Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Petroglyphs at Altavista

Just a short distance from Lo de Marcos is a well known petroglyphs site. Not that you'd ever find it unless you know exactly where it is, but that didn't stop Kim and Bill to take us there. The instructions were very simple, drive north past La Penita and take the cobblestone road to the right. Of course there are quite a few cobblestone roads… The beauty is of course that it's not one of those over-signposted and over-commercialised tourist traps where you'll have to pay heaps and see nothing. This is pure. Viva Mexico!

The cobblestone road became a dirt road, which we followed until the cars simply couldn't go any further. Despite all our efforts and apparently huge progress, it's amazing how quickly our modern cars become useless when the roads turn nasty. What followed was a walk through a beautifully dense sub-tropical rainforest. We saw old signs about the original users of the site, the Tecoxquin or 'Throatcutters'… who were apparently mainly fishermen and farmers… They apparently became known as the throat cutters through their religious wars, known as the 'flower war'. The objective was to capture prisoners for ritual sacrifice, who's severed heads were offered to the gods. Religion… isn't it lovely. Everywhere we go in this world, we hear and read about wars and horrible practices that were started by religion!

The Gringo Tree
More than 2000 years ago the Tecoxquin started chipping images into the volcanic rock around the Las Piletas stream. They symbolise concerns and wishes they had, like rain, health, fertility and successful crops. They made some 2000 carvings in an area of about 200 acres, 70 of which are still clearly visible today. About a kilometre from the entrance, you'll reach the most sacred area of this site where the Las Piletas creek flows down over a series of rock shelves and through the small pools it has carved over the ages. The highest concentration of carvings can be found here.

It's a beautiful place, very quiet and understandably a magical pace to the Tecoxquin. The series of pools are surrounded by high vertical walls of basalt covered with ferns, native palms, trees with flaking red bark (known locally as the 'Gringo tree' as their skin turns red and peels in the sun just like ours). Nearby stands a Ceiba tree, the most important tree of the Aztecs and the Mayans and other ancient Mesoamerican people; believed to join all the creatures of earth with the water world below the surface and the world of the gods above. The arrival of the Conquistadors in the early 16th century, and the diseases they brought with them, led to the extinction of the Tecoxquin. Which in this case is perhaps not so bad…?

Most of the petroglyphs have been eroded and can be hard to spot, but an amazing amount is clearly visible. Walk around slowly and keep your eyes open as they are everywhere. The best time for a visit is in the morning, with lower temperatures and better light for photography. Keep in mind that this site is still in use for native religious practices. Don't take food or drink with you when you enter and pay the entry fee of a modest 20 pesos per person. A big 'Thank You!' to Bill and Kim for taking us along!

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