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Today I‘m going to introduce you to the Mexican city of Villahermosa, the state capital of Tabasco, which was once home to the Olmec and the Chontal Maya civilizations. So sit back and enjoy this cute little song while you go through the post. Happy Reading 🙂
A rich and fertile region, Tabasco in Nahuatl language means ‘place where the land is wet’. With more than half of its territory covered by water, Tabasco is the country’s greenest state. It boasts of some of the most beautiful unspoiled landscapes in Mexico, with humid lowlands, and fertile river plains and jungles. Cocoa flourishes in the tropical climate of this region. In fact, the harvesting of cocoa and the brewing of chocolate first took place in this state. Although chocolate manufacturers in other countries have eclipsed Tabasco in terms of taste and quality, the state remains an important producer of chocolate. Today, the main wealth of Tabasco is based on the rich petroleum fields below the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Thanks to this, Villahermosa has grown tremendously and is now an important business centre for the Mexican oil industry.
Located on the banks of the river Grijalva, Villahermosa is popular as a conference centre rather than a tourist destination.
The average elevation of the city is 10 metres above sea level. In November 2007, massive downpours of torrential rains created by the meeting of the combination of cold and warm fronts in the Gulf of Mexico caused the two major rivers which run through the state, the Grijalva and Carrizal, to swell 2.5 metres (8.25 feet) above their ‘critical’ level. The effect was devastating, with 80% of the state under water, and 70% of Villahermosa completely flooded.
Villahermosa, when compared to other colonial cities of the country, is hardly anything like its name suggests in Spanish – beautiful town! However, once you get acquainted with its various districts you realize that the city has its own distinct identity setting it apart from the rest of the cities in the country. Its numerous lakes, scattered all over, are its best feature.
Like in all Mexican cities and towns, the Main Square is surrounded by colonial-style government buildings.
The white-coloured Palacio de Gobierno flanked by two towers, still retains the original French-influenced ornamentation in its interior. A short distance away from the historic centre, the Museo de Antropologia e Historia ‘Carlos Pellicer Camara’ (The Anthropology and History Museum) is another main attraction of Villahermosa. A part of a larger complex known as the Centre for Research of Olmec and Maya Cultures (CICOM), the Museum has a wonderful collection of artefacts belonging to the two ancient civilizations of Tabasco – Olmec and Maya – as well as several artefacts belonging to other ancient civilizations of Mexico.
The Zona Luz (Light Zone), also known as Zona Remodelada (Remodelled Zone) or simply La Zona, is a pedestrian zone with several points of interest and colonial buildings including the Museo de Historia (History Museum) also known as the ‘House of Tiles’. The exhibits include many historical items from the state’s history as well as a variety of tiles imported from Barcelona. The main avenue, Calle Juárez, is lined with trees and well-placed park benches where one can relax and enjoy the world passing by. Parque Juárez, a lively park, is one of the popular evening places. The Zona Luz has a wide selection of open-air cafes, restaurants, art galleries, museums, shops and shopping arcades.
The Plaza de Armas, the Main Square, has a lovely park overlooking the river Grijalva.
The pedestrian bridge, Puente de Solidaridad, connects the two sides of the Grijalva helping the local population to cross over the river from the Plaza to the opposite side.
In the evenings, people gather here to enjoy the sunset from atop the bridge. La Torre del Caballero, the watchtower on the bridge, has a 211-step spiral staircase leading to a platform with a beautiful view of the city.
Below, boats ferry people and goods over the river. For tourists, the river Grijalva serves as a background for food and leisure by way of river cruises like those offered by the riverboat Barco Capitan Beulo II.
A broad boulevard follows the western bank of the Grijalva. When I visited the place, the banks on both sides of the river were covered with tons of sandbags, a sad reminder of the massive floods that had taken place four months back causing tremendous havoc. The run-down houses and restaurants facing the river stood like silent witnesses of the damage caused by the floods. Most of the restaurants were still shut down. Even at the Centro de Entretenimiento y Negocios Malecon (CENMA), the entertainment hub alongside the Promenade, the mangled remains of furniture and property revealed the intense fury unleashed by the floods.
