THE ABSENT STONE
Documentary Film, 35mm, 80 minutes
By Jesse Lerner and Sandra Carla Rozental
Focusing on the removal and subsequent replications of a colossal pre-Hispanic rain deity taken from a small Mexican town to the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City, this film explores struggles over heritage and artifacts, contrasting diverse perspectives within the contemporary debate about cultural property and the stewardship of the past.
On April 16th, 1964, a colossal pre-Hispanic stone monolith representing the rain deity Tlaloc was moved from a small town 35 miles east of Mexico City to the new National Museum of Anthropology. The latter has come to be known as the most ambitious Latin American project of national representation of the past century, designed by the renowned modernist architect Pedro Ramírez Vázquez. At great expense and using state-of-the-art engineering technology, and only be crushing the local’s rebellion against this, the state extracted the monumental stone figure of the rain god from the town of Coatlinchan. The national and international media documented every aspect of the monolith’s transportation to its new abode. Standing at the Museum’s entrance ever since, the stone has become that institution’s most identifiable emblem and, along with the Aztec Calendar stone and the Virgin of Guadalupe, one of Mexico’s best-known national icons.
Projected release date of film: December 2012
Blogger’s note: At long last the story of the forced removal, and subsequent installation of the monumental Tlaloc sculpture at the entrance to the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City is told in a full length film. The filmmakers have included a great deal of unique and hard to find historical archival footage of interviews with architect Ramírez Vázquez who designed the museum, and the engineer behind the removal of the Tlaloc stone from Coatlinchan. There is spectacular newsreel footage of the stone as it passes through the Zocalo in Mexico City to the cheers of thousands, but also interviews with townspeople who express their anger and frustration at the loss of their sculpture. Yet over the last 40 years the people of Coatlinchan have not only maintained their cultural continuity, but have seen it flourish in ways one could never have predicted. LGD.