Suprema Corte de Justicia, el interesante monumento que rememora la Fundación de la Gran Tenochtitlan.

Which translates to:

East of the plaza, the Palacio Nacional, built on the ruins of the Palace of Montezuma. Southeast of the Plaza building of the Supreme Court formerly the Mercado del Volador, is the seat of the judiciary. Faced with the Supreme Court, an interesting monument which commemorates the founding of the Great Tenochtitlan.

That seemed like enough to go on, so I searched Google Maps for Palacio Nacional Mexico City, then looked Southeastish to find the Supreme Court building, and then zoomed in as far as I could and looked around the streets for the Monument. I found the likely spot and switched to Google Street View to verify - and it was it.

I called the patron, he gave me his email address, and I emailed him the link to the monument's location.

Oddly, I looked in our Mexico travel books under Monumento, Fundación, and even Estatua, but this statue doesn't seem to be included in any of them.

The funny thing is that, Mexico had never really been on my places to visit, but now I'd really like to go there.

And for those keeping track, behold, more evidence that the internet doesn't mean the end of libraries. Not only is everything not on the internet, but even when it is, not everyone can find it.

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4 Responses to “Reference Question of the Week – 4/17/11”

  1. Winnie Says:

    I like your reference to “the Spanish I learned from Sesame Street”.

  2. Rosemary Says:

    I ran into this same issue when I was doing research for a school paper on libraries in Croatia. I got incredibly frustrated about not being able to find anything until I finally realized that the information I needed wouldn’t actually be written in English. Once I found out the Croatian term for library it went much better!

  3. Brian Herzog Says:

    @Winnie: ha – lifelong learners begin early.

    @Rosemary: I suppose people who work in more multi-cultural environments are more nimble when it comes to cross-culture research, but the rest of us get there eventually. Funny, though, how suddenly the floodgates open once you hit on the right approach.

  4. Mary Jo Says:

    Recently I was helping a library member from Mexico search for passport renewal documents. It didn’t take us long to figure out we were searching for pasaporte, but she had been told that it was on a government website which would have an extension of .mx.gov. It was ages before we realized the correct extension for Mexican government sites is actually .mx.gob (for gobierno).