Because El Tabasqueño is located in a fairly remote area that is jam-packed with archaeological sites, it is visited by only the most adamant lovers of Mayan archaeology. According to the guard at the site, oftentimes weeks go by without a single visitor.
To get to the core of the archaeological site from the parking lot, you will have to walk a few hundred meters through a narrow jungle path dotted with the ruins of unrestored temples.
El Tabasqueño was first documented in 1887 by the famed explorer Teobert Maler in 1887 who produced several rough maps, notes, and illustrations of the site for later publication in Europe.
The site was named in the 19th century (rather underwhelmingly) after a person who lived nearby and was from the state of Tabasco. Unfortunately, the original name of the ancient city has been lost to time.
According to archaeological evidence, the city seems to have been founded sometime in the 2nd century CE but saw its height of construction and population between the 7th and 10th centuries. Given its location and proximity to other comparable sites in the region, it is fairly safe to assume that El Tabasqueño was either a vassal or satellite city of the Chenes capital of Xtampak.
The most striking architectural complex at the site is a two-story temple with a stunning Chenes-style zoomorphic facade, adorned with rain god masks, sitting atop a multiple-chambered structure. Though these types of zoomorphic facades are fairly common in the region, the example found at El Tabasqueño is notable for its size and height perched atop another structure.
The base structure exhibits several Puuc-style architectural hallmarks and was likely erected before the zoomorphic facade was added during a later phase of construction.
The upper section of the temple is an example of the Monster of the Earth facade architecture, though with a few variations.
Like the Snake Mouth Portal found at Xtampak, this temple depicts the Monster of the Earth (or a variation thereof) — but may in fact convey a different meaning to that of its ground-level counterparts at sites like Hochob or Chicaná. This is all to say that the long-established view that zoomorphic Monster of the Earth facades are always to be interpreted as passageways/portals to the underworld (Xibalba) is likely an oversimplification.
El Tabasqueño was probably a major agricultural producer. That is because the number of underground wells (or chultunes) found at the site is larger than what one may expect from a city of its size.
Opposite the site’s main temple complex is a structure exhibiting many of the hallmarks of tablero talud architecture imported from central Mexico. This likely suggests a later construction date than that of the rest of the restored structures at the site. The structure possesses a central chamber accessible by a steep stairway and ramp.
To the left of the structure is a rather curious, towering structure 3.5 meters tall. Its intended use is not immediately obvious. Although thought to have been a tower, possibly used to track the movement of planets and stars, it might also have been the base for a stucco stelae.
If you go
El Tabasqueño is 170 km or 105.6 miles away from Mérda and 123 km or 76 miles from the city of Campeche. Take Highway 261 to Dziblachén. Keep your eyes peeled for the signage and turn down the easily overlooked designated road. If you make it to Dziblachén you will have overshot it by 6 km. The road is not much more than a path, but fortunately, it only goes for a couple of kilometers.
Most visitors to El Tabasquelo visit the site in conjunction with nearby Hochob on their way to archaeological sites further south, such as Becán and Calakmul. This is a good strategy but requires that you start your day very early or find accommodation in one of the nearby communities.
The entrance fee is 45 pesos from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Saturday. On Sunday admittance is free for Mexican nationals and foreign residents of Mexico with ID. Hochob remains closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Check back for updates.