Sunday March 2, 2003

Come see the heads, the big giant heads! Parque-Museo La Venta in Villahermosa boasts a collection of over 30 huge basalt heads and other sculptures taken from the Olmec city of La Venta, 130 kilometers to the west. There is no equivalent collection anywhere. The monuments were threatened in their original location in the 1950s when oil exploration was increasing in the state, and they were moved to their current site in 1957.

El Viejo Guerrero

La Venta was at its height from about 900 to 400 B.C., and the Olmec culture is seen as the "mother culture" of Mesoamerica. Their influence - in the building of grand cities, the calendar, their cosmic vision of the universe - was inherited by many later cultures.

La Abuela

The Olmec sculptures are particularly fascinating. First, they are massive. Second, the faces seem sometimes European, sometimes African, rarely Native American. This has given rise to theories of early transatlantic contact, but experts feel it more likely the heads were given their features in an attempt to make them more similar to the face of a jaguar, an important religious and mythological animal to the Olmec.

Cabeza del Guerrero

Over 30 heads, and Tom was intent on taking a photo of every single one - gotta catch 'em all. The most impressive and the best-known of the colossal heads is the Cabeza del Guerrero (Warrior's Head), nearly 3,000 years old, but remarkably well preserved. We were going to put a page together with all 33 exhibits, but we found an impressive website with more information about the park than we could have put together.

Grison - the hippie of otters

Combined with the relics is a zoo, which is partially intertwined with the sculptures. The animals are all native to southern Mexico. As with the Tuxtla zoo, some of the non-dangerous animals move about freely. Leaving La Venta, you come to a malecón around the beautifully tranquil Laguna de las Ilusiones.

Laguna de las Ilusiones

We turned away from the park and soon came to the Restaurante El Asadero, where the waiter gave me a sample of a local specialty drink, horchata, a rice, milk, cinnamon, and coconut smoothie. It was refreshing. The only food for sale by the vendors outside La Venta was pork rinds and hot dogs wrapped in bacon fat, so we were pleased to arrive at a real restaurant. The food was great, and the air conditioning even better. We returned to our hotel for cold showers.

Entertainment along la laguna

We went out later to enjoy Carnaval. Tom said he'd never seen so many foreigners in his life! There was as much going on tonight as last night, plus they had fireworks. What a party! I got my shoes shined for the occasion, much needed at the end of our long, dusty trip.

Boot rehab by Ernesto

Latin Americans like to wear t-shirts with U.S. slogans, brands, or place names on them, and we saw one man wearing a shirt that said Gatrinburg (sic), Tennessee!

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