Mexico / Classic Mexico / Tabasco
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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

In the Country of Rivers and Giant Dragons

Visit of La Venta Park.

The high civilization of the Olmecs developed between 2000 BC and 1500 BC on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico in today’s states of Veracruz and Tabasco. It thus was the first high civilization in Middle America. Besides few minor finds significant for the history of arts, it is especially the monumental statues displayed in La Venta Park that have withstood the changes of times. They are interpreted as portraits of rulers today. The Parque Museo La Venta is situated in Villahermosa, the capital of the state of Tabasco. The Spanish conquerors founded Villahermosa in 1593 on the banks of the Río Grijalva, but at some distance from its mouth to be better protected from pirates. The town today has 250,000 inhabitants, after the oil boom has caused rapid growth since the 1970s. La Venta Park is situated on the Laguna de las Ilusiones in the west of the town. After entering the park, you first cross a medium-sized zoo with indigenous animals, including monkeys, crocodiles and other reptiles, and several different bird species. In the subsequent jungle-like section, a very well built path meanders from one exhibit to the other.

On your tour, you will see 32 monumental sculptures, including some colossal heads of basalt and granite, which are the best-known manifestations of Olmec art. They weigh up to 30 t and more and are over 2 m (7 ft.) high. The excellently worked sculptures are very impressive, as is their high age of up to 4,000 years. Apart from the colossal heads, the park contains altars, large mosaics and steles. Another special exhibit is a hut built from basalt columns. Archeologists disagree on whether it was a tomb or a sacrificial altar. The faces of the sculptures look strange to us. They have broad noses and thick lips. Many heads are covered by a helmet. The monumental sculptures today displayed in La Venta Park in Villahermosa were discovered in 1938 during oil drilling on the island of La Venta. The island is situated in the delta of the Río Tonalá, about 130 km (80 mi.) west of Villahermosa in the Mexican state of Veracruz. Just over 4 km (2.5 mi.) long, it once was the Olmecs’ cultural center. The Olmecs are thought to have settled there for about 600 years, before this center was destroyed by violence about 400 BC. Apart from the sculptures, the relics of probably the oldest pyramid in Mexico were found on the island. The park, named after the island, was eventually constructed in Villahermosa under Carlos Pellicer Cámara’s direction. Although situated right in the center of the town, the park is agreeably quiet – a beautiful place for studies and relaxation.