Looking for the Rabbit in the Moon

by Judy King 25. May 2010 20:40

Soul3-moon This week, like every month, it is the time of the Rabbit Moon. There’s a full moon on May 27 – the last several nights have been bright enough to cast shadows in my Ajijic garden.

Since the days of the ancients, when the residents of this great country have gazed at the moon, they’ve seen not the face of a grinning man – they’ve studied the profile form of a great rabbit.

Aztec legends of the creation of mythology’s second and fifth sun gods Nanahuatzin and Tecciztecatl relate how they became the sun and moon.

The story tells of the brave and noble sacrifice of Nanahuatzin during the creation of the fifth sun. Humble Nanahuatzin easily and willingly sacrificed himself in fire to become the new sun.

The wealthy Tecciztecatl, proud and ambitious, is consumed by fear until after hesitating four times, pride forces him to follow Nanahuatzin’s example by jumping into a vast pyre. Both rise as suns, but due to Tecciztecatl's cowardice, the gods felt that the moon should not be as bright as the sun, so one of the gods threw a rabbit at his face to diminish his light. Some versions of this story tell that Tecciztecatl was in the form of a rabbit when he sacrificed himself and so forever casts the shadow of a rabbit. across the night’s dimmer “sun."

Another version – with Quetzalcoatl, the Plumed Serpent

There’s another legend in Mexican folklore, one a little more akin to the legends and myths we know and recount. This story also evolves from pre-Hispanic legends, and it tells of a time when the great god of the Sun, the Plumed Serpent Quetzalcoatl lived on Earth as a man.

One time so long ago that no one is left to remember, he started on a difficult journey. After walking for a long time, he became hungry and tired.

With no food or water around, he thought he would die. Then, a rabbit grazing nearby offered himself as food to save the God’s life.

Quetzalcoatl, moved by the rabbit's noble offering, elevated the rabbit to the moon, then lowered him back to Earth, and told him, "You may be just a rabbit, but everyone will remember you; there is your image in light, for all men and for all times." And so it was and so it has been.

rabbitThe Rabbit is in the moon for all men and all times

Indeed Mexico isn’t the only place where you’ll see a rabbit in the moon or hear the legend of the moon and the hare. The Chinese, Japanese, Maya, some residents of South American and Pacific Island cultures also see the famous hare. 

Here in Mexico the image is so common that there’s even a favorite saying about infrequent occurrences. Perhaps you think these things happen…once in a blue moon. In Mexico, It happens only once in a rabbit moon.

Apollo11’s Encounter with the Rabbit in the Moon

The moon rabbit was mentioned in the conversation between Houston and the Apollo 11 crew just before the first moon landing. 

Houston advised the astronauts: “Among the large headlines concerning Apollo this morning there's one asking that you watch for a lovely girl with a big rabbit.

“An ancient legend says a beautiful Chinese girl called Chang-o has been living there for 4000 years. It seems she was banished to the moon because she stole the pill for immortality from her husband.

“You might also look for her companion, a large Chinese rabbit, who is easy to spot since he is only standing on his hind feet in the shade of a cinnamon tree. The name of the rabbit is not recorded.

Apollo 11 Member Collins replied, “Okay, we'll keep a close eye for the bunny girl.”

Look up to the Rabbit Moon

We’re not promising you’ll se a Chinese bunny girl, but it you look closely, we think that forever more when you cast your eyes up to the full moon, you’ll see that Mexican Rabbit Moon.

Here are the upcoming full moon (Rabbit Moon) dates for the rest of 2010:

May 27, June 26, July 26, August 24, September 23, October 23, November 21, December 21


Judy King is publisher of Mexico Insights—Living at Lake Chapala, a monthly online magazine for people interested in Mexico's Lake Chapala region, in the state of Jalisco.

Judy, a 19-year resident of Ajijic on Lake Chapala's north shore, conducts weekly newcomer's seminars and shares her expertise about Mexico in her ezine at www.mexico-insights.com, and in the "Mexico Lindo" column of the Lake Chapala Review.