Tabasco 2000 is the city’s most modern district. Parque Tabasco, is a 108-hectare park with an attractive lagoon and extensive gardens. Besides being a residential and commercial district, Tabasco 2000 also houses Government buildings like the Palacio Municipal and the huge Centro Administrativo de Gobierno which houses the State Government offices. This modern district boasts of a golf course, a planetarium, a convention centre, as well as commercial centres, boutiques, five-star hotels and restaurants.
La Venta Archaeological Park and Museum
The Parque Museo de La Venta (La Venta Archaeological Park and Museum) is the city’s most famous site along the peaceful Laguna de Las Ilusiones (Lagoon of Illusions), the city’s largest lagoon. It is the first place most visitors head for – park, zoo and outdoor museum, all in one!
The La Venta Museum Park built along the shore of the Laguna de las Ilusiones, and headed for its zoological preserve. The zoo boasts of a variety of mammals, reptiles and bird species from the region, the majority of which are endangered.
Among them were parrots, macaws, toucans, pumas, lynx, jaguars, spider monkeys, boa constrictors, deer, crocodiles and many others.
In the archaeological zone, the Hall of Archaeology displays exhibits of Olmec culture. Photos and artefacts from the original Olmec site of La Venta (located some 85 miles to the west) are displayed here.
Originally excavated in 1925, many exceptional sculptures were discovered at La Venta, the most outstanding among them being the colossal human heads that now characterize the Olmec Civilization.
In the 1970s, the site was moved to Villahermosa, to preserve the monuments that were threatened by the expansion of a huge petrochemical plant adjacent to the original site.
The outdoor archaeological museum is set in a wooded park with neat, well-trimmed paths winding around tropical vegetation and the ancient, gigantic stone monoliths of the Olmec are displayed in a natural jungle setting similar to the place where they were originally found with bushy-tailed animals scampering about.
There are about 33 sculptures in all at this beautiful lakeside outdoor museum which starts at the foot of a giant Ceiba (the tree sacred to the Olmec as well as the Maya) and continues onwards for about half a mile through lush vegetation.
Villahermosa’s culinary influence comes from traditional recipes handed down from Maya and Chontal cultures. one of the popular regional dishes is pejelagarto, an exotic species that has the body of a fish and a lizard-like snout. Called Gar in English, this fish is found in the rivers of Tabasco and is considered a delicacy. Pejelagarto asado (roasted pejelagarto) as well as iguana meat sandwiches are found on many menus in this region. But there are also other dishes like piguas al mojo de ajo (river shrimps in garlic sauce), tamalitos de chipilín (tamales with meat & chipilín, a native plant), ostión ahumado (smoked oyster), and chicken or beef stews, etc.
The regional drinks include agua de matalí (a cold herbal tea) and the traditional spicy, semi-bitter hot chocolate while sweets with papaya, chocolate, banana and coconut are widely popular.
Traditional sweets include muéganos, small fried balls made of wheat flour, sugar, eggs and butter, coated with thick syrup of piloncillo.
Places to visit around Villahermosa
The Centro de Interpretacion de la Naturaleza Yumka, a huge park located 14 km from Villahermosa. An ecological attraction, Yumka is a nature study centre-cum-safari park covering an area of four square miles with 300 animal species that are dispersed in distinct ecosystems: a jungle, a savannah and marshes.
The Maya archaeological site of Comalcalco, famed for the kiln-fired brick constructions, lies 88 km away.
Tourist destinations like the Agua Blanca waterfalls, and the Reserva de la Biosfera Pantanos de Centla, one of the wettest zones in south-east Mexico.
Chocolate haciendas with a one-hour guided tour of the fincas (plantations) and chocolate factories.
I hope you enjoyed reading this post. You can read everything about Mexico and my adventures across this beautiful ancient land, right here on my blog. Check out my three e-books on Mexico:
If you’re a fan of Mills & Boon novels or love reading romance novels, here’s one for you on this blog:
Thanks for stopping by, I hope to see you back 🙂
Hasta pronto, take care 🙂