Podcast: Play in new window | Download
With less than a million people and only 2,173 square miles of territory, the state of Colima is one of Mexico’s smallest states by area and population. It is located on the Pacific coast and in its small land area it has a remarkably diverse terrain, from high mountains to tropical jungles to sandy beaches. Like many states in Mexico, Colima is rich in history and folklore. Here are 5 legends from the state of Colima.
- The Enchanted Serpent and the Treasure of Las Cuevitas
Between the city of Colima and the municipality of Coquimatlán, there is a small town known as Las Cuevitas. The name of this town translated to “The Little Caves” in English, is appropriate because a hill nearby is pock-marked with small caverns. Legends exist about these little caves that date back deep into pre-Hispanic indigenous times. Many to this day believe that the caves are interconnected, and some go down deep into the earth and may be bottomless. Of the many stories about these caves, the most popular involves a gigantic serpent that guards one of the biggest mysteries in the state of Colima. This mystery involves a massive treasure, and according to which tale one listens to, either belonged to the Cristeros, early Mexican revolutionaries, or Aztecs fleeing their capital city right after its fall to the Spanish. Anyone wishing to possess the treasure first must defeat the snake. The gigantic serpent will attack and devour all trespassers and there is only one way to defeat it. The successful treasure hunter must gather together a bundle of seven reeds locally called tules or juncos. Then, he or she must hit the snake repeatedly on the back with the reed bundle. After the snake is immobilized, the vicious reptile turns into a river of gold coins or gold nuggets that will serve as a path to the larger treasure found deeper inside the cave. The brave treasure hunter must not go to the caves to seek out the snake during a moonless night because other legends state that a gigantic owl or the Devil himself are present in the area when the moon is not in the sky. If one can avoid all the hazards and mind the light of the moon, an abundant treasure waits for the taking.
- The Ghost of the Soapy Girl
In the mountains near the city of Ixtlahuacán there exists a very small village called 26 de Julio. Outside this sleepy town is a spring where in olden times the townsfolk would go to fetch water, wash clothes or bathe. Alongside the spring was a large tank to gather water. There were also several ponds for washing and bathing. Some of those ponds were surrounded by planks of old wood. Everyone knew to be careful when walking on those wooden planks because they were always wet and covered with slippery moss. One day, after everyone had left, a very shy teenage girl decided to go out to the springs to take a bath. It was getting dark and a fog was developing in the area. The girl got into the water and started soaping herself up. She covered herself with so much lather that some of the soap got into her eyes. The stinging of the soap caused the girl to lift herself out of the pond to reach for her towel. When she pulled herself out and stood up, frantically blotting her eyes with her towel, the girl slipped, hit her head on one of the planks and fell into the pond, unconscious. Night fell and since the girl’s family was in the neighboring town of Tecomán, no one in the village was concerned that she was gone, assuming that she had gone away with her parents. When her family returned the next day, the girl’s parents thought she was visiting her boyfriend’s family as she often did and thought nothing of her absence. It was only a few days later when another girl from 26 de Julio went to the springs with her donkey to fill up several jugs of water that the bathing girl’s body was found floating in a pool of soapy water. To this day people are cautioned to stay away from the springs, especially after 6:00 pm or during times of dense fog. Locals say that during these times they have often seen a young girl in the water, covered in soap, enticing them to come in the water. Others have seen a young woman dressed in white with soap foam in her hair, angry or crying when visitors approach. Villagers know to keep away from the springs when there is no sign of daylight.
- The Bridge of Moans
In the town of Comala in the years 1909 and 1910 workers built a bridge over the San Juan River. They called the new road leading to the bridge Calle Progreso in honor of the 100th anniversary of the Mexican War of Independence. The construction of the bridge was the most exciting thing the town had seen in years. Many townsfolk went to the construction site to observe the bridge being built, and the workers soon became concerned that a curious child might suffer an accident. So, the parents in the town began cautioning their children to stay away. When strong warnings were not enough, some parents began circulating rumors that the bridge builders were taking children and mixing them in with the building materials to make the bridge. That kept away most of the little ones, except for one young boy who ventured to the site and from behind a low wall watched some of the workers mixing cement. It was an old local tradition to blend a little bit of chicken’s blood in with the mixture for good luck, and when the little boy watching the cement mixing saw a little bit of red liquid added to the mixture, he assumed it was the blood of a child. He ran back to his neighborhood and told his friends. Soon, most of the town of Comala believed that some of the local kids who had gone missing ended up in the bridge as part of the finished product. There are lines of writing on the bridge, a few sentences to dedicate it, and people in the town who could not read assumed for many years that the letters spelled out the children who were sacrificed to give the town a span across the Río San Juan. So strong was the belief in story of the dead children that the bridge was nicknamed “The Bridge of Moans,” because passersby swore they heard the tormented cries of the kids who were mixed in with the mortar.
