SANTA CRUZ DE LA SOLEDAD
Santa Cruz de la Soledad is a small town in the municipality of Chapala located within the limits of Lake Chapala in the state of Jalisco, at an approximate altitude of 1,540 m above sea level, and with a population of 1,723 inhabitants (1995 census).
The name Santa Cruz was given by the Franciscans who were in contact with the natives living on the lakeside. It was a Catholic custom to assign the name of a saint or Christian symbol to the small villages around the municipality in order to gain control over the parishioners. The name Santa Cruz translates to Holy Cross.
By the year 1548, when the church and convent in Chapala were built, the spiritually conquered population of Santa Cruz was fully identified with this name since it was to become a district of said convent along with two other villages: Ixtlahuacán de los Membrillos, and San Juan Tecomatlán.
The suffix “de la Soledad” comes from the cult and veneration to La Dolorosa (Our Lady of Sorrows) who regained a huge presence at the beginning of the 20th century. By 1823, when the Sovereign Government of Jalisco was initiated, the name finally appeared in the official nomenclature as Santa Cruz de la Soledad, Jal.
Not until less than a century ago the ethnic population of this town was still mostly indigenous. This was concluded after reviewing some evidentiary documents, such as various censuses done in the 17th and 18th centuries. In the census done by priest Antonio Manuel Velazquez titled: “Census prepared by Dr. Diego Rodríguez Rivas of the Kingdom of Velazco and His Excellency Bishop of Guadalajara of the Kingdom of Galicia de Leon”, the following text appears: Lineage of the natives of the town of Santa Cruz, in state, quality and age in which they are found in the month of November of 1766; on this date lived 41 families, not counting widows, widowers and orphans.
On the other hand, in “Description and Census of the Intendance of New Spain” (1789-1793) by historian José Mendez Valdéz, reads as follows: Santa Cruz indigenous village, with four Spaniards, 305 natives, and 30 castes.
Scientific studies have confirmed that Chapala lakeside’s indigenous settlements belonged to a family of Cocas, an ethnic group specific to this area. For Jose Ramírez Flores, an eminent scholar of the indigenous languages of the region, the term “Cocas” is of Mexican descent, meaning inhabitants or dwellers where pots are abundant. The word stems from Comitl = pot, plus Can = abundance of something, where together they form “Cocan” = where the pots abound, and that in the plural form it becomes “Cocas”.
The fertile lands and marshes of these lacustrine valleys were great for agriculture and gathering. There were many animals for hunting, and rivers and lakes attracted a great variety of birds, fish and other aquatic fauna. In addition to the benefits they had from natural resources, the human-water relationship was very important, for religion was intimately bound with nature in rituals of purification, fertility, and abundance.
Flora and Fauna
The huamuchil and mesquite trees as well as the huizache were abundant in this area, whereas among its fauna there could be found armadillos, coral snakes, deer and opossums. The commercial trade of the latter was prohibited by law, as the opossum is the only Mexican marsupial.
The most popular natural places to visit near the community of Santa Cruz de la Soledad are: a small dam located north of town on the road Santa Cruz de la Soledad – Ixtlahuacan known as “la presa” (the dam); another small dam located north-west known as “la presa del cántaro” (the dam of the clay jug); a small stream formed by runoff water where the slopes of two hills join together forming a wedge known by locals as “el chorro” (the stream); Lake Chapala, and the mountains surrounding the village.
Festivities and traditions
There are nine days of festivities knows as the “fiestas patronales” (patronal festival), starting on April 25th and ending on May 3rd. On the last day, the celebration is in honor of the Holy Cross (Santa Cruz). This is a festival so awaited by the inhabitants of this village because of the fact that many families are reunited with their relatives residing in the United States particularly.
Various religious guilds are in charge of organizing this festival and to raise funds they go knocking on the villager’s homes requesting contributions for the expenses. The expenses are also covered by the contributions from “los hijos ausentes” (grown children living abroad), the merchants’ guild, the village’s youth, and some of the town’s most distinguished families, usually each taking on one of the nine days. Their role is to take care of the expenses for the festivity according to the day taken.
Each morning at dawn, gunpowder rockets are detonated waking people up. At night during the novena, the square is brimming with locals walking around making stops at the various food stands to savor an assortment of Mexican goodies, a brass band fills the square with lively music, and kids line up for the mechanical rides.
The traditional “torito”, a small light-weight cane structure roughly in the shape of a bull with lit fireworks attached to it and carried by someone while chasing people around the square, is a sight not to be missed during these nights. The “castillo”, also quite traditional, is a stationary tower structure with fireworks and is burned late at night, usually as the finale for that day’s fiesta. During these dates, “jaripeos” are also organized in the afternoons where one can go listen to brass band music, eat snacks such as huasanas, roasted peanuts, and fries, and drink alcoholic beverages like tequila or beer during the event.
Day of San Isidro Labrador
This tradition is practiced every May 15th in honor of San Isidro Labrador (Patron saint Isidore the farmer), and its origin is due to the 1970 inauguration of the dam. It was a joyful celebration with music, gunpowder rockets, mass, and followed with a feast offered by the people for the rulers who attended the site, which was symbolically delivered to the people. Without doubt, the blessing of the Presbyter Luis Flores had important religious connotation because its blessing augured abundant crops for the town’s peasants.
In their effort to keep alive the custom of attending the dam each year, the Alvarez Hernández family and, in particular Don Miguel, committed their effort to consolidate such excursion with full ecological intent in order to take care of the hydraulic resource and expect great harvests.
The essence of this custom is to gather on the banks of the dam, carry out a religious ceremony, and then feast and be convivial with everyone in the village.
16 de Septiembre
On September 16th, Mexican Independence Day, it is tradition to carry out a series of games at the kiosk, among which are: The greasy pole, where kids try to climb the said greasy pole and get to the top where there are many prizes hanging, laughter is heard all around while watching the kids constantly slide down and use other kids to push themselves up in an effort to get to the top; The game of the blacken comal, where coins are glued to a comal using soot although nowadays flour is used instead, the purpose of the game is to unstick the coins with their teeth usually leaving their faces blackened with soot or, nowadays, white with flour ; And the papaque, which consists in throwing flour and eggs at each other in representation of the commemorated battle of this day and takes place at the end of the games first mentioned.
Holy Week and Easter
During these two weeks it is tradition to spend the day fishing on the shores of Lake Chapala with friends and family, then proceed to cook the catch of the day and have a feast.
PHOTOS OF SANTA CRUZ DE LA SOLEDAD