The crossing from the dock to the island's entrance dock is so fast that it makes a mockery of the road trip we had faced to get there.
From San Blas to the north, newly built highways followed one another.
To them, a labyrinthine route, through increasingly narrow roads and lanes, between people lost in the parched plains of Nayarit State.
The last stretch on asphalt, with more than 10 km, is already covered by the stray waters of the Laguna Grande de Mexcaltitán, a lagoon on the edge of the Pacific, immense, although not as much as others to the north.
In this paved preamble, on both sides, endless mangrove hedges, high and dense, guard it. Spaces, streams, large puddles and other less defined bodies of water break the mangrove dictatorship.
Some of these gaps reveal groups and families of fishermen, equipped with lines and nets, entertained by the fish that abounds there.
Without warning, the endless straight gives itself. Towards the back of the Embarcadero de Tuxpan, an earthy shore that serves as both a port and a car park.
The usher on duty shows us where the boats depart from. We approached the pier convinced that we would wait for the next exit.
The boatman is quick to explain that the procedures were different: “No friends, this is more passenger arrives, passengers leave. The island is already there.”
Mexcaltitan in sight. Anyway.
We boarded the covered vessel. In a few minutes, we crossed paths with two almost identical boats. Moments later, we arrived at the pier closest to the island of Mexcaltitán.
It is decorated by a mural in panoramic format, with the center in the shadow of a roof shelter that protects the design of an ancestral medallion.
On the far left, an indigenous man in a loincloth maneuvers a canoe, as a gondolier.
On the contrary, what appears to us is a king, or emperor, encased in a plumed helm stands out. We were yet to disembark. The island and its islets were already trying to convince us of their historic magnitude.
We went from the boat to the pier. Two residents carry mattresses about to be moved to other locations.
Another one struggles with the area's unstable telephone network, in an emotional call that, as happens with homesickness, comes and goes.
We advanced to the heart of the island. A few dozen steps and we enter Plaza Central.
We thus prove the almost radial smallness of Mexcaltitán, which has a perimeter of about 400 meters, 350 m from north to south, XNUMX m from east to west.
The Catholic Pilgrims of Mexcaltitán
On a Sunday afternoon, the village welcomes a good number of foreigners.
A part are tourists.
As we were to learn, many more were Christians, gathered there for the Mass of a Colombian priest who had won the esteem and sympathy of a growing community of believers.
So many that could not fit in the church of San Pedro y San Pablo, the oldest and smallest Catholic church on the island, which we found frequented by a family committed to their prayers, but not as much as they would have liked.
A strange murmur resounds from the back of the altar. It comes from the opposite end of the square, on the other side of the bandstand and the palm tree that keeps it company, a buriti, it seems to us.
During the morning, the various Christian delegations disembarked on the island had gathered in the most open building of the Museo del Origen.
From inside, emanated the prophetic words of the idolized Colombian priest, Carlos Cancelado, and the cries and groans of moved faithful, in a state of absolute ecstasy.
In the square, other natives gave themselves over to the mundane priority of their subsistence.
Among devotees and tourists, more and more visitors landed on the island.
The islanders with an eye for business were waiting for us at newsstands. souvenirs shop and colorful crafts Huichol, an indigenous ethnicity of the western states of Mexico, including that of Nayarit that we continued to discover.
An Island that Lives for Shrimp
Others exposed an array of snacks and specialties that Mexicans treat as snacks, and the nation's favorite drinks. At micheladas and the cheladas, the special ones from Mexcaltitán, with shrimp flavor.
The reddish arthropod is, after all, the island's main product and main source of income. Fishermen catch it, especially between May and August and from three in the morning until morning.
We see the seafood and its work drying in the tropical sun, on green plastic sheets.
Local restaurants serve it fresh and plentiful in glorious ceviches and other must-try dishes, barbon shrimp meatballs and tlaxtihuil, a traditional broth that results from cooking corn with shrimp.
The home store “Angelica” advertises that it sells gelatin, but most notably, shrimp tamales.
