OR GETTING TO GRIPS WITH ANOTHER CULTURE, THE OLMECS.
Alert: This is a light-hearted travel blog from two years ago before I publish a more serious one about the birth of the Mayan city-state empire in its Pre-Classic era! The “Mother Culture” being inextricably linked to the developing Mayans
Travelling to Villahermosa for their big heads was a hoot…..well it started off like that.
Day of the Dead at the Airport too!
Limping through Merida Airport was surreal. It was a shame the swim in the cenote the previous day hadn’t worked its magic and cured my mashed ankle and foot, (eternally the optimist I had done a little prayer to the Mayan gods while swimming in it) but at least the carnival was in town so I wouldn’t stick out like a sore thumb. All the restaurant and shop staff were made up as the undead and were seemingly very competitive about who had the best outfit. As I lurched through with my now zombie-like gait, a lot of my competition glanced at me nervously. I felt myself a show stopper with my sweaty face and constant grimace of pain. Lurch, wail, lurch, wail I went and I had also taken to moaning softly to myself. Realistically I feel it was a slam dunk. I was a zombie of the highest order. Respect!
Shit hotel that tried to break me!
Short flight but just enough to make my foot swell a little more and by the time I reached my no-frills hotel I was really suffering. lucky my continuing popularity with gay security women vouched that I get special treatment getting taken to the Oxxo for drinks and snacks. That was where the good times ended. Three hours I waited for a room in this hotel that had been inundated by a massive group of dirty rollicking people from god knows where to celebrate death day! Raining and miserable I waited with more and more alarm for what I now perceived to be a filthy hellhole. I wasn’t far off. When I finally said I would wait no longer and well er I was in agony, they grudgingly gave me a miserable room with wrinkled-from-the-dryer but still stained sheets, a ditto bedcover, a bath mat with a dirty footprint on it, a view which would have depressed the inmates of Belmarsh and pillows that typhoid Mary would have looked at sideways. I sat on a grubby chair and whimpered. I was so tired and in pain that small things seemed insurmountable. Five minutes till I gathered my strength, found a great deal on a posh hotel, booked an Uber and left the criminal shit hole.
Some of my art a carved limestone sculpture similar in style to sculpture I have seen in Mesoamerica.
It’s OK to have a rough place if you’re mentally and physically strong enough but this kind of setback in my condition? I knew that I would need the following day prone and resting and icing the trotter so it had to be in a lovely environment and Marriot Villahermosa fit the bill perfectly. I got a fabulous room with a pool view and all the trappings of a rich bitch place for only a little more than stinky old City Express Junior. I’m used to the generally fabulous no-frills that span the world now so that dump at that price was a huge bloody insult.
Some of my ceramic primitive masks, the white one with a self made volcanic glaze.
Some of my sculpture has a feel of ancient pieces here. Bear in mind when I made them I had not visited this part of the world so it was a suprise when I kept bumping into the style I had ‘developed over the years.
Anyhoooo. Ensconced in my posh pad with a great bar, and a mean coffee machine in my room I settled into a lovely couple of days ‘achillin’. I wallowed like a prize hippo and watched my travelling TV programmes while indolently scoffing tasty bits brought by room service at my beck and call. Those getting to know me will know I’m a hard taskmaster to myself normally so this was a very rare situation. I manically whiz to as many places as I can squeeze in and love it. This however was a pleasant change, an enforced break in what had been a two-month whirlwind so far spanning Colombia, Peru’ Belize, Guatemala and now Mexico. It gave me a chance to reassess future destinations with a now huge handicap. I wasn’t sure how badly broken my foot was but I knew it was broken despite the poopooing of the notion by all and sundry in the next month. (“you wouldn’t be able to walk on it if it were broken” Huh! They don’t know me!). I’d rest it for two days then hit Parque Museo la Venta (Big ‘ead cemetery) and go to their nearest pyramid complex of Comalcalco. Settled and smug I was snug as a bug in a rug. The onward trip to Oaxaca I would plan after seeing how what will now be called fat trotter, was faring.
Parque Museo la Venta or Big ‘Ead Park.
These basalt beauties carved mostly from one boulder were transported. The Olmec are probably best known for the statues they carved the 20 ton stone heads, quarried and carved to commemorate their rulers. The name Olmec is an Aztec word meaning the rubber people from their trading of rubber throughout Mesoamerica and they emerged around 1600 BC. and were around till about 350 BC. These were a people who influenced the Maya and it’s now thought developed the Mesoamerican ballgame using a solid rubber ball (are they the tramps who basically invented bloody football dammit?)
“The name Olmec is a Nahuatl—the Aztec language—word; it means the rubber people. The Olmec might have been the first people to figure out how to convert latex of the rubber tree into something that could be shaped, cured, and hardened. Because the Olmec did not have much writing beyond a handful of carved glyphs—symbols—that survived, we don’t know what name the Olmec people gave themselves.”
My whole reason to come to Villahermosa was for these bad boys, these cool dudes! My interest in all things carved especially collosals like these made it a no brainer.
After being bitten to death by the mosquitoes I relented and left the park via a horrible sad zoo (why do they do this? Zoos are so unpopular now unless fabulously run and maintained). Then the heavens opened and chaos prevailed…………………………………….more next time.