This is a photo essay written for the Soaring Twenties Social Club Symposium. The STSC is a small, exclusive online speakeasy where a dauntless band of writers, artists, philosophers, flaneurs, musicians, idlers, and bohemians share ideas and companionship. Each month STSC members create something around a set theme. This cycle, the theme was “Dinosaurs.”
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“Welcome to Tikal Park,” my wife said in mock Richard Attenborough, echoing Mr. Hammond in Jurassic Park. She pointed forward through the car to the gate that marks the entry point to Tikal National Park in Guatemala.
It is visually reminiscent of the Jurassic Park gate, possibly as much for the jungle that surrounds it. Fictional island Isla Nublar was “120 miles off the coast of Costa Rica”, so a shared Central American gate design would have made sense for the movie.
That quote always used to run through my head as a kid. “120 miles off the coast of Costa Rica.” It’s the double ‘coast’ with a reversal, off the coast / cost a rica, that gave the description a mantric quality. When I was obsessed with Jurassic Park, I had memorized all five fictional islands described in the book and could point to where they would be on an actual map.
Despite the Central America reference, the movie clarifies its own cinematic self-reference in the scene where the characters enter the gate and Ian Malcolm asks, “What do you think is in there, King Kong?”
Fictional Skull Island is in the Indian ocean off the coast of Indonesia. The visualization that ties them together is the genre of adventure story, for which remote islands move us away from civilization and toward forgotten natural forces.
Tikal should be the opposite: moving us toward a forgotten civilization. However the adventure story is very much on the mind of the tourism built around the park. The five-sided Mayan gate design can be found on modern buildings, sculptures, signs, and other iconography for miles around.