Judy also is a speaker for local organizations and visiting tour groups about the Lakeside area about Mexican customs and holidays.

The First Rainbird!

by Judy King 26. April 2010 22:32

nets-with-clear-sky There’s cause for great celebration and joy here at Lake Chapala tonight. Join us in a loud and hearty, “Hurrah” a delighted, “Yippee!” and even perhaps we could raise a glass of tequila and gritar (cheer) a happy “Salud” to the first sounds of the ugly and pitiful rainbird.

You see, it doesn’t rain here on the north shore of Mexico’s largest lake from the middle of September or early October until the  rainy season begins on (or before) the June 13 feast day of St. Anthony of Padua, the patron of San Antonio Tlayacapan. The old wives tales here say that six weeks after we hear the first rainbird the first showers of the summer rainy season will begin to fall.

When it hasn’t rained in months, and the afternoon wind brings along a healthy wave of dust and sand, we eagerly await the awakening of the rainbirds and their  message that rain is just around the corner – well ok, just a calendar page or two away. 

The large, local prehistoric-looking cicadas come out of their long hibernation and into lusty pre-maturity adolescence at this time of year, and begin their loud screechy, buzzing, and trilling mating calls.

clouds-on-sr-garciaThe songs of love produced by our unlovely insect heralds of the coming rainy season increase in frequency, volume, and desperation as the weeks pass – they awaken with only one purpose, and it’s as if they know their reproductive clocks are ticking. They must complete their life cycle by laying the eggs for next year’s rainbirds  before they drown in the first rains.

Actually the human cries of anguish and displeasure also increase in frequency, volume, and desperation as the month of May wears on. This old wife thinks it must be a requirement of human nature to complain about the weather --  no matter what. Although Lake Chapala is said to have one of the two best climates in the world, we still must, simply must complain about the weather. It just wouldn’t be right if we didn’t. 

clouds-building SO, in May and early June, the hottest time of the year here on the shore of Mexico’s largest natural lake, we complain about the heat. Everything is relative, so if you are in Texas, you won’t be too sympathetic when we gripe about May’s afternoon highs of 80-90 (a few days we’ll hit 95 in the late afternoon) followed by overnight lows of 60-70. 

Thankfully the humidity is extremely low at  this time of year, usually below 30% and that means it’s drier here than in the Sahara Desert. That gives us that “dry heat” you hear folks in places like Arizona and Nevada talking about. Ah, it’s still hot and very few places and homes here have air conditioning. 

Once the rains begin, it’s pure heaven here. Mornings are cool and overcast, until the sun streams through and reveals a bright blue cloudless sky around 10 a.m. All through late June, July, August and sometimes September, the temperature warms during the day to around 75 to 80, and by late afternoon, dramatic grand thunderheads are building over the mountains that encircle the lake.

rain-over-lake Sometimes we have a heavy shower around 7 or 8 p.m. Usually it waits until the middle of the night to let go with a dramatic thundering, banging and booming rainstorm punctuated by flashes of beautiful lightning. The temperature drops into the high 50s or low 60s for perfect sleeping. The next day we start all over again, in a world that has been washed fresh and clean.

There are those who will tell you it only rains at night here. But in the manner of “telling it like it is,” we’ll tell you the straight scoop…it only rains at night until there is a tropical storm or hurricane skirting one of Mexico’s coasts. When one of those spinning systems hovers in one spot, it feeds that warm moist air over the mountains and into our area. Sometimes we have as many as two or three days of overcast skies in a row.

double-rainbow That’s when we who live here start into our own form of seasonal depression disorder. On the rare occasions when the clouds have lingered three or even four days, there’s been evidence of mass depression among the foreigners. Once we’ve become accustomed to one of the best climates on earth – the year-round beauty of eternal spring, we loose the ability to adapt to climatic change!

If you want to check the accuracy of the rainbirds (or of the old wives) six weeks from tonight is June 7 – that would give us the rains a full week early this year…wouldn’t that be nice!

Meanwhile, here’s another tip from those wise old wives. Watch for the clouds to settle down and obscure the top of Mount Garcia, the mountain on the south shore of the lake. Our Mexican friends and neighbors tell us that when “Sr. Garcia puts on his sombrero, rain is coming. (The second photo above shows el Senor and his sombrero.)

