An ancient, giant stone head half-buried is something that I wanted to see.
The mysterious site of El Baul is located on the Pacific Coast – among sugarcane plantations, about 5 km from the sweltering town of Santa Lucia.
But finding this stone head wasn’t easy.
After leaving the Sugar Refinery Headquarters and its small museum of stones sculptures, I set out on foot to soon get a ride in an old-American school bus taking refinery workers back to Santa Lucia.
They dropped me at a path leading into a jungle of 3 meter-high sugarcane, and I proceeded to wander the dirt track.
Then a lightning storm came crashing down as I wandered amid the green mass.
My poncho saved me from a soaking but I was already wet from sweat. And it cooled me off.
After 30 minutes I was about to give up on finding the unmarked site when a lone worker – with machete and bag – encountered me.
In simple Spanish, I got him to lead me to the distant, high grassy mound that is in fact an unexplored temple platform where stands the huge, half-buried stone head.
Stone Head From Ancient Cotzumalguapa
The El Bual site originates from the little-known Pipil civilization and their city of Cotzumalguapa, which flourished from 650 – 950 AD.
And of all the Pipil sites in the area, El Baul – aka Santa Lucia Cotzumalguapa – was the largest, and probably the city where king’s palaces were located.
Ancient Cotzumalguapa’s wealth was based upon the production of cacao, and the seeds were traded – and used – across Mesoamerica in ritual drinks.
Today, El Baul is an active sacred site.
And both Pipil descendants and Maya go to El Baul to light candles, fire and copal – pine-incense, and also to pray, give offerings of liquor, and even sacrifice chickens.
The cane worker was very friendly, especially after my tip.
He happily – but sternly – posed for a photo. His expression* similar to the ancient stone face of this surreal ancestor. (*Do you agree?)
Afterwards, he continued onto his village. And I wandered the 5 km back to Santa Lucia, indigenous families outside houses – staring at the lone gringo wandering amid their forgotten corner of Guatemala.
All smiles. My greetings returned as I offered maybe 100 “Buenas Tardes” – Good Afternoon(s) to all I that encountered on route.