IXTLAHUACAN DE LOS MEMBRILLOS
In 1522, the Spanish Olid Expedition reached the eastern shores of what is today called Lake Chapala. When it arrived, its leader, Captain Avalos, met with little resistance. A royal grant from the king of Spain gave joint ownership of the area to Avalos, who was a cousin of Hernan Cortez. Franciscan fathers then proceded with conversion of the natives. Old Indian temples were destroyed and Catholic church foundations laid in their ruins.
Numerous pre-conquest villages were founded by groups of Nahua Indians who roamed near the clear lake waters, tilling the fertile shores and basking in the warm sunshine. Here they built their black mud huts near the waters. By day, they wandered naked over the countryside, and at night they sat outside their huts around the fires.
Governed by Chief Xitomatl, the Indians thrived in their new home. They built a temple to their god Tlaltecuhtli, ‘Earth Lord/Lady,’ was a Mesoamerican earth goddess associated with fertility. Envisioned as a terrible toad monster, her dismembered body gave rise to the world in the Aztec creation myth of the 5th and final cosmos. As a source of life, it was thought necessary to constantly appease her with blood sacrifices, especially human hearts. They warred with neighboring tribes. When they were the victors, they sacrificed enemy captives, cut out their hearts and offered them to their god, cooked blood in earthen pots and threw the remains into the Lake. Skeletons found by fishermen in succeeding eras bear out these stories.
There are several interpretations of the meaning of Ixtlahuacan. However, is it widely believed to be the compound of two words from around 1500 A.D.: “ixtla” from Ixtlacateotl, the prevailing deity of the time, and “huacan” from Chimalhuacan, which was the name of the region. A membrillo (or quince in English) is a fruit that looks like a yellow cross between a pear and an apple. At one time Ixtlahuacan had several membrillo orchards yielding thousands of membrillos. Hence the name of the town, Ixtlahuacan de los Membrillos, means Ixtlahuacan of the Quince Fruit.
In 1522, the Spanish Olid Expedition reached the eastern shores of what is today called Lake Chapala. When it arrived, its leader, Captain Avalos, met with little resistance. A royal grant from the king of Spain gave joint ownership of the area to Avalos, who was a cousin of Hernan Cortez. Franciscan fathers then proceded with conversion of the natives. Old Indian temples were destroyed and Catholic Church foundations laid in their ruins.
The municipality of Ixtlahuacan has a large variety of trees and plants, mostly located inside garden walls.
The flora is represented by pine, oak, oyamel, eucalyptus, Indian laurel, galeana, pinabete, willow, sabino, ozote, mesquite, guamúchil, guaje, fresno, walnut, guayabo, tepehuaje, mango, lemon, orange, copal, white sapote, tabachín, jacaranda, camichín, zalate, ahuilote, plum, pirul, nopal, other species and of course quince fruit trees, where its name “de los Membrillos” (of the Quince Fruit) comes from.
In the mountains near Ixtlahuacan are still to be found many of the animal species that have disappeared elsewhere – deer, wolf, fox, wild boar, porcupine, skunk, badger and some reptiles.
Domestic animals, horses and donkeys, are used for bearing burdens, for field work and for transportation. Cows, pigs and chickens are raised for food and for income. Here, as in most of Mexico, are many dogs and cats but with the growing sterilization programs run by volunteers offered to the communities in the area free of charge, the homeless population of cats and dogs is slowly shrinking.
Ixtlahuacan de los Membrillos is located in the center of the state of Jalisco, near Lake Chapala. The town is about 20 miles from the state capital, Guadalajara, and a short 30 minute drive from the international airport located there.
Ixtlahuacan de los Membrillos, with over 25,000 inhabitants in 2005.
Those seeking authentic Mexican culture will find it in Ixtlahuacan. The Sunday evening paseo at the plaza, where young ladies walk clockwise and young men walk in the opposite direction, is still a lively social event. And visitors come from afar to consult the curanderos – experts in the use of herbs.
The climate is classified as semi-dry with dry winter and spring, and semi-warm with no defined winter season. The annual average temperature is 19.8° C., and has an average annual rainfall of 797.9 mm with rainfall in June, July and August. The dominant winds are east and west. The average number of frost days per year is 8.2. Because the town is located on the foothills on the north side of the mountain range it receives more rains during the summer months of the year, it is a tad cooler than on the other side where Chapala and Ajijic are located.