- Lake María
Sometime in the 1800s there was a young couple named Jorge and María who lived on the sprawling Hacienda de San Antonio. Jorge worked very hard at the hacienda and when the day was done he was always out drinking with his friends or went looking for a party. María disapproved of her husband’s behavior and suspected he had many women on the side. When she wanted to accompany him on some of his nights out, Jorge told María to stay home, and so she obeyed her husband. She often felt dejected, ugly and unloved. María’s worry and suspicion got the best of her, and one night while she was staying up late waiting for Jorge to come home, she had an idea: She would summon the Devil for help. In a cloud of smoke, the Prince of Darkness appeared and eagerly listened to María’s proposition. She would trade her soul to Satan if Jorge would love her forever like he once did and would stop going out so much. The Devil agreed but then decided that María was far too beautiful to be with a mortal man. He kidnapped her and took her into the wilderness. No one ever saw María again. After a few days of missing his wife, Jorge headed up a search team to look for María in the more remote parts of the hacienda’s vast territory. With machetes in hand, a group of searchers hacked their way through the underbrush until they reached a small lake. At the edge of the lake was an elaborate tomb made of marble. Those who had been in that remote area in previous years had never seen that fancy grave before. When they got within a few feet of the tomb, the top slid off and the body of María floated out of it. It flew over the water and dropped into the middle of the small lake. Rescuers went into the lake to try to retrieve the body but couldn’t. This is the reason why to this day this small lake is called Laguna María, named for the lovelorn young woman who made a bad deal with the Devil.
- Why the Colima Volcano Erupts so Much
In the far northeastern part of the modern state of Colima on the border with Jalisco is one of North America’s most active volcanoes. It’s called the Volcán de Colima or Volcán de Fuego by the locals. It’s part of a small volcanic complex which also includes Nevado de Colima – also called Tzapotépetl – and an eroded extinct volcano called El Cántaro. The main Colima Volcano has had major eruptions in 1576, 1611, 1808, 1811, 1818 and most recently in 1913. Since the Spanish arrived in the area in the early 1500s, the volcán has erupted some 40 times. The locals have an interesting theory as to why the mountain is so angry and it weaves myth with history. When the Spanish arrived to what is now the northern area of the state of Colima they found an indigenous group called the Tecos ruling over most of the region. A few decades before, the Tecos defeated the mighty Tarascan Empire which had tried to establish itself in the area since the mid-1400s. The Tecos civilization has mostly been forgotten by serious researchers and armchair archaeologists alike, but early Spanish visitors to the Tecos Kingdom described a very bountiful land full of healthy and happy people. This is most likely due to the rich soils of the nearby volcanoes giving abundant crop yields combined with a political structure in the kingdom that allowed trade with neighboring groups like the Aztecs and the Tarascans. At the time the Spanish arrived in the 1520s, the man who ruled the Tecos Kingdom from the capital city of Chanal was named Colimotl or Colimán. The name of the State, the volcano and the modern-day capital city of the state comes from the name of the Tecos king. The king lived in a magnificent palace off the central plaza of Chanal near the city’s main pyramid. When word reached Colimotl about what had happened to the Aztecs at the hands of the Spanish he prepared for the worst but ultimately wanted to coexist peacefully with these strange newcomers. The Tecos battled with the Spanish twice. They won the first battle but lost the second and King Colimotl did not want to suffer the same fate as the Aztecs. The wise king sent some of his top advisors to meet the Spanish halfway. The Tecos and the Spanish made peace and the Europeans agreed to let the Tecos keep their political structure intact as long as Colimotl accepted the King of Spain as his lord and agreed that all the subjects in his kingdom would give up the old gods and convert to Christianity. Colimotl did what he had to do to avoid the disaster that befell the Aztecs. Things worked well for a few years, but the Spanish stationed in the Tecos capital of Chamal became jealous of the natives for their high standard of living and relative independence. The Spanish began harassing members of the Tecos nobility at which point King Colimotl appealed to the Spanish viceroy in Mexico City. The situation deteriorated and the Spanish military surrounded Kind Colimotl’s palace, cutting off all food and water to the royal household. The people in the capital city of Chamal loved their king and an uprising ensued. More Spanish troops were sent to the Tecos Kingdom. One night during the uprising, the king along with a few maidens and warriors assigned to the palace, escaped and fled to the Colima Volcano, never to be seen again. According to the legend, whenever a descendant of the Tecos royal family is mistreated, the volcano erupts.