Op-Ed Articles

He Left His Head In San Francisco: Olmec presence in the USA

By Dick Davis
Saturday, Octorber 9th, Governor Miguel Aleman of the State of Veracruz, Mexico donated a colossal stone sculptured Olmec head to the City College of San Francisco. The gift, a 14-ton, 9-foot tall replica of “El Rey” (The King) was made in honor of the new Pan American Center at City College. It is now the centerpiece of the proposed Frida Kahlo Garden next to the Diego Rivera Theater at City College of San Francisco.

Placing Olmec replicas in major cities has been a personal endeavor of Governor Aleman. These heads, of enormous size, demonstrate the power, scale and majesty of the Olmec culture, which was centered in the State of Veracruz.

Maestro Ignacio Perez Solano carved the replica and was present for the dedication.

Tomas Roman, a local TV personality, opened the presentation with an anecdote. He told of his reaction when he first heard that Henry Parker, director of the Fine Arts Museum, said, “How would City College like an Olmec giant head?” He was startled. An “Old Mick head? ” why would anyone be interested in an Irish stone? The audience laughed.

Professor Edgar Torres gave a brief account of the Olmec discoveries. “El Rey” the largest head was discovered in 1932. It is 3000 years old. In total 17 giant carved heads have been found. Although little is known for certain, the Olmec culture is considered “the mother culture” of Mexico. The heads are famous not only for their size but for their characteristics: flat noses, thick lips, round faces and a helmet like headgear. The Olmecs are also known for their ball courts. Some archeologists have speculated that the headgear was worn for protection in a ritual ball game.

Alfonso de Maria y Campos Castello the Mexican General Consul spoke of the importance of relations between Mexico and California. He mentioned that California was home to the largest number of Mexicans living abroad and that Mexico is California’s best trading partner.

Sr. de Maria y Campos emphasized that the Olmec mother culture and the colossal head called El Rey was symbolic of “Who we are, where we come from and where we are going.” He added with a touch of humor, “Only El Rey knows.”

Governor Miguel Aleman formally presented El Rey to Dr. Phillip Day, chancellor of the City College. Then he added that, as a Mexican, he felt the emotion of being surrounded in San Francisco by the Diego Rivera Mural, the Frida Kahlo Garden with its walls painted in Frida’s favorite blue and the garden’s new centerpiece, the Olmec colossal head.

He closed his remarks with wry humor. He mentioned that in November his term of office was up and therefore the presentation had to be in October. Then he said, you may “lose your heart in San Francisco, but never the head.”
Dick Davis is a Features writer at OurMexico (www.ourmexico.com). Contact at: [email protected]