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Phil Weigand, Explorer

Text and Photos ©2012 by J. Pint

Phil Weigand at the new Teuchitlan museum

Phil Weigand checking the mural at the new Teuchitlan museum.

 Guide to Guachimontones by John Pint

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Bilingual Video on Pioneer Archaeologist

By John Pint

DVD on the life and work of Phil WeigandJune 15, 2012 marked the first public screening of “Phil Weigand, an Explorer for All Times” at Hospicio Cabañas in Guadalajara, Mexico. The historical documentary was created by the team of Pascual Aldana, Daniel Aldana and Alberto Fuentes of Explora México under the auspices of El Colegio de Michoacán and TV UNAM.

The film focuses on the life and discoveries of the late archaeologist Phil Weigand (1937-2011) who, together with his wife Acelia García, spent more than forty years unraveling some of the mysteries of a great and hitherto unknown civilization which flourished in western Mexico 2000 years ago.
A fascinating 61-minute video on the life and work of the late Phil Weigand is now available as a DVD, both in Spanish and in English.

I went to the premier showing of the film assuming I already knew quite a bit about the subject, having counted Phil as a friend for many years and having had a great interest in the ruins of Teuchitlán ever since I climbed to the top of the Guachimontones back in 1986, when they were covered with nettles and thorns and surrounded by cornfields.

Well, I was quite wrong. In the very spirit of the great archaeologist himself, the filmmakers have unearthed fascinating details about the man and his work which kept me and the rest of the audience on the edge of our seats throughout the 61-minute video and resulted in a great cheer at the end.
The opening lines of the film are dramatic: “Even though by the 20th century the geography of our planet was well known, there were still intrepid explorers and men of science who traveled through distant, rugged lands to contribute research that has deepened our understanding of mankind and complex societies. One of those grand researchers was Phil Weigand …”

I then learned that Weigand’s interest in archaeology dates back to his high school years when he signed up as a “gopher” at an archaeological excavation in his own state. “It was my own servicio social,” he says, “six weeks among the mosquitoes and poison Ivy in southern Indiana.”

To my surprise, I then learned that Phil Weigand, though an outstanding student, never completed high school. “I almost graduated, but I got bored and set out for adventure.” Off he went to Mexico: first to Zacatecas and then to Jalisco, where he lived in the town of Chapala. It was, in fact, in Chapala that he was introduced to Acelia García, leading to their marriage in 1958.

Even more fascinating for me was a detailed description of the now famous discovery which led Weigand to the Guachimontones. This took place in 1962 at the hot springs of El Rincón where the Teuchitlán River is born. Says Acelia Weigand in the movie: “The kids were diving near a huge fig tree in a small, natural pool when I saw these shiny pieces of glass under the water. I told them to be careful because there were broken bottles or something down there and they could get cut. However, in those days there were no restaurants or bars around there. So the kids started pulling these shiny things out and they said, ‘No auntie, they’re not bottles, they’re knives!’ Well, all of them were long, sharp, prismatic blades of obsidian and I brought thirteen of them back to our house in Etzatlán. Now at that time, Felipe was working in Durango, but when he came back, I showed him these blades: ‘Look what I found,’ I said, but I couldn’t get him to pay any attention to them for seven years. Seven years it took for me to lead him up to the obsidian workshop from which those blades had washed down to the swimming hole!” And all the rest is history, as they say.

There are many other revelations in the film, including Weigand’s exploration of kilometers of pre-historic mines, the discovery of a Persian qanat at least eight kilometers long in Zapopan and the theme of his very last, not yet published book – on Nazi anti-Semitism, of all things.

Only upon reaching home with my own copy of the DVD did I discover that it is both in Spanish and in English, thanks to an excellent translation by Paul C. Kersey of the Colegio de Michoacán. This documentary, as well as an equally outstanding and bilingual DVD on Teuchitlán by the same team, are available at the Teuchitlán Casa de Cultura, (65 meters west of the plaza) for 120 pesos each or directly from the filmmakers in Guadalajara (tel: 33-1086-4428, Pascual@exploramexicodocumentales.com) or through Sandi Bookstore (http://www.sandibooks.com).


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