Welcome back Rainbirds!


Judy King is publisher of Mexico Insights—Living at Lake Chapala, a monthly online magazine for people interested in Mexico's Lake Chapala region, in the state of Jalisco.

Judy, a 19-year resident of Ajijic on Lake Chapala's north shore, conducts weekly newcomer's seminars and shares her expertise about Mexico in her ezine at www.mexico-insights.com, and in the "Mexico Lindo" column of the Lake Chapala Review.

Judy also is a speaker for local organizations and visiting tour groups about the Lakeside area about Mexican customs and holidays.

San Juan Cosalá: The Name’s Clues to the History

by Judy King 15. April 2010 09:14

How were Lake Chapala Villages Named?

sjc-dancer-with-incense When the Spanish Franciscan missionaries reached the shores of Lake Chapala they were already proficient in renaming the indigenous towns and settlements, and they had learned to select a patron saint that would resonate  with the work, location, or geographic surroundings of the people and simply attach his name to the familiar old indigenous town names.

Here at Lake Chapala, the Saints selected have close associations with water, boats, and fishing. San Antonio Tlayacapan’s Saint Anthony was from Italy, and twice took ships trying to reach Africa where he could teach and preach and die as a martyr.

Ajijic was renamed San Andrés Ajijic to honor the fisherman who left his nets to follow Jesus. One of the legends about San Francisco, the founder of the Franciscans and the patron and namesake of Chapala was said to be such a fine teacher and preacher that the fish stood up in the water to listen to him.

San Cristobal Zapotitlán on the lake’s south shore, honors Saint Christopher, the patron saint of travelers who was said to have carried the Christ Child across a river. And San Nicolás de Ibarra (and two villages named San Nicolás on the south shore are named for good old St. Nick. Legend says he is the patron of children because he rescued three kids floating in a wash tub in the sea.

sjc-child-baptist Then there is San Juan Cosalá and San Juan Tecomatlán on the lake’s north shore and another pair of villages named for St. John the Baptist on the south side of the lake. Even more fascinating are the variety of meanings of Cosalá, San Juan’s indigenous name, according to the menu from Restaurante Viva Mexico! Tia Lupita in this village of approximately 12,000 on Lake Chapala’s north shore. 

The restaurant’s colorful menu is full of photos of the mural and includes the origins of the name of this town now home to approximately 12,000, and home in ancient times to many times more.

San Juan (Saint John refers to Saint John the Baptist, patron of the community. The meaning of the name Cosala has been interpreted by many different authors. One theory is that it is derived from an indigenous name which was spelled Cuzala, Cozala, Coslan or Cuzalan.

When you break the name into the two roots: tzalan (between) and Coatl (Serpent), this place becomes place full of serpents or is place between two serpents. Some historians have suggested the name is derived from the spelling Cutzalan or Cotzalan which means between pots.

At one time the town was known as Tlateloacan, which means Place where water flows and falls – perhaps for the waterfalls on the mountainside above the village. The region also was known at one time as Quetzali, an adjective used to describe the beautiful bird – the Quetzal and means a thing that shines, is beautiful, clean and shiny, thus it could be the “in the green water or emerald water” or “place of clean water.”

On the coat of arms of the Tlaxcalla, the name Quetzalla or Cotzallan is represented with a bundle of feathers, which was a nahuatl (indigenous group of people) symbol of beauty. We can therefore hypothesize that Cosala was named as a place of great beauty or beautiful place.

I’m stuck on one of these suggestions. In spite of knowing that back in the really old days the people of San Juan cooked some of their food by suspending pots into holes in the ground so that the heat and steam from the area’s hot springs made a natural early Crock Pot (which would normally put my favorite the words about water and pottery) I’m voting for the meaning “Place Between Two Serpents.

