Friday, April 10, 2009

Volcanoes, Colima and pre-Colombian sites

Colima is a charming city of about 130,000 a couple of hours west of Guadalajara. This is where we stayed, the Hotel Ceballos, named for the businessman who bought the old palacio on the town square and turned it into a hotel.

Looming above Colima are two big volcanoes, 12,500 and 14,200 feet high respectively, and the one in the picture is active. We could see little wisps of smoke. The last eruption was in 2001.

Much of the area between Guadalajara and the Pacific is marked by volcanic cones and other signs of its fiery history. The soil is rich.

Mexico´s internet access among the most expensive

Colima´s public parks have a number of stations with free wireless internet access. They all had a lot of users in them. The city seemed a lot more prosperous than some of the other mid-sized places we´ve visited. Seems to be a farming center.

Ironically, the day I wrote this I read about a report by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development that showed Mexico had among the most expensive broadband internet service among the 30 member countries. At $55 a month, it is more than twice as high as the U.S. at $24.

The report also indicated that Mexico´s broadband service is the slowest among the 30, with France, Japan and South Korea having average speeds 50 times faster at 100 megabits per second.

Everyone here knows why. Carlos Slim´s Telmex has a virtual monopoly on telephone and internet service. The report seemed to be aimed at Mexico´s policy makers, urging more competition. No newspaper I saw put any lawmaker on the spot.

This metal sculpture by Xerxez Díaz was one of dozens of his works we saw both on the public square and inside a museum. He has some abstract impressions of well known mythological figures (here the Chac Mool) as well as many human figures that seem to recall Matisse´s construction paper cutouts.

El Chantal and La Campana archeological sites

In the background is part of the La Campana site, parts of which date back to 1500 B.C. It´s not far from Colima. These stone pyramids and platforms were coated with stucco and painted with mythological figures.

This was supposedly the biggest pre-hispanic site in western Mexico, and they´re still digging up new stuff around the perimeter of the existing remains.

Cindy is on top of one of the major platforms. Like most ceremonial centers, it had a ball court. The ball game evidently had an astronomical significance.

El Chantal is a more recent site. The guidebook says it flourished from 1100 to 1400.

The native peoples in what is now the U.S. and Canada didn´t build stone structures, and many of their artifacts were leather, feathers and wood, so they didn´t survive. Here in Mexico you get more of a sense of the richness of pre-Colombian culture.

The Mound Builders of the Midwest, who left their handiwork in Columbus, Chillicothe and Newark in Ohio, among other places, are about the only cultures whose monuments challenge the sophistication of what you find in Mexico. The Great Serpent Mound in Chillicothe is a marvel.

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