Travels

Mezcala Island, the last stronghold

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Jalisco keeps one of those best preserved secrets of its territory and the world near Guadalajara. As you enter Chapala, the metropolis disappears, and the road empties. We turn left and there, in the distance, behind the great towers of the Church of the Assumption of Mezcala, the last stronghold resistant to the Spanish colonizers of the sixteenth century appears on the horizon ... !!Mezcala Island!!


Today's day was the last one we will spend in the Guadalajara area, before leaving the State of Jalisco and leaving for Guanajuato.


However, we did not expect the farewell to take us to that corner that every lover of history, of exploration, is passionate about.

Mezcala Island: How to get there

Last night we slept in two different hotels, I in Villa Ganz that I will talk to you about when we return, so this morning we went to breakfast at Casa Pedro Loza and pick up the rest of the group.

Reach Chapala from Guadalajara has not been difficult because it has a direct road. From there, Mezcala is located in the North Bank of Lake Chapala, and for this you have to cross Chapala, and in Pepe Guizar, leaving a gas station next to it, you will find the road that runs through the towns of Tlachichilco del Carmen, San Juan Tecomatlán, San Nicolás, Ojo de Agua and, finally, you reach Mezcala.


Mezcala is another magical town, whose population today is still indigenous and full of customs and proud of its roots and its own Nahuatl dialect. The Church of the Assumption that we saw from afar is its main icon and heart of the place, from which life unfolds.


 

Its square, its streets, its archaeological museum, but above all its history and its people, make this place a wonderful place to consider a route.


But the great attraction of Mezcala is called Presidio Island (or Mezcala Island), in the Lake of Chapala that bathes its riverbank and that conserves in its interior the best archaeological vestiges and true legends of a rock that was never assaulted, and which can only be reached in one way !! by barge !!


 

We are not aware yet, but there were many years that the Spanish colonizers had wished to make the journey, pleasant, that we have barely done in 15 minutes.


 

We have a luxury guest. He chronicler (responsible for collecting the historical data of Mezcala and the one who knows the most about the events that have occurred and documented) accompanies us and proudly wears his uniform that identifies him.


The island has an area of ​​25 hectares (there is another in the lake called Isla de los Alacranes) and according to the chronicler, in Nahuatl its name is Tlaquetepetlque (if someone manages to pronounce we send a hat like the chronicler) that means "rock and stone island". It has adjacent another small island of 2 hectares called Techilenje with the meaning of "who follows the other". The route we are going to do for the most part is something like that, starting with the jetty (1) where we just arrived


Mezcala Island: The Last Redoubt

It was around 1280 when the first presence on the island is documented, although it is believed to be an important center of worship for pre-Hispanic civilizations originating in Jalisco. From that time there are still ornaments, tombs, ceramic pieces and other vestiges, but its true history begins 250 years ago.

We move forward leaving the service area (2) and Morro Norte (3) to reach the area of ​​the would have (4) where the vegetation mixes foreign trees with endemic to the island, such as rubber trees and yellow plums (or from Spain)


On March 7, 1530, Pedro Armendes Chirinos, with 50 men on horseback, 30 on foot and 500 Indians, conquers Mezcala in a single day. The times of colonization arrive and this area is not less than everything we have seen these days.

We jumped another 280 years, and the movement for Independence with Miguel Hidalgo was born in 1810, which we have already talked about all these days, and that in 1811 suffers a hard battle, making the insurgents flee to small isolated groups. During 1812 battles are fought in San Pedro Itzican and Poncitlan with great victories of the insurgents until Pedro Celestino Negrete orders to destroy Mezcala. Where to run away To the hill of Santa Cruz de la Soledad where water could be lacking and be besieged or to the island of Mezcala?


 

We are in the Old Barracks (7), a square-floor building, with a patio in the center, which still retains rooms and buttresses that protected the island. And we are in the most fascinating time in history, when, between 500 and 1000 indigenous people, barely carrying weapons (few machetes or rifles stolen from the Spaniards) entrenched themselves on the island. His initial strategy was to put fences around the island and it worked perfectly in the first attacks of Spanish vessels. So much so that the natives even got 15 cannons with which to defend the island ... and so they were !! 4 long years !!


And how did they get food? Making night raids and robbing the camps placed around the lagoon with 200 men during 1814, 1815 and 1816.

However, the lack of health and food began to slow down on the island, coinciding with the desperation of José de la Cruz, who changed his strategy. There was a offer of mass pardon, something unusual in the history of Mexico (only given to the high ranks) in the longest war and ... they constantly rejected! Only in exchange for seeds, oxen, repair of houses that were burned, return of villages. Supply of sacraments and José Santana appointed Governor of Mezcala, the surrender and one of the most intense passages of the Revolution of Independence in Mexico was consumed on November 25, 1816.

