Monday, June 11, 2007

Gardens in Mexcaltitan

A few days ago I was visiting with some friends of mine, here in Chacala. We were hanging out under their palapa, enjoying the shade and the evening breeze.

My friends invited me to come with them on a trip to Mexcaltitan. It would be on Friday, and we would drive in a large, ten person van their extended family shares. Of course, I said yes. I have been curious to go there ever since I read about it a book called “ Western Mexico, a Traveller’s Treasury” written by Tony Burton in the early 90’s. It’s a little out of date, but the history pieces are great.I didn’t get the details of what the trip was about, or who exactly was going, but I didn’t care. Mexicaltitan is a tiny town an island, in the middle of a large lagoon, about twenty miles from the ocean. The lagoon is salt and fresh water. It’s turns out it was very muddy, and not especially appealing. Mexcaltitan is known as the place that the word “Mexico” came from. According to the story, in 1100BC, mas o menos, people from this island began a journey that lasted for over two hundred years. They were trying to find the place they saw in a vision. They finally found the area where D.F. is now. It was an island then. They also looked at the lake near Guadalajara and the Patzcuaro Lake. Which also has an island. Anyway, that’s the popular theory.

Another interesting thing about this town is that it floods two or three months a year, during the rainy season, late summer and early Fall. At those times, you walk on the high sidewalks to get around town. There are no cars. Just handcarts and wheelbarrows. Lots of people garden in cement boxes on the streets in front of their houses, or on the sidewalks.Anyway, 11 of us left Chacala before dawn. We traveled for about four hours, including a breakfast and bathroom break in Hildago. To get to the island, you leave your vehicle at a boat dock, and take a 10 minute boat ride out to the island. You wind among many islands and channels and then land at another dock, on the island. It was about a ten minute ride thru the lagoon to the island. When we arrived family and friends of our group came out to greet us as we walked into town. The entire town is about six blocks by six blocks, with a plaza, church, and museum in the middle. I was introduced to family members, and then some of us wandered around town. It’s about six or seven blocks by six or seven blocks. There are dirt walkways which will become canals in the rainy season between the rows of houses, and high sidewalks on each side. I was taking photos and My guess is the paint colors were part of a some government tourist funding project, where people got free paint, but had to choose from certain colors. They looked very nice. I liked the colors a lot.I took photos of lots of the flowers. I asked each time, and people seemed to be very friendly. They told me the names of their plants, and how old they were, and what they did when the streets flooded. It’s kind of hard to imagine how some of the plants survive. But maybe some plants can tolerate more moisture than I imagined. We hung around the nice shady little plaza for awhile, snacking and shopping. Then I realized there was a Mass starting, at the nice little church . It was then I realized, we weren’t just visiting. We were here to honor the anniversary of the death of our driver’s wife’s brother. I think he died fifteen years ago.I listened to the Mass from outside, on a nice comfortable metal bench under a tree in the Plaza. I fell asleep. When I woke up seven or eight little boys were staring at me. I finally figured out that wanted me to get out of the way, so they could climb the shade tree. Then we practiced our Spanish and English on each other. The kids were wonderful. Full of fun and laughter. We spend the afternoon at a large, three room home, with a covered patio were we ate, and visited, and listened to a nice two man band. And danced. I walked around town some more. I had read there was a small hotel in Mexicaltitan, and I was curious about it. It turned out to be very nice, and I can imagine staying there for awhile. Nice and quiet with no vehicles in town.Anyway, after hours of eating, talking, visiting, and wandering around, we finally headed home. We drove straight thru to Chacala, and made it in under three hours. It was a great day. I think my favorite parts were the lovely colors of the houses, and the lack of motor vehicles. And being part of such a friendly and happy family gathering.I keep finding more and more favorite places in Mexico, and places I want to explore. And Mexicaltitan is definitely one of them.


Tom said...

It sounds wonderful! When you take away the cars and buses any town would be more peaceful, but isolate it on an island and the tranquility and quiet must be so soothing.

Again, loved the pictures.

LostRoses said...

What a great trip, and you found an off-the-beaten-path spot. I've never heard of it, so thanks for the background!

Kati said...

aaaah, no cars! That must be so nice. I am always impressed by your willingness and openness to every experience. I loved the story about you waking up and being surrounded by the boys!