Tags: Campeche, Mexico, Tabasco, Villahermosa

Date: June 3, 2024

From Campeche we drove along the coast of the Mexican Gulf towards the state of Tabasco. Here is a picture taken along the coast:

Another picture from the same spot but here an oil rig is visible in the far background:

Mexico has the seventeenth largest oil reserves in the world. A lot of that oil is in the Mexican Gulf off the coast of Campeche but there are also large reserves inland in Tabasco and Chiapas.

Towards the end of the day we arrived at Villahermosa, the capital and largest city of Tabasco. The city dates back to the 1500s and was made rich by natural resources like cacao, sugarcane, bananas, tobacco, rice, and hardwoods. Today, it is referred to as the "Energy City of Mexico" and has become a hub for oil and gas operations in Southern Mexico.

The city has had numerous names since it was founded in 1564. It started out with the name "Villa Carmona". A year later, in 1565 the town was renamed "San Juan Bautista" in honor of the town's Patron Saint, John the Baptist. At a later date the name was changed to "Villa Felipe II" in honor of the Spanish monarch, who then himself renamed the town "Villa Hermosa de San Juan Bautista" in 1598. Then six years later, in 1604 the name was changed again to "San Juan de Villahermosa" In 1792 it became "Villahermosa del Puerto", in 1811 "San Juan Bautista De Villahermosa", and in 1826 "San Juan Bautista de Tabasco". Finally in 1916 it became "Villahermosa" by decree of the state governor Francisco J. Múgica.

We stayed two nights in Villahermosa so we had a full day to explore the city. However, it was on a Monday, so most of the museums were closed and it was again close to 40 degrees so we tried to do something that would involve some shade.

We saw a few of the interesting buildings in the city. Here is Casa de los Azulejos (the tiled house). It was built in 1899 and the walls are covered in blue glazed tiles. It houses the Museum of the history of Villahermosa but was unfortunately closed. It looks pretty from the outside though:

The government building of the state of Tabasco:

Villahermosa Cathedral or Tabasco Cathedral is a recent church built between 1945 and 1970:

However, there have been churches in this location since 1776. In the years after the Mexican revolution at the start of the 20th century an anti-religious campaign led by then-state governor Tomás Garrido Canabal, resulted in the sacking and burning of the cathedral and the destruction of its religious images. Finally, in 1934 it was demolished.

We then decided we had had enough of the hot and busy streets so we went to the Tomás Garrido Canabal (the anti-religious governor) Park along the shore of the lake "Laguna de las Ilusiones":

A large part of the park turned out to be a mixed zoo and archeological park (Museo-Parque de la Venta), that is open (and with free entry) on Mondays, so in we went.

Some of the first animals we saw were lots of coatimundi:

They are not officially part of the zoo but are just living in the park, eating food scrap left by people visiting the park and fruit from the trees in the park. Here are two of them eating mango:

The animals in the zoo are primarily local animals, spider monkeys, a couple of jaguars and this impressive-looking crocodile:

There was also a small aviary with these little punk-feathered ducks:

They are probably Black-bellied whistling ducks.

A peacock:

Two more whistling duck looking a bit like Siamese twins:

Unknown, but very funny-looking birds:

More whistling ducks.

In addition to the animals the park is the home of a number of archeological artifacts form the nearby Olmec archeological site La Venta. In the 1950s the national Mexican petroleum company (Pemex) discovered a rich oil and gas deposit near La Venta and to save the unique stone sculptures and altars from La Venta the Mexican poet Carlos Pellicer Cámara took initiative to create a park where the stone sculptures could be preserved and exhibited. This became Museo-Parque La Venta, here is a bust to commemorate the poet:

Here is one of the many stone altars excavated at La Venta:

After visiting Museo-Parque La Venta we decided to take a short detour during the next step of our trip to visit the Olmec archeological site La Venta, to learn more about the Olmecs. More on that in our next post.