“Hill of Guavas” “Hill of Acid Fruits” – Nahua
Perhaps as early as 100 BC, nomadic bands of Indians passed through the Lake Chapala Valley. Some moved on, others settled on the shore. Jocotepec, once Xuxutepeque, a small fishing village at the western end of the Lake, became a permanent home for the Nahua Indians in 1361. They built a temple to their god, Iztlacateotl, and practiced human sacrifice. The village became a trading and ceremonial site for the surrounding mountain area.
“Bands of roving Indians drifted into the Lake Chapala Valley as early as 1,000 B.C. Some moved on south, but others settled along the Lake shores in small scattered settlements. Xuxutepeque, colonized by the Nahuas, became a small fishing village on the shores of the western end of Lake Chapala. The lands they settled on had been home for wandering bands for thousands of years. Remnants were found of these early settlements, which had been moved up and down the mountain-side. These moves were dictated by the rise and fall of Lake Chapala waters--always changing with ever-varying climatic conditions.
In Xuxutepeque, the campfires were lit at dusk. Then, the women would break into small groups. . .preparing a corn masa for tortillas. . .steeping it to loosen the skin. . .and then rubbing it fine on stones. Soon the flat rocks atop the campfires were covered with tortillas. When the men returned from foraging, fish and game were added and the smell of wood smoke and food mingles in the air of the dark night. Squatting around fires, the men helped themselves to the food with their fingers, and then washed it down with huge gulps of octli (a fermented cactus derivative).
The women sat apart, eating and talking in whispers. In a short while, fires were put out, guards posted, and black night moved over the camp. (this settlement, known as Chantepec, is now a suburb of Jocotepec.) The Nahuas brought their god Iztlacateotl with them. They built a temple where their religious rites of human sacrifice were conducted. Sacrifical blood was placed in small “ollas”, burned, and then thrown into the Lake. In the years that followed, Xuxutepeque became a Nahua trading and ceremonial center for far-flung mountainous areas surrounding the western end of the Lake.” (JUNE NAY SUMMERS, VILLAGES IN THE SUN, PAG.64,65.)
“Xuxutepeque was the name given Jocotepec by its first Nahua settlers. (The last of the nomadic bands to settle in this area were the Purepecha-Tarascans.) It became a permanent home for the Nahuas in 1361. Xuxutepeque later became “Xilotepec”, meaning “Hill of ear of Corn”. Finally, with the arrival of the Spaniards in 1529, the settlement’s name bacame “Jocotepec” and was interpreted as meaning “Hill of Guavas”. (Guavas are a samall bitter-sweet tasting fruit.) The meaning of Jocotepec is thusly derived: Xoco-tepe-K, meaning Xoco (acid); Tepetl (hill); and K (place).” (JUNE NAY SUMMERS, VILLAGES IN THE SUN,PAG.63,64)
In 1520, Captain Alonzo de Avalos was given this area as an encomienda (land grant). Chief Xitomatl, who then governed the area between Chapala and Jocotepec, submitted his territory to Spanish rule without a battle. In 1529, Jocotepec was formally founded, according to a title of property issued by Hernan Cortes, a copy of which can be found today in Jocotepec records.
Franciscan fathers then proceded with conversion of the natives. Old Indian temples were destroyed and Catholic church foundations laid in their ruins. At that time, Jocotepec acquired its two religious protectors – Nuestro Senor del Monte and Nuestro Senor del Guaje.
The municipality of Jocotepec has a large variety of trees and plants, mostly located inside garden walls. The main plaza is surrounded by greenery, making it very inviting.
Vegetation is composed mainly of jacaranda, galeana, hule, pine, roble, cazuarina, mesquite, guamuchil, chaparrale and encino. Fruit trees such as mango, avocado, lime, lemon and orange are also abundant.
In North Jocotepec, acacia, huizache and palo-bobos predominate, while in the south (lake) side, there are a few sauce trees and sabinos. A large farm grows raspberries for export. Fields of corn and chayote are very common in this area.
In the mountains near Jocotepec 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.
In the Lake, several types of fish – charales, carpa, mojarra and tilapia – can be found. Migratory birds abound in wintertime, and garzas (white herons) are common.
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.
Jocotepec is located at the western end of Lake Chapala. Its average annual temperature is 22C (71.6F), with a maximum of 22-23C (73.4-75.2F) in May, and a minimum of 16-17C (60.8-62.6F) in January.
Present day Jocotepec has a population of about 18,000. Between five and seven percent are expats, most of them living in private properties and gated communities. The village has limited hotels and restaurants.
Those seeking authentic Mexican culture will find it in Jocotepec. 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. Small restaurants under the arcades sell plates of birria (goat or mutton stew), too good to miss. And visitors come from afar to consult the curanderos – experts in the use of herbs.
Jocopetec is the meeting place of three main routes: the highways to Tuxcueca, Guadalajara and Chapala. To get to Colima, Tapalpa or Puerto Vallarta, it is best to take the Jocotepec-Guadalajara highway. To get to the airport, you’ll save time going through Chapala.
Buses to Chapala or to Guadalajara can be boarded at either of Jocotepec’s two bus terminals, both near the plaza. First and second class buses go to the same destination, but first class makes limited stops. There is little difference in price.
Jocotepec’s post and telegraph office offers full service. Local and long distance telephone service covers 90 percent of the area, and there are several public telephones. The Internet is available for private connection or public access. TV and radio signals come from Guadalajara, and some Mexico City channels can be seen. Cable TV is well established.
Artesanal products of Jocotepec are mainly wool carpets in typical weaves and many colors, and the traditional serapes of this village. Another important industry is the fabrication of tiles, ready-made or made to the client’s design. Wood and forged iron furniture can also be made to order. A large sweater factory is expected to soon start exporting. Recently, painting and music have been given a boost by local organizations promoting cultural events.
The famous Austrian artist, George Rausch, and his artist wife have a home and studio just outside the village, where they welcome interested visitors.
Jocotepec has two religious protectors: Nuestro Senor del Monte and Nuestro Senor del Guaje. A Fiesta Patronal is held early in January. It lasts two weeks, and honors the first patron, the Lord of the Mountain, with daily masses, dances, cockfights, bullfights, parades and fireworks. Another fiesta, later in the year, honors Nuestro Senor del Guaje, but on a smaller scale.
SERVICES: 2 sport recreation centers 1 bank 2 gas stations