Sep 28, 2011

Catemaco Olmecs

Politicians of Catemaco pretend that Catemaco was civilized during the Olmec stage of local pre-hispanic history.

There is very little or no proof. Excavations on Isla Agaltepec and recently in Teotepec show only rudimentary occupation before 0 BC.

Nevertheless, politically it now seems to have become imperative to link Catemaco to the Olmec culture.

The first documented presence of settlers in Los Tuxtlas stems from sediment studies of a lake near San Andrés Tuxtla (neighboring municipality) which dated corn pollen about 5000 years ago. 

The next nearby presence dates from 3600 years ago when Olmecs initiated the first major Pre-Columbian civilization in Mexico around San Lorenzo Tenochtitlan southeast of present day Acayucan. The Olmecs progessively abandoned their centers wth the last one, actually in Los Tuxtlas, at Tres Zapotes, west of present Santiago Tuxtla, fading out about 2500 years ago, but continuing in a derivative version possibly until 900 AD
During its heyday, Olmec culture extended throughout central Mexico, extending to the Pacific and central America.

Apart from Tres Zapotes, few other significant archaeological finds of their presence in Los Tuxtlas have been made, including a sculpture workshop and assorted figurines primarily in Hueyapan, a municipality southeast of Catemaco.

The only significant find in Catemaco was documented in 1923, when Franz Blom, one of the earliest explorers of the area saw a small statue of Homshuk, a supposed Olmec deity parked next to a hovel in the city. Supposedly the figurine had been found on Isla Tenaspi, near the so called monkey islands.

The Olmec culture is one of the least understood in Mexico and abounds with speculations. They left no written, decipherable records, and the few that do exist are based on interpretations of  Maya hieroglyphs. Nevertheless, it is said  that they spoke a version of  the Mixe Zoquean language family, primarily based on there still being remnant speakers of that language in the Olmecs' principal known areas generally around the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.

The third largest of this group of speakers are Popolucas, an indigenous tribe still present in the southern Los Tuxtlas, still dominant in Soteapan and well represented in northern Hueyapan, both neighbors of Catemaco.

Now here it becomes interesting. 
The Catemaco/ Los Tuxtlas area became largely depopulated after 200 BC, possibly because of  volcanism. The next substantial civilization were Nahuatl speakers arriving around 400 AD from the Tehotihuacan civilization centered on Mexico City. They erected Matacapan, a complex of perhaps 50,000 or more, northwest of Catemaco. Numerous subsidiary remnants have been found throughout Catemaco and in other nearby municipalities. 

Most of the historical artifacts still in Los Tuxtlas museums or cluttering up sidewalks, stem from that era. By the end of  the Teotihuacan hegemony, the Matacapan Nahuas where then over run by Pipils, a Nahuatl dialect tribe of speakers, possibly from Cholula. By 900 the Pipils were gone, on their way to form minor empires in Central America.

By the time of the Spanish conquest, Los Tuxtlas was principally a Nahuatl speaking territory. a hundred years later, it is estimated that 80% of the natives had died off.

So what happened to the Olmecs and speakers of their language? I have no idea.

Almost all place names in Los Tuxtlas are Nahuatl, with a few of Pipil origins, and a even less with Popoluca roots. Even the Popoluca territory, which within oral history included the eastern part of Laguna Catemaco, has standardized on Nahuatl for its place names. Catemaco and the northern Los Tuxtlas is principally mestizo, bereft of its indigenous roots. The current indigenous population of Catemaco is less than 600, mostly Nahuats.

In 1911, Catemaco's historic documents were destroyed by arson so there is no record of its historic indigenous components, aside from a ridiculous statement that Catemaco was discovered and founded by settlers from San Andrès in 1714.

The question then becomes from where arises the much hyped mysticism of Catemaco?

From the possibly previous residents (500 years ago) of now disappeared Popolucas and Nahuats now hidden in the communities of the Santa Marta Mountains!

Dozens of sociological studies have identified the beliefs of brujos, chaneques (sprites), nahuals (shape shifters) as originating within the indigenous communities which apparently did not have a major presence in Catemaco during historic times.

