It’s full of grandiose monuments. They all stand for beautiful ideals, and were built by people who believed in them. And yet things have changed: the world is shifting, and many of those ideals are being questioned in a world where we are way too many people, using way too many resources, and finding it harder and harder to live together.
I was staying at the Mandarin Oriental, which is perfectly located if you are in the mood for discovery. From the room I could see the Jefferson Memorial. The best part is that I was able to walk almost everywhere.
Let’s begin this journey at National Mall, a landscaped park that contains many key elements of some of the most important events in American History.
First we walk towards Washington Monument, the big white obelisk in the middle, that honors America’s first President George Washington. He never lived in DC, and yet his contributions to the country are many, starting with the victory of The American Revolution.
Right behind it, we see the World War II Memorial where 16 million Americans who served in the United States Armed Forces are remembered.
You can see Lincoln’s Memorial’s Reflecting Pool. It’s shallow and calm so that you can see through it a reflection of the memorial in the water.
Look at your own reflection as well, and perhaps spare a thought to how you fit in this context.
Keep walking towards the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and read out-loud at least one name that represents a lost life during this very particular war.
Walk all the way from start to finish, and realize how much time it took you. Multiply it by the impact loosing that person meant to each family. With this in mind, walk towards the solitary statue of Lincoln, at Lincoln’s Memorial.
As you stand up there, imagine all the social and political events that have taken place right here, including Martin Luther King Jr’s “I have a Dream” speech. Think of how big things often have small beginnings.
Walk down the stairs, and head towards the Korean Veterans Memorial. Read the inscription that says “Our nation honors her sons and daughters who answered a call to defend a country they never knew and a people they never met.” Read it once more. How does it relate to the latest news headlines?
Now, walk towards Martin Luther King’s Stone of Hope. What does it make you feel as you contrast it with every other monument here?
Let’s finish this walk at the Franklin Delano Roosevelt memorial. “Freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, freedom from fear,” he said in 1941.
We can now focus on the ideals of John Smithson, founder of the Smithsonian Institution, which is the world’s largest museum, education and research complex in the world, and the reason why almost every museum is free in this city. The vision behind it, is that every person should have access to art and education.
This institution will help us weave together all these concepts through art.
The first stop should be The National Portrait Gallery, which tells the story of America through the portraits of celebrated people in every discipline followed by The National Gallery of Art, to add a world-wide context to our conversation.
For a deeper understanding of the evolution of art in this context, stop by the Hirshhorn Museum, a leading voice for contemporary art that holds one of the most important collections of postwar American and European art in the world. The Renwick Gallery was my absolute favorite place. Its collection documents America’s visual culture through artists from all over the world, and its housed in a very special old house with the most beautiful staircase. The Phillips Collection, which was the first museum of Modern Art in America, has a collection that spans from French Impressionists to Contemporary Artists from all over the world.
Now we can focus on social wounds:
The Holocaust Museum, is a powerful and quite unforgettable experience that can’t be missed. The National Museum of African American History is also a must, not only because of its incredible architecture, but also because there is still so much to be said about the struggles African Americans have faced in their own country.
But, let’s talk about women, through a visit to the National Museum of Women in the Arts, which is the only major museum in the world solely dedicated to championing women through the arts. You do have to pay for this one, but it’s worth it.
Its impossible to finish this journey without spending sometime at Newseum, as fake-news is at the forefront of world politics, and terrorism and fear shape the way everything works. Here, you can experience up-close and personal some of the stories that shaped 9/11, and almost every terrorist attack from the past couple of years.
Stop by The Library of Congress, which is very close to Newseum, and finish this journey on a high note, realizing how you, and everyone of us has the power and potential to influence the way our world is engineered.
This journey means a lot to me. I’m not blind to the current situation at the border. It hurts me everyday to think that our countries, and I speak in regards to Latin America as a whole, haven’t been able to provide a safe environment and the opportunities needed for our people to thrive at home. And yet, every country is facing their own challenges.
And the journey continues.