Mezcala Island or Presidio Island

On May 21, 1819, José de la Cruz (known by all for his cruelty and bloodthirsty methods), Mayor of Nueva Galicia, orders to build a Strong House (9) that will dominate the island. We access it through the Weapons Square (6)


 

We cross what was the drawbridge, and we will find a huge patio surrounded by stores of grain and powder, kitchen and bedrooms for the Castilian (maximum authority of the prison) and 150 men.


You can clearly see the influence of both the Spanish colonial style and even Mozarabic details that came more and more across the pond, a clear influence of the Muslim presence on the Peninsula centuries ago.


 

Little remains of the legacy of what that place was, because when the island would be uninhabited years later, a wave of vandalism left the place without doors, windows and more objects, suffering a serious deterioration. But something remains, right Eider?


I was struck to see the punishment cells to the soldiers themselves who did not comply with the orders and who were locked up during certain days and marked their "countdown" on the wall.


 

From the roof of the fortification you can see the privileged views they had and why the location in this place. !! It looks up to the jetty from here !!


We follow our steps, leaving aside the Insurgent Barracks (10) that the viceregal authorities used between 1816 and 1821 (carried out by the rebels in their resistance) and the High Knight (11), newly built military style in addition to vaulted galleons and a hospital, for inmates.


Crossing the Presidio Square (13) We arrive at the most famous element. The Plaza retains a beautiful cobblestone and is a pleasant walk, leaving the small island as a backdrop


 

He criminal or prison (14) give name to the Mezcala Island as the Presidio Island. It was also ordered to be built by José de la Cruz and took prisoners from Nayarit, Michoacan and Jalisco. It consists of two galleons that "stored" up to 200 prisoners each until in 1855 the island was uninhabited and its buildings preserved for almost 10 years, before the arrival of mass vandalism.


We return on our steps, since right next to the Plaza de Armas, and where a group of local people gather under the shade of the trees at this time, are the remains of the chapel (5), excellently preserved.


Enthusiastic about the history of this place and everything we have seen, it is time to return to Mezcala. Right in front of the Church there is a Museum Very interesting to visit, which tells the legends of the island as well as has many vestiges found in the lake and in another visit for those who have time, the cave paintings of the Cueva del Toro, which requires a good walk but seems to be worth it. !! For our next visit !!


 

Ajijic and Chapala, the complement to a perfect day

Possibly from Ajijic, After the previous visit, I have little to describe. It is the "richest town" in the area and where many local and foreign tourists plan their vacations if they decide to come here. Even Americans use it as their second home. We have stopped to eat in The New Inn, a really lovely place, and where A local media has come to give us an interview. It seems that we are generating a lot of interest wherever we go!


 

Chapala, whose meaning is "place of bucaros or small pots" and "very wet or soaked place", I have found a scenario with a really special charm, with pre-Hispanic origin, when a migration of tribes of Nahutl origin found the shore of the lake .

Little by little everything has changed, and the old fishing village has been transformed into a summer place, with corners of true charm contrasting with the primitive essence of the site.


 

Of course, more than one is happy around here, right Gavetillas?


We are in the dry season (the rains are coming soon) and that has made this year the waters withdraw a lot from the promenade. This leaves images of boats stranded and monuments "in theory" built on the lake, which will not be seen in a short period of time.


 

The walk is pleasant, leaving aside the Municipal Palace, the Lido Hotel or the Parish of San Francisco de Asís, although what most attracts my attention is the claim of a restaurant with its best cuisine of Burrito Mojado or Chimichanga


 

The Chavetas Mexican community, in addition to a series of suggestions to see through social channels (thank you very much everyone) He had told us that this town was an ideal place to try the most handmade sweetsAnd so we have done it !! delicious !! Very recommended. !! Paulitaaa !! I'll take you a few ...


 

Otherwise, little to comment on the return journey. In 1 hour we were back to Guadalajara and having dinner at the curious restaurant Karne Garibaldi, which holds the record for the fastest food service in the world. What a stress! !!Oh my God!! LOL


 

But such a day we didn't want to fire him without seeing a city as wonderful as Guadalajara by night. The hotel that shelters us today, the Morales Hotel (which I will talk about when I return), it is very close to the Main Square we visited yesterday and Vero, Javi, Eider, Adri and Isaac decided to see it illuminated and have a very cool beer to say goodbye to the part of Jalisco.




Without a doubt, today was a day that I like. Discovering those most unknown stories that fit into one and that I would recommend to anyone doing a tour or route from Guadalajara for a day that takes them to Mezcala, Mezcala Island, Ajijic and Chapala, with all the options discussed ... and here I am writing one of those stories that come out as someone who plays a piano, at 2 in the morning (the morning day includes 3 hours of bus to San Miguel de Allende that I will use to sleep)

"Jalisco is Mexico. When travelers think of Mexico, they think of mariachi, charrería, tequila, pretty women, beach. Do you want to know the real Mexico? Flee adulterated products. Jalisco has a beach, it has archeological zones, it has mountains (and snow), it has colonial places, cabins, farms, also gastronomy and it has the most authentic icons of a country to know "Joel Dixit !See you soon? Jalisco!


Isaac, from Guadalajara (Mexico)

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