Even today, unannounced, there are "real" brujo events occurring in those mountains, that would put the Catemaco hype to shame.

I guess it is ok for the primarily rootless mestizo population of Catemaco to borrow the traditions of  its displaced progenitors.  Maybe soon, they will declare Halloween a Catemaco invention.

If anyone cares for my bibliography, send me an email.

Sep 26, 2011

Catemaco Sports

Catemaco and Los Tuxtlas promoters religiously push the same banal recommendations to visit the area.

Extreme sports are virtually overlooked and under appreciated. Many of  the items mentioned below have been covered in this blog.

There is cave exploration along the shores of the Gulf of Mexico and around the San Martin Volcano.
Hang Gliding is possible off the 2000 foot drop at La Ventana in the Sierra Santa Marta, although I have never seen one flying.
Wreck Diving is possible off the northern shore of Los Tuxtlas.
Mountain Biking is possible most anywhere.
Kite, wind or sky surfing is possible much of the year, although, again, I have never seen someone doing it.
White water kayaking is seasonally possible on many of the Los Tuxtlas rivers.
Rock climbers could be in heaven, especially when ascending the steep faces of waterfall canyons.
Cliff diving and rappelling is possible off the Roca Partida rock face along the gulf.

Where else in the world exist opportunities like that in a 50 mile circumference?

The photo is of a recent 50K bike ride along the Catemaco Lake circumference. Because of political ineptness, there is a 5 km gap in the road which has to be transversed  in many parts by carrying the bike.

Sep 15, 2011

Catemaco STUPID

The coastal highway #180 from the US border to the south of Mexico was begun in the early 1920's. By the 1960's most of it was paved and bridged.

In 2011 you have to stand on your head to find out if the road is passable. There is NO functional system in place to advise motorists. The federal toll roads have an excellent system supported by a web page, Facebook and Twitter. Probably because they also charge a fortune to cross over their facilities.

The federal free roads might as well be in the African Sahara. Supposedly you can call the federal highway police for information. Good luck, to both get connected or to receive sensible advice.

At present the south of Los Tuxtlas is not accessible or passable, or maybe it is. As usual, a culvert crossing collapsed, and a makeshift bridge, unrepaired since last year's storms, was flooded again.

Usually this stuff gets repaired within a day or three or a week, until the next road gets washed out.

Catemaco has enough problems attracting north to south tourism. If this crap of road destruction and failure to inform continues, nobody in their right mind will venture on the already torturous trek through Los Tuxtlas, and instead will choose to bypass Catemaco on the toll road.

I wish someone would stick a sock in the mouth of the Veracruz governor who keeps bragging about tourism being the solution to Veracruz's problems without maintaining the totally vital and only north south coastal highway.

Typical repair crew

Catemaco - Dia de Independencia

Updated from 16 September 2006

Independence Day is one of the more important holidays across all of  Mexico.

In beautiful downtown Catemaco, the degree of the celebration is totally related to the whim of the mayor in power for his 3 year elected term. Usually the first year of the term produces a plethora of activities and decorations. By the third year there is usually barely a whim of the party atmosphere of the first one or two years.

This is the first year in office of all the Los Tuxtlas mayors. And they are going ape shit spending the little money that they do have on bangles, baubles and fireworks.

I enjoy it while it lasts.

On the morning of September 10, 1810, Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla, a 57 year old priest from an old family of criollos (Mexican-born Spaniards) begun to harangue his parishioners in the small town of Dolores in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico, about the state of affairs in Spain’s colony of New Spain. 

He ended his sermon with “Viva the Virgin of Guadalupe and Death to the Gachupines (Spaniards in Mexico)”, now famous as the “Grito de Dolores“. The phrase is a pun in Spanish. It can mean both “The Shout from the Town of Dolores,” and “The Cry of Pain,” referring to the pain that Spain’s rule caused Mexico.