One of the restaurants in Plaza Central, humble, popular like no other and where we ended up having lunch, is actually called “El Camaron”.
The Rains That Make Mexcaltitán the Venice of Mexico,
We set out to discover the rest of the island.
A circular street, Venecia, allows us to walk around it, between the ground floor houses painted in an assortment of bright tones, in good Mexican fashion, no longer in the white and red that color much of Plaza Central.
In the middle of the dry season in western Mexico, the waters of the lagoon are low. They go down from day to day.
As Señor Cuauhtémoc, the village's expert in repairing fans, explains, bare-chested, in May the heat and humidity become unbearable.
As soon as the sun rises over the horizon, people are barely able to leave their homes.
That's when they most request their services, almost always urgently.
From June to November, constant and heavy rains inflate the lagoon without appeal. Instead of walking through the village, the approximately eight hundred residents travel by boat.
A calle Venecia, such as the nickname of Mexcaltitán's Mexican Venice, illustrate the island's amphibious and even more eccentric era.
In the pre-season we are going through, the flow off the southeastern tip of Mexcaltitán and its pier reveals a spit of sand.
It has become the favorite resting place for dozens of American white pelicans and a few other birds that they tolerate, overfly and tormented by opportunistic frigates.
While the feathers dry, the birds inhabiting the ephemeral islet keep an eye on the fish.
On those who swim there and on those that fishermen unload when they return to the muddy anchorage below the street Miguel Hidalgo.
This was the street chosen to honor the father of Mexico's independence.
The Eventually Real Myth of Aztlan of the Aztecs
In the image of thousands of other streets and avenues from the four corners of the nation.
According to several historians, the role of Mexcaltitán in the formation of Mexicanity was much earlier. And, in historical terms, just as, if not more, crucial.
The term Aztec, later with a synonym in Mexica (from Valley of Mexico), defines the town that left Aztlán, its an ancestral land. Aztlán would be a lush island situated in a large lake, full of birds and animals where the indigenous fished and hunted from canoes, among floating gardens of cornfields and complementary plantations.
A section of historians argues that, despite its mention in ancient Aztec writings and the belief that the now secular Chicano Movement places in it, Aztlán never went beyond a mythological place.
Some, especially the politician and archaeologist Alfredo Chavero (1841-1906) and Wigberto Jimenéz Moreno, claimed to be apologists for its real existence.
Those who contest them emphasize that the fact that it spread from 1970 onwards makes their theory more suspect.
In the decade when Mexicans and Americans “discovered” the wonders of the state of Nayarit and its authorities began to make an effort to promote it.
Be that as it may, Chavero, Moreno and supporters of their postulations assert that, based on these same writings and on others by the Spanish conquerors and chroniclers, Mexcaltitán would have been the island that the Aztecs left in 1091.
That from there they left for a pilgrimage towards the south, in search of stops pointed out by the divinities, where they should settle and found their own nation.
Mexcaltitán, and the Departure Point Thesis for Tenochtitlán
It is known today, without great doubt, that the place where the Aztecs arrived was Tenochtitlán, an island located in Lake Texcoco, in the heart of the Valley of Mexico.
The writings narrated that Tenochtitlán was revealed to the Aztecs by Huitzilopochtli, god of the Sun, through the vision of a perched eagle that devoured a snake on a cactus. This animal scene appears, even today, centered on the red, green and white national flag of Mexico.
The Aztecs turned Tenochtitlán into a powerful city-state, capital of a great empire that they expanded southwards, until they came face to face with the rival empire of the Aztecs. Mayas and until, in 1521, Hernán Cortéz and the conquerors under his command, supported by thousands of rival natives, defeated them.
At the time of our incursion to Mexcaltitán, we did not detect any other foreigners on the island.
All the visitors, including the hundreds we saw leaving Father Cancelado's mass, sailing to a secondary island and heading to the Embarcadero La Batanga, were Mexicans from Nayarit, from other states and places.
The doubt that remains and that, of course, will remain forever is whether or not Mexcaltitán is the land of origin of their ancestors.