The four-lane Chapala-Guadalajara highway connects with highways to La Barca, Guanajuato and Michoacan. It also takes you to the Miguel Hidalgo Guadalajara Airport (25 minutes away) which has national and international flights.
From Chapala’s central bus station, buses run to and from Guadalajara every half hour. For other destinations, travelers must first go to the Guadalajara bus station, and board another bus.
You can catch a local bus to Jocotepec or any town along the way.
Ixtlahuacan has post office, offering all the services of any big city. Telephone service is very good. Almost every house has a private phone. Internet and cellular services are available.
Taxis are stationed at the main plaza, and will travel as far as Guadalajara or farther, by special arrangement. Uber services are beginning to arrive there.
All TV signals from Guadalajara and Mexico City can be seen in Ixtlahuacan, and all radio stations heard. There are no TV or radio stations in Lakeside. Cable and satellite TV are available.
Artisans sell their work at Ixtlahuacan’s Sunday tianguis (open air market). Carved bone and wood, embroidery, typical Mexican dresses and ceramics are the principal products. Prehispanic reproductions are also made locally and sold here. Also Prehispanic relics can be found buried all over the area. Craftsmen can be commissioned to make furniture of wood, forged iron, and rattan. Those of you who have been to the Lake Chapala area have undoubtedly noticed the string of ten or twelve booths along the east side of the highway near the entrance to Ixtlahuacán. The vendors sell honey, traditional candies, and other regional specialties in addition to the famous ates, ponche (punch), and conservas (fruits in syrup) made from membrillo.
One can also find along the highway pulque and aguamiel which is becoming more and more popular. The aguamiel is the sap of the Mexican maguey plant which is believed to have therapeutic qualities. Pulque is an alcoholic beverage made from the fermented sap of the maguey plant. It is traditional to central Mexico, where it has been produced for millennia. It has the color of milk, somewhat viscous consistency and a sour yeast-like taste. Customers come all the way from Guadalajara to buy it.
Mariachi musicians Groups travel widely to play at parties, and they are hired for most of the fiestas patronales (celebrations for patron saints) in various towns.
The one that narrates the foundation of Ixtlahuacán by divine will says that the chief heard the words of his god telling him to wait for a dark night and take himself up the hill, then turn towards the east. He would see a very bright light, which was precisely where his town should be founded, and if he disobeyed they would be in danger of perishing. The chief ordered the evacuation of the site near the spring called Ojo de Agua. It is believed that the light they saw was the reflection of the brightness of the planet Venus in all its morning splendor.
Other legends include “El Tecuan”, “La Capillita del Sagrado Corazón”, “La Piedra del Niño Tendido”, “La Llorona”, “El Carretón de la Muerte” and “Santo Santiago hired the Chapetilla”.
Many fiestas are celebrated by the people of Mexico.
Perhaps the most important event of the year, Ixtlahuacan’s Fiesta Patronal, July 16-July 25, honors Saint Apostle Santo Santiago with nine days of fireworks, games, castillo (bamboo tower for pyrotechnic display), dance, music, typical Mexican food, and drink. The main plaza is packed with people each night, promenading in the paseo, eating, drinking, listening to the mariachis, and waiting for the midnight fireworks.
For Day of the Dead (November 1st and 2nd) it has become a new tradition to celebrate this holiday with many activities and competitions such as poems specific to the dead which are usually humorous, altars which can be very intricate and spectacular. There is also the personification of the famous Catrina, and a contest of the best traditional corona which are funeral wreaths but of course with that Mexican colorful touch. November 1st is day of the “Little Angels” meaning day of the children and babies who have passed. The 2nd is the main celebration where people gather in the decorated graveyard sharing meals, drinks, music and memories with their dead loved ones.
In the month of March the “Fires of the Friday of Dolores” are realized.
On July 11, the pilgrimage to La Cañada takes place, and on July 16 the pilgrimage from Buenavista to Ixtlahuacán.
In the month of December, pastors and the thanksgiving ceremony are held.