|Downtown Tlaltenango courtyard and former market area built in era of Porfirio Diaz|
I went to the North of Jalisco a few weeks ago to work out details of my long-term estancia (from December 20 through March) and get a start on research. I stayed at the Hotel de la Plaza in Tlaltenango for three nights, not wanting to impose on anyone in Atolinga/AZ. The hotel had reliable internet access, amiable receptionists (who told me about their studies at the UDG satellite campus in Colotlán, about 30 mins from Tlaltenango, called Centro Universitario-Norte. I wanted to visit the campus (but didn’t have time this trip), and would like to audit a sociology or anthropology class in the spring. Colotlán was an important economic and political center during the colonial era, located at the northern frontier of the Chichimeca lands (the enemies of the Aztecs, “Chichimec” was a pejorative term used by ethnic groups of the south like the Aztecs to describe the nomadic ethnic groups of the north) and governed by the Audencia de Nueva Galicia. I’ve also recently learned that the comunidad de Tulimic de Guadalupe in the municipio of Colotlán holds its annual fiesta patronal starting December 19, which will be fun to attend when I move up there.
The first full day in Tlaltenango, Tuesday, I went to the Presidencia Municipal (sorta like town hall) to see about tours. In the desarrollo económico section, they called Ivonne, a tour guide who told me she’d be giving a tour to some prepa students later that morning. She took me to the Communications office and sat me down in front of a computer owned by the Director de comunicación social, José Alonso Serrano Campos. He’s in charge of the website there and holds a public chat for people’s questions about the city. He had prepared the DVD about the city with his colleagues and was kind enough to let me sit at his desk and watch it for 30 minutes while people randomly walked in and out of the office. I had the sensation that this office was a central place where things happened. I was glad to be at the center of things, overhearing people’s business as if we were in a press room or something. They also seemed to have a slightly rebellious angle on events (like in a newsroom in the US). We talked for a bit about the newspaper here, called La Voz del Norte, which he runs. When I asked him what area the paper covered, he said the whole north region + the city of Tequila (which is only an hour from Guadalajara). I commented on what a vast region that was, and he said, yes, but that the government bases its coverage on population size, and that, according to them, the small population size didn’t merit a few newspapers. I met different members of his staff as well as Jaime Alejandro Márquez Salinas, a late 60s, PE teacher in the public school who invited me to visit his home to see his fabulous collection of historic photos about the city. Jaime wore a whistle around his neck and looked generally jocky with a baseball cap with California written across it. This kind of sports wear is not uncommon in this area of high migration to California and Illinois.
|Map of colonial Mexico - if you look hard enough, you can see Nueva Galicia (today's Jalisco)|
Later that night, on my way to the Unicorn Restaurant down the block from my hotel, I met another older gentleman who had worked for years in California and retired in Tlaltenango. His son was visiting him for a month or so, and he introduced me. That same night I fell into a conversation between a Tienda naturista (health food store) owner and a client. The client was complaining that when she went to visit her daughter's family in California, they always told her to take off her shoes when she entered the house to keep the carpet clean. That necessity seemed quite absurd to her, she keep repeating the story over and over again. I asked her some questions too - she seemed pretty happy to remain here in Mexico, where there were clean wood floors you could sweep (I agreed with her that the act of vacuuming sometimes seemed endless and futile. How do you know there aren't germs festering below? At least with a broom, you see what is there). I bought some cranberries and an oatmeal cookie and went on my way.
|Ivonne gets a phone call while touring with UAZ students|
Ivonne, the tour guide, is quite an entrepreneur. She had moved here from Monterrey a long time ago with her husband, and, when she divorced, began her own company. She was very excited to give me a tour and was not afraid to overwhelm me (or the students from the UAZ Prepa, a private preparatory school affiliated with the Universidad Autónoma de Zacatecas!) with lots of information. We visited the Presidencia, the church on the square where Cristeros were thrown off the bell tower in the 1930s, a home for the elderly (this seems pretty rare in Mexico – people there were impoverished and so glad to receive the prepa students, hugging them over and over again) and some of the poorer comunidades and ranchos surrounding Tlaltenango. I enjoyed meeting the students, and later saw them board the combi for Atolinga. A significant group of students commute twenty minutes from Atolinga to Tlaltenango each day to go to the private school. Another day I met them when I was going to Atolinga and chatted more with two girls and one boy. They said they're learning English school but would like to speak it better. I thought perhaps I could offer them English practice while I'm there.
|Tlaltenango church belltower|
|Altar made of pink limestone or cantera (characteristic of the North of Jalisco) in Tlaltenango|
Tlaltenango was founded in the 1430s, before the arrival of the Spanish. One of the churches in San Antonio, over 400 years old, was very traditional and closed to outsiders. Of all the interesting places Ivonne discussed but we didn't visit, I'd like to see other locations in the area on a future trip, like La Sierra de los morones, a mountaineous area called el Campanario and Teúl, the sacred homeland of the Cazcan people, the original inhabitants of the region. I’d like to learn more about the colonial era. Ivonne told us that in 1531 from the mountains near Teúl, the Caxcan inhabitants of Tlaltenango and the surrounding area fought the Spanish, who were trying to build a town near what is now called Nochistlán. The Spanish lost this battle and attempted three more times before the town was finally built in 1542.
In 1541 the Caxcanes led a famous battle with their Tepehuan, Zacatec and Guachichil allies, against the Spanish in the Sierra del Mixtón (today known as the Sierra de Morones). The Mixtón War lasted two years but in 1550 another war took place called the Chichimeca War between Chichimec ethnic groups. This war lasted almost forty years. The Caxcan towns of the area around Tlaltenango suffered attacks from the north launched by their former allies, the Zacatecs because they had submitted to the Spanish Crown. Ivonne told us these stories but I supplemented my knowledge by reading a few articles (chapters from books about the area as well as online articles). Here’s one example of an article: http://latinola.com/story.php?story=6618
|Pre-Hispanic ethnic composition in Northern Jalisco/Southern Zacatecas|
I also learned about the Feria de Tlaltenango during the last week of December. There will be special holiday activities, dances, beauty pageants, live music and other events. I’ll definitely attend, and will try to interview some of the organizers about it. Similar to the Feria de Atolinga in August, there are a lot of migrants who return home for this fiesta. I've discovered an interesting blog combining current events, politics, culture and economic commentaries about this place: www.mytlaltenango.com. More to come on my stay in Atolinga (see part II, to come)