Mexcaltitan: Legacy of the Mexica

Luis René Figueroa


Mexcaltitan in Riviera NayaritMystical, magical and enigmatic, with a geographical area of less than 1 square mile, located north of the ever-growing Riviera Nayarit, and in the middle of the ecological region called Marisma Nacional, is the tiny island of Mexcaltitan. This charming island is part of the program called ''Magic Towns'', established by the Mexican Secretary of Tourism, which gives recognition to those beautiful Mexican villages that have preserved, for Mexico and the world, the cultural and historic richness that surrounds them. Aside from being a magical place, Mexcaltitan is the cradle of the ancestral Mexica or Aztec civilization, the legendary Aztlan.

Mexcaltitan in Riviera NayaritTo get to this ''Magic Town'' or ''The Cradle of Mexico'' as Mexcaltitan is known, you have to take a small boat from the Batanga pier, located north of Santiago Ixcuintla, a little village 37 miles from Tepic, the capital of Nayarit. Although of diminutive proportions, the island offers the visitor various tourist activities that added to the community's kindness, is the perfect place for a day's vacation.

Mexcaltitan in Riviera NayaritThe adventure begins from the moment that you take the boat towards the island. The 25 minute trip is totally relaxing and offers views of virginal landscapes with dense mangroves that are home to exotic birds, crocodiles and turtles. In the distance, you can observe the tall palm trees, the church and other quaint buildings of this rural town, which consists of a little more than a thousand inhabitants.

Mexcaltitan in Riviera NayaritFrom the moment that you arrive at the dock, you can feel a totally tranquil and serene atmosphere. Once you reach land, the essential places to visit are the main plaza that dates back to the 16th century, the museum that has some local archeological artifacts, as well as objects from different Mesoamerican cultures, especially from the Mexica.

Mexcaltitan in Riviera NayaritThe simple activity of strolling around the town's rustic streets is a real experience; there is no congestion or traffic whatsoever, simply because there is not a single automobile on the island. While exploring the island enjoy the exuberant vegetation, the picturesque colonial style houses, along with the excellent weather, which has an annual average temperature of 79 degrees Fahrenheit. One peculiar fact about Mexcaltitan, and one of the reasons why it is so well known, is because of its wide sidewalks with very high curbs that have two main purposes. They are primarily used for sun-drying the shrimp caught each day, and the second reason is to stop the houses from flooding when the water levels rise too high. During the rainy season the streets serve as canals, as in Venice, giving the island an unusual attractiveness.

Mexcaltitan in Riviera NayaritAt lunchtime, don't forget to enjoy the traditional Mexcalteca fare consisting of a variety of fish and seafood dishes (the main industry on the island is shrimp fishing), such as the very traditional shrimp tamales and meatballs, or the succulent Tlaxtihuilli, a pre-Hispanic dish made from shrimp broth, corn dough and local spices.

Mexcaltitan in Riviera NayaritThere have been numerous claims made suggesting that Mexcaltitan is the legendary Aztlan, from where theMexica left on their way to central Mexico. According to different interpretations, Mexcaltitan has two meanings in the Nahuatl language: the fist one comes from the word Metztli, who is considered the moon goddess among the Nahuatlacas towns, so one can translate Mexcaltitan as ''in the house of the moon''; the second definition is ''house of the Mexicas'' (or Mexicans), thus highlighting the geographical link betweenMexcaltitan and Tenochtitlan. However, there are other interpretations that locate Aztlan in other regions of Mexico. 

Mexcaltitan in Riviera NayaritOne cannot take for granted the fact that when making comparisons between aerial photographs ofMexcaltitan, and 16th century drawings of Tenochtitlan made by the conquistadores, both places show exactly the same street and canal pattern, establishing a remarkable similarity and connection between both areas. Thus, for what it represents and for its historical importance, regardless of whether or notMexcaltitan is the cradle of Mexico, come, explore and enjoy an unforgettable day on this mystical island in the beautiful region of Nayarit.