Thus began the bloodbath of Mexico’s revolt against Spain, ending almost 10 years later on February 24, 1821, when Agustin Iturbide (Spanish defense) and Vicente Guerrero (Mexican offense) joined in the Plan de Iguala to reject Spanish colonialism. On 24 August 1821, Iturbide and Spanish Viceroy Juan de O’Donojú signed the Treaty of Córdoba in Córdoba, Veracruz, ratifiying the Plan de Iguala and thus confirming Mexico’s independence.

After a year’s haggling, on July 21, 1822 the criollo Iturbide was declared the first emperor of Mexico as Agustin the First. He lasted till March 19, 1823, when in a continuation of the war of independence, former coalition partners warred again him, dethroned him and established the interim triumvirate headed by Pedro Celestino Negrete, with Nicolás Bravo and Guadalupe Victoria.

On October 4, 1824 the Constitution of the United Mexican States was promulgated, establishing a federal government. On October 10, 1824, General General Guadalupe Victoria assumed control of the executive authority, and became the first Mexican president to repeat the “Grito de Dolores“.

Over the years, Miguel Hidalgo’s “Death to the Gapuchines” battle cry was shelved and the more traditional “Viva the Heros of the Nation!”, “Viva the Republic!, and “Viva Mexico!”, etc. were substituted.

Another substitution was the change of the date when the “Grito” is delivered, from September 16 to the previous night of September 15, originally instituted to accommodate the birthday of the then Mexican dictator Porfirio Diaz.

201 years later, the Mexican president, and every mayor in every community in Mexico, including beautiful downtown Catemaco, Veracruz delivers the “Grito” to his patriotic compatriots, accompanied by thousands of  VIVA, VIVA, VIVA MEXICO.

The next morning things cool down a bit, and the traditional parades begin, more or less in line with the US July 4th events, only missing the baton twirlers.

Sep 6, 2011

Catemaco September 2011

Be thankful, I don´t specialize on Veracruz and Mexico News! The local pollyannas would really freak out!

The state news is grim. 10 were killed in 3 separate incidents on Monday. By now the state press almost ignores them. Twitterers of course go ape, especially now that the local governor jailed two for the equivalent of shouting fire in a casino.  Meanwhile the Mexican congress is debating a law which would make it illegal to insult politicians.

And now for the Catemaco weather:
The first of  45 or so cold fronts hit this morning. Lovely, much needed rain! It got so cold, I actually wore a shirt in the house during the day!

And now to the Catemaco news desk:
The long neglected 100 year old clock tower was repaired with functioning clocks and a sound system. Of  course, if you decide to sleep anywhere near the center of town, you will be inspired by the Mexican national anthem followed by church bells at 6 am.

Catemaco is still in the running to become one of the "pueblos magicos" which some pendejo bureaucrat now has decided to rename "Acuarelas Túristicas" (tourist watercolors). Hopefully, that will be after the long promised and more often announced 50 million pesos arrive to fix the sewage running down the streets.

The mayor has spread new gravel across most of the local country roads. It is really a great time to haunt the mountain nooks of Catemaco. Dried up streams are now running wild, more shades of green than fit on any palette and incredible vistas around every corner.

As usual  some "asnos" blocked the road south from here followed the next day by a major washout of a culvert bridge that hasn't been fully repaired since last year. Check locally, before heading south. Unfortunatey there are no Twitterers updating news of the road, and, of course the federal and state agencies are too inept.

There is another news item, but I am too embarrassed to publish it here, so go there.

And on the Catemaco reading desk:
A young woman went partying in Catemaco and wrote about in Spanish

Another one took a good look around and wrote about it in German

And, unbelievably, one of France's best newspapers published the farce of some imported foot stompers from Mexico City as "the ritual dances of Catemaco"

The European interest may have something to with the skyrocketing (percentage wise)  number of  mostly European tourists flying into Veracruz City. (the peso is dirt cheap when valued against the Euro).

The do not insult your legislator law was tabled supposedly because of social network opposition

Sep 4, 2011

La Victoria, Catemaco

La Victoria is the third largest town in the Catemaco county, and features a bucolic atmosphere without tourists. Curiously the town may be related to a British monarch.

60+ photos, maps and a few hundred words.