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SAN JUAN COSALA

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"OF MANY WARM SPRINGS"



In 1523, Spanish Conquistador Captain Alonso de Avalos arrived in Cutzalan. Chief Xitomatl, who now controlled the area from Ajijic to San Luis, surrendered peacefully, and was baptized by Fray Martin de Jesus. He was given the new name of Juan Bautista de Cosala. Saint John then became the patron saint of the village, which was henceforth known as San Juan Cosala.

 

PEOPLE

 

Numerous pre-conquest villages lined the shores of Lake Chapala. They were founded by groups of Nahua Indians who roamed near the clear lake waters, tilling the fertile shores and basking in the warm sunshine. They roved the Lake's northern shores until they came to Cutzalan ("of the many warm springs"). 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 Iztlacateotl. 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.

It is also said that the Indians made offerings to Machis, the goddess of water, of clay objects spotted with blood from the offerer's earlobes, in hopes of the gift of immortality. These objects are still today being fished out of the Lake by bathers.

The settlement grew so large that the chief sent out groups to colonize the areas where Jocotepec and Ajijic now stand. When Chief Chapalac and his dissident followers appeared in Cutzalan, Xitomatl sent them along the lakeshore to the east to establish Chapala.

HISTORY

In 1523, Spanish Conquistador Captain Alonso de Avalos arrived in Cutzalan. Chief Xitomatl, who now controlled the area from Ajijic to San Luis, surrendered peacefully, and was baptized by Fray Martin de Jesus. He was given the new name of Juan Bautista de Cosala. Saint John then became the patron saint of the village, which was henceforth known as San Juan Cosala.

FLORA

Vegetation may seem scarce in this village, although there are palms and other trees surrounding the plaza. But if you head up the mountain to the Raquet Club, this changes, and flowers and vines can be seen cascading over house walls, adorning the streets.
Down near the Lake you'll find familiar bushy shrubs, trees, and fields planted with corn. Other fields are planted with chayote, a vegetable very popular with farmers in this area.

In private gardens, fruit trees such as mango, avocado, orange, plum, lemon and chile are common. Some villagers grow bananas. There are many huamuchil trees that bear fruit once a year and give the village a pleasant fragrance. Tabachines, chirimolla and palms are also common here.

FAUNA

As in every corner of the earth, fauna here has been affected by human interference. San Juan Cosala used to have a lot of deer and other animals, but today, to see wildlife, you must hike up the mountain to the cascades, said to be the largest and most beautiful. There you may glimpse many animal species - porcupine, rabbit, squirrel, hundreds of birds of all shapes and colors, butterflies, other insects. The further you go into the mountains, the more you hear the sounds of birdsong, insects, falling water, animal calls - a wonderful interaction with Mother Earth.

In the Lake, some fish are still to be caught. Charales, carp and bagre, the most common, are fished by villagers for food and to sell. 

Farm animals - horses, donkeys, cows, hens, chickens and pigs - are part of everyday lives at work time. Most houses have dogs and cats, and there are some street dogs as well.

LOCATION

San Juan Cosala is located between Ajijic and Jocotepec. San Juan's Raquet Club is located toward the mountain, and is known for its fine tennis facilities. There is also a swimming pool, ample picnic space, a restaurant, and restrooms. 

Visitors flock to Lakeside's most popular spa, Baleanario San Juan, with its several thermal pools and its natural geyser. To avoid weekend and holiday crowds, it is best to visit during the week. The place is just off the carretera, well-marked, easy to find, a good spot to relax. Massages can be booked, and there is a restaurant on the premises.

POPULATION

San Juan Cosala's population is about 3,000 today. It is a town that seems to be left behind in time. Everything moves slowly. Village houses are still poorly built. Customs and beliefs are those of hundreds of years ago. Villagers are extremely religious. 

But this is only one part of the town, which is divided by the carretera. Most villagers live towards the Lake. Most expats and Guadalajara people live in the area from the highway up to the mountains, in the Raquet Club, a fine subdivision of large houses, with expansive views of the Lake.

COMMUNICATION

San Juan Cosala has a good transportation system, since the Chapala-Jocotepec bus passes every half hour through the village on the carretera. (It takes 20 minutes to bus to Jocotepec, the same to Chapala.) There is also a local San Juan-Jocotepec local bus.

This is a village that has been slow to modernize. Although there is a post and telegraph office, most village houses still do not have a private phone, and there are only a few public ones. Up on the mountain, where most foreigners live, houses have private phones, but there are still problems connecting to Internet service.

Television and radio are not a problem, unless you live very high on the mountain where reception is poor.

FESTIVITIES

During Holy Week, preceding Easter, there is a live representation of Christ's crucifixion. 

On June 24, San Juan Cosala celebrates its Fiesta Patronal, honoring Saint John the Baptist with fireworks, castillo, games, music, dance, typical Mexican food and drink.

December 12 is the Day of the Virgin of Guadalupe. There are fireworks, music, food and events at the church.

December 17-24 is Posada, a live representation of the Virgin Mary's search for accommodation in the days before the birth of Jesus Christ. Christmas carols, piñatas, games and food are part of this observation.