National Geographic : 1956 Sep
Gulf of ~ 9 a-PacificOcean.a 371 tangle of vegetation, studded with trees 30 feet tall and a foot thick, had sprung up on tracts they had so painstakingly cleared.* As we glided up the Tonala in our mahog any dugout and an occasional snowy egret flapped from the shallows to a perch among the writhing mangroves, life along the river looked much as it always had. But, signifi cantly enough, our canoe now sported an outboard motor, and when we approached La Venta itself, we found not the sleepy encampment of a few Indian families but a boom town of several hundred workers. Modern technology is closing in on La Venta. In 1955 the oil agency Petr6leos Mexi canos had brought in a well near the island, opening a major field. Now we watched a road link to the national highway system being pushed right across the swamps. Bulldozers and trucks roared through woods where deer and ocelot once wandered at will. Juke boxes assaulted the air with tunes popular a year or two before in Mexico City. But the hospitality of old friends like Don SebastiAn Torres, venerable patriarch of La @~N.GS~ 4 Venta, had not changed. Though he now has a small army of sons, sons-in-law, grandsons, and great-grandchildren, he still goes to his fields each day to plant and cultivate. "A man who loves his land does not aban don it casually," he told us. On a sandy ridge lent us by Don Sebas tiAn, we set up our camp. As in other years, we decided in favor of thick roofs of palm thatch, which insulated us well against the tropical sun. Walls of small poles, set up right, allowed good ventilation yet proved sturdy enough to resist the gale-like nortes that swept in from the Gulf of Mexico on occasion. * See, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE: "La Venta's Green Stone Tigers," September, 1943; "Find ing Jewels of Jade in a Mexican Swamp," Novem ber, 1942; "Great Stone Faces of the Mexican Jun gle," September, 1940, all by Matthew W. Stirling.