Monsters or heroes?



Is it okay to enjoy an art exhibit even if you don’t quite get it…and then if the explanations given don’t seem to help illuminate anything? This is what I wondered as we strolled through an exhibit entitled ‘Monsters, Heroes and other extraordinary beings’ in the Costa Rican Gold Museum last week.

This question, the universal existential one was posed and I wondered excitedly, “could the answer be right here in Costa Rica at last?” Apparently not but the concept of Monsters and heroes converging intrigued me as displayed in this artists photo…








…and followed me into the rest of the permanent exhibit which is dedicated to pre-Colombian Costa Rican history.

The contradiction of monster within the hero (or visa versa?) seemed more appropriate to a lot of the exquisite indigenous art in the museum.



In the many excellent museums I’ve visited here over the years I’m always struck by how the exquisite artifacts have approximated dates which end suddenly around the 1500’s…after contact with the Spanish invaders or more precisely the ‘conquistadors’. I think it’s the first time I’ve realized that pre-Columbian, which refers only to latin america, actually means pre-Columbus. The time that followed saw near genocidal destruction of a culture by the looters of gold…Maybe the monsters or heroes question made much more sense among these artifacts.

Oh well, lots of candidates these days too for the monsters or heroes prize!


This entry was posted in History, Life, Photography, Puzzles and Contradictions, Thoughts, Travel and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

26 Responses to Monsters or heroes?

  1. Dave says:

    I hadn’t really connected with the notion of pre-Columbian being pre-Columbus! Quite eye opening, as now I think of all the stories of the brutal conquest of indigenous South American societies by the Spanish invaders (who thought of themselves as the saviors of these ‘inferior’ societies). Great post!

  2. David says:

    Amazing art. Looks like a fab museum.

  3. I certainly can enjoy museums in which I don’t necessarily understand all of it. And ‘Monsters, Heroes and other extraordinary beings’ in the Costa Rican Gold Museum last week looks like a very interesting exhibit. And yes, who the monsters are depend on the point of view, doesn’t it…

  4. Sheryl says:

    It looks like a fascinating museum with intriguing art.

  5. Sue Slaght says:

    Carol this is very thought provoking. I had not really pondered what pre-Columbian meant. Of course it makes sense that so much destruction and stealing would have followed. Monsters or heroes indeed!

  6. Lavinia Ross says:

    Thank you for sharing all the beauty and interesting things you are seeing down there. I’ve never been, but have friends down there that used to live up here.

  7. Gunta says:

    The Conquistadors… just one awful example of greed and arrogance among far too many. A very interesting post indeed. That phrase :”the monstrous and the heroic converge” has me a bit puzzled. From my point of view there’s very little heroic about the conquistadors, but perhaps the meaning escapes me.

    Am I to understand that you’re in Costa Rica, or did I miss something?

  8. pommepal says:

    Museums are always so interesting and teach us about the past. I think we all are surprised to find the meaning of Pre-Columbian. The destruction of the past by monsters is still, sadly, going on today.

  9. Nancy says:

    Interesting post! Never knew that Pre-Columbian meant that!

  10. restlessjo says:

    Costa Rica isn’t somewhere I associate much with museums, Carol. Or with Conquistadors, if you hadn’t pointed it out. I can, on the other hand, think of a monster or two- unfortunately 🙂 🙂

    • Oh dear yes – unfortunately monsters do abound! Costa Rica is interesting because apparently these are not the Mayan’s or Incas we associate with Central America. So much was stolen and destroyed by the Spanish – conquistadors and church – that piecing together the history is difficult.

  11. cheryl on the go says:

    Thanks Carol interesting and informative post and one I would love to explore further on a trail in B.C.

  12. margaret21 says:

    I too hadn’t considered what ‘pre-Columbian’ meant. It is quite shocking, but I’m glad that one way or another, there is still a lot left from that earlier time for us to see and appreciate. A really interesting post – thank you.

  13. Taking a tangent on your post. There are certain angles where the sails of the Sydney Opera House look like conquistadors hats.You might be able to see it in this attachment.

  14. Clare Pooley says:

    Pre-Columbian/Columbus is something I hadn’t realised before either! Thank-you! Invaders and looters have been the means of destroying much beauty and culture over the centuries and throughout the world, often believing themselves the more cultured race!

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