The state of Colima never stops to amaze me, and I still do not understand why alternative tourism is no yet an important activity in the region. In the previous issue of the magazine ¡Vamos! I described the route we took to the community of Canoas, located in the northern part of the Municipality of Manzanillo, mountainous area, abundant vegetation and tropical climate of height, very pleasant indeed. On this occasion it is the turn of the municipality of Ixtlahuacán, little known even by many of the inhabitants of the state, but a place that have incredible landscapes and traditions.
Our trip started as always, very early in the morning at the School of Tourism and Gastronomy, since those who organized this tour were my students of 6th Semester of the Degree in Tourism Management from the University of Colima. We were greeted by Tania and Salma, who would be our guides during the trip. The van in which we were traveling went to Tecomán, where we surrounded the city to take the road to Chanchopa and to the San Gabriel Caves. As soon as we took this narrow road we began to observe the important cropping area on both sides of the road. It’s nice to see the field when it’s taken care of and being profitable. We crossed fields of lemon, melon, banana, mango, pineapple, etc. Our guides emphasized the importance of this activity in the area, as well as explaining some details of the way farmers are organized here. Shortly after entering this road, the lagoon of Amela began to appear before our eyes. It is a rather narrow lagoon, but approximately 8 kilometers long and makes the landscape even more beautiful. This region has a dry tropical climate, which changes its appearance radically between seasons. The rainy one is very abundant in vegetation and green all around, a pleasure for the eyes. In dry season, the hills turn gray because they are covered by low deciduous forest, but the contrast with the cultivated green valley gives it a very attractive appearance.
We finally reached the San Gabriel Caves, located on the top of a hill. The place has, to receive the tourist, a roofed picnic area, toilets and metal stairs to descend to the grotto. Perhaps what surprised me the most was the root of a fig tree that grows on the edge of the hole where the stairs descend, and that can be followed from the upper entrance, to the interior of the cave itself, almost 40 meters below the surface. It never occurs to us to think how the roots of the trees extend below us, so deep and intertwine, communicating in some way like long fingers that touch each other. The caves are not very large, but they do have stalactite formations that, when lit, increase their beauty.
The second part of our trip was more of a cultural nature, because we could learn some of the traditions and typical products of Ixtlahuacán. We arrived at this village and visited one of the houses where the “acapán” ( Abutilón Trisulcatum) hammocks are made. This plant, has a soft fiber that is extracted, twisted into thick strands and with which the hammocks are woven. It is one of the handicrafts of this place and they continue to be manufactured both for self-consumption and for sale.
Our next stop was to know perhaps one of the most typical traditions of this place: the Chayacates. A family is responsible for preserving this tradition and as they explained, they make the custom, which consists of a simple sack with a belt, a mask, which represents a white face with a braided ixtle wig and, in their hand, they carry a stuffed opossum. On the day of the party on January 6, the Chayacates go in search of the Baby Jesus to abduct him and protect him from King Herod. They walk through the streets of the town making a lot of noise and the people joins in their journey. This is a tradition that has prevailed for hundreds of years.
Next, we visited Don Jesús and his wife Eloísa, who were already waiting for us in their home garden to give us a demonstration of how to prepare one of the most typical drinks in the state, the “bate”. This elderly couple has fame in town to prepare the best “bate”. To do this, Mrs. Eloísa toast in the clay comal the seeds of “chan”, similar to those of chia, but a little larger. Once roasted, she ground them in the metate (volcanic stone grind) and passed them to her husband, who put in a glass of water a spoonful of chan powder and then he began to beat and beat the drink. After a few minutes, the drink became viscous and a little gelatinous. He added a little piloncillo (sugar cane paste) and gave us to taste. To me, although the flavor was pleasant, its consistency a bit strange, did not quite convince me. However, the kindness with which they treated us and learning how to prepare a drink as traditional as this one, was very nice.
Our tour ended at the bank of the Coahuayana River, under the leafy trees, enjoying a meal that the organizing team had prepared for us and dipping ourselves in its warm waters. As always, it was an unforgettable and very enriching experience.
The author holds a degree in Geography from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. She is currently a professor at the University of Colima at the School of Tourism and Gastronomy teaching the chairs of World Tourist Heritage, Tourist Heritage of Mexico, Sustainability in Tourism and Alternative Tourism Projects.