Mexcaltitán, a journey through time in Nayarit

Mexcaltitán in Nayarit

An islet in the middle of a lagoon, there was formed Mexcaltitlán, a destination of singular beauty. Dare to discover it in the western region of Mexico.

The word Mexcaltitán in Nahualt means “in the house of the Mexicans or the moon” and thus this small oval island is identified, which rises in the lagoon of the same name, where it seems that time stopped its passage.

The island of Mexcaltitán, which is a town full of magic, has a perimeter of a thousand meters and a diameter of 400 meters long from north to south and 350 meters wide from east to west. The streets of Hidalgo and Juárez cross the streets of Morelos and Porfirio Díaz, while the one of Iturbide culminates in the center of the town, while Venice – with a nice name among so many national heroes – serves as a ring road. These are the streets of the island that However, its small size occupies an important position among the populations worth knowing in the country.

These streets have high sidewalks that often serve as canals during water level rises, which is why some call Mexcaltitán “the Mexican Venice.” On the other hand, their houses have endured the force of nature on a few occasions, and in spite of everything their traditional appearance is preserved, many with mangrove walls covered with mud and wooden ceilings and tiles. Others are more resistant, but with that old touch, so peculiar to the place.

Natural exuberance

Boat on the shore of Mexcaltitán

The current settlement was made taking advantage of one of the many islets in the area composed of the San Pedro River, which during the rains floods parts of the coast. Thus, the soil shows a notable concentration of salts unfit for agriculture and the average climate is warm sub-humid, with downpours in the summer.

Given these circumstances, there are not many crops in the region, but because of the proximity of the Pacific, traditional cuisine is based on seafood, so visitors can taste typical dishes such as delicious shrimp dumplings, oysters in its shell, shrimp tamales, grilled lisa or legendary taxtihilli, prepared with indigenous recipes. Of course, the rich freshly made tortillas or the tacos of various meats, whether pork, beef or poultry, peppers and cheeses to accompany, because in the area there are always simple restaurants, but with a gastronomy of first class.

The legend of Aztlán

They say that once Mexcaltitán was the mythological Aztlan, cradle of the Aztec civilization and that in this place lived a priest who in a vision saw an eagle in a cactus eating a snake, which he interpreted as the order for the Aztecs to go south to found Tenochtitlán.

Apart from the history, the island and its surroundings have a unique charm, with the quiet lagoon and the many mangroves where it is possible to walk, practice fishing or simply be captured by the beauty of its flora and fauna.

Likewise, it is striking how, despite the size of the island, it has an interesting temple, of the Señor de la Ascensión. Built in the 19th century, it shows a facade with a cover of two bodies, as well as a three-level tower. The first body is composed of a portico on columns of Tuscan capital and an access with semicircular arch on pilasters and niches to the sides. The second level has a balcony surrounded by wrought iron rail with the same architectural elements of the first level.

Worth a visit is the Museo El Origen, with a local archeology room and another dedicated to the exhibition of objects belonging to various Mesoamerican cultures, especially the Mexica. Leaving this site, we recommend you go to the Casa de la Cultura “Luis Castillo de Ledón” where you will see an interesting mural created between 1990 and 1992 by the master José Luis Soto with industrial ceramic materials, in combination with other typical of the Costa Nayarita such as sea shells, obsidian, flagstone, glass, mosaic, as well as talavera and marble of various colors.

And if you want to enjoy the magic of Mexcaltitán to the fullest, we suggest you return in the last week of June, when each year the Fiesta of the saints San Pedro and San Pablo is organized, in full celebration of the Zafra del Camarón, during which Two rival teams make a great regatta with boats in which they carry the images of the saints, paddling with great effort, as a tribute to ensure good fishing in the following season. Then, the island is more colorful and the party does not stop a second for the enjoyment of its inhabitants and tourists.

How to get

Leaving Tepic, capital of Nayarit, take the highway no. 15 to the north. Before Jalcocotán you can turn right to take a secondary road also to the north, or if you wish to continue along the highway, to Punta El Caballo. From there continue until the junction near San Blas and turn right continue towards Santiago Ixcuintla taking the highway no. 15. After passing El Carrizo you must take a right towards the La Batanga pier to board a boat that crosses it to the island of Mexcaltitán.

From Tepic, the total road trip will last approximately a couple of hours.

Mexcaltitán is located on the coastal plain of the Pacific Ocean and is part of the municipality of Santiago Ixcuintla.