I’d like to blame Helen for this. It is not entirely her fault, but it’s always nice to shift the blame.
During my teens and twenties, I spent a fair amount of time in Mexico and also traveled as far south as Guatemala, passing through Palenque, Tikal and some other fairly wonderful places. It was a difficult time, to say the least, so my relationship to things Pre-Columbian, to Taxco silver and all, was ambivalent. That’s a good word. It papers over a lot of angst. For the purposes of this post, let’s just say that I came to France, but also got away from a lot of uncomfortable memories. What, you ask? I’m not telling. To find out, you’ll have to come visit.
So now I’m here, in the big house with the high wall and the little dog, safely away from all that. And what happens? I start reading Helen’s hilarious tales of Costa Rica. They remind me of the things I liked about Central America, the roughness and raucousness of the place. I’m reframing the memories. The good ones are moving to the fore. Suddenly I find myself really liking things Pre-Columbian, even liking the tourist tat. And of course I have found an auction house that will sell it all to me.
I guess there are no collectors, because the stuff is cheap. The bracelets above are heavy Taxco and Peruvian silver from the ’50’s, tourist tat to the bone. I love that about them. They sold for about what they would have sold for new, back in the ’50’s.
I remember sitting at the top of the steps at the main temple in Tikal. The sun was going down behind the temple opposite and the bats were flying out from behind me and into the surrounding jungle. I had done no reading on the subject, but from the angle of the sun it was clear that astronomers had sited the temple complex. It was summer. They must have had a solstice festival. As I sat there wondering how they might have staged the ceremonies, the police came to escort me out. They were patient and bored, only a little annoyed. I realized it was a good thing they were there. Trying to climb down those steep steps in the pitch black night without their flashlights would have been impossible. I’d have had to sleep in the stony bat cave alone; the police let me know that my Batman-equivalent was waiting back at the entrance. Along the path through the jungle, we heard monkeys fall silent as we passed, then start up again. Fireflies flashed. I had never seen that. I thought it was magical. I wanted to stay, but no, and that was probably a good thing, too.
So here we are. I still have blankets from that trip. And now I have fake souvenirs, as it were, little Pre-Columbian figurines and the kind of jewelry my parents’ generation would have loved. It’s all so unfashionable now and that suits me fine.