Colossal Stone Heads of La Venta
Parque-Museo La Venta in Villahermosa is one of the most unique, well conceived museums we’ve ever encountered. Created in 1958, the park-museum was designed to house relocated Olmec treasures that were threatened by petro-chemical development near the original La Venta archaeological site in northern Tabasco. Those priceless treasures include three colossal stone heads as well as many other very impressive examples of Olmec sculpture and carving.
Olmec art is very old (1,000 – 500 BC) and unique; it immediately stands out from other pre-Columbian art because of its simplicity and modern aesthetic. (Much of the smaller sculpture could almost be mistaken for contemporary Japanese art.) There are also some intriguing cylindrical basalt structures and monoliths that leave visitors with many questions.
Such unique art requires an equally unique environment. Rather than being just another series of indoor rooms, Parque-Museo La Venta is a jungle reserve. Visitors enter through a small zoo which includes local monkeys, birds, crocodiles, jaguars and more. From the wildlife area, a 1.2 km trail slowly winds through buttressed trees and a tangle of vines to “discover” each piece of art displayed in nature. The creators of the museum really understand that presenting an archaeological treasure in an open air environment greatly enhances that Indiana Jones sense of discovery. A colossal head just feels way cooler when it’s backed by jungle with free-roaming coatis scampering across your path and tropical birds flying overhead.
That dizzy, sick feeling you get when you inch through a normal museum completely vanishes because you walk, you breathe, you explore and you discover. There’s quite a bit of space between pieces, so you have time to process the art and the wildlife. It’s incredible to think that this museum was built in 1958 because it feels totally cutting edge. We highly recommend it.