SJC-DamageThe Place Between Two Serpents

In the years I’ve lived at Lake Chapala there have been two storms featuring amazingly powerful waterspouts which are called serpents by area residents. The first hit up above El Limon – at the extreme west end of San Juan Cosalá, covering fields of crops with boulders that washed down the mountain in a sea of mud. Two years ago a similar storm hit following 10 days of heavy rain which super-saturated the upper mountainside. That wall of mud and rock was more than six feet deep as it rushed down the mountain from the upper reaches of the Raquet Club at the eastern end of the village.

This name makes me wonder if this natural phenomena “hasn’t happened before – maybe even frequently, back in the years between 1200 A.D. and the arrival of the Spanish in the 1500s.  The Place Between Two Serpents…what an interesting thought.


Judy King is publisher of Mexico Insights—Living at Lake Chapala, a monthly online magazine for people interested in Mexico's Lake Chapala region, in the state of Jalisco.

Judy, a 19-year resident of Ajijic on Lake Chapala's north shore, conducts weekly newcomer's seminars and shares her expertise about Mexico in her ezine at www.mexico-insights.com, and in the "Mexico Lindo" column of the Lake Chapala Review.

Judy also is a speaker for local organizations and visiting tour groups about the Lakeside area about Mexican customs and holidays.

The San Patricio Battalion, Mexico's Fighting Irish

by Judy King 18. March 2010 08:32

450px-Saint_Patrick's_battalion_plaque The story of the San Patricio Battalion of the Mexican army is one of the best-kept secrets in the colorful history of Irish emigrants in the United States.

In 1846, thousands of Irish immigrants who had fled the potato famine in Ireland joined the U.S. Army and became part of General Zachary Taylor's forces that invaded Mexico in the "War of Manifest Destiny" or Mexican-American War.

These Irish soldiers hadn’t found much to like in their new lives. In both the United States and the US Army they’d received disturbingly prejudicial treatment. It wasn't difficult, then, for leader John Riley to convince the Irish soldiers to desert and fight against the United States.

The Irish-Americans were much more comfortable in Mexico; their beliefs, backgrounds, religion, and family lifestyles were a good match with the people "south of the border". Historians have tried to dismiss the 700 soldiers of the Battalion as a bizarre group of malcontents and ne'er-do-wells who deserted, lured by drink and pretty señoritas .

These soldiers were much more than that. The San Patricios are still revered today in Mexico for their exemplary performance on the battlefield. Their bravery (or Irish stubbornness, whatever you want to call it) was renowned.

800px-Churubusco-convent In the battle of the Churubusco Convent to defend Mexico City, when Mexican troops began to raise the white flag, the San Patricios tore it down. When they ran out of ammunition, they fought hand-to-hand. They suffered great casualties during that battle, called Mexico's “Waterloo.”

Mexican President Santa Ana said, "With a few hundred more men like the San Patricios, Mexico would have won the battle."

The United States court marshaled 50 of the decorated Irish heroes of the Mexican army for defection and mutiny. During the next two days, 46 of them were hanged. Others, including John Riley, were branded on the cheek with a "D" for deserter and were imprisoned for the remainder of the war. These members of the Irish Battalion of the Mexican Army are honored with a plaque bearing their names in the San Angel region of Mexico City

clifton county galway Ireland also embraces the San Patricios as national heroes. Mexico recently erected a monument to John Riley and the San Patricios in Clifton, County Galway, Riley’s home. Every September 13, The green San Patricios Flag, emblazoned with a harp and shamrock flies over Clifton. Ernesto Zedillo, past president of Mexico said, “One hundred fifty years ago, the courage and blood of both Mexicans and Irish mingled in a struggle for ideals which both our countries have always shared: independence, freedom, and dignity for our women."

Mexico also remembers her brave San Patricio Battalion as national heroes, each year on September 13, one of several days of remembrance that constitute Mexico's Independence Day celebration.

Niños Heroes

September 13 is also known as El Día de Niños Heroes (the day of the boy heroes) commemorating the death of five Mexican Cadets who defended Chapultepec Castle against the Americans on the day the Americans were hanged. One of the cadets jumped from the building, wrapped in the Mexican flag – to keep the US troops from destroying it when they advanced through the building to raise the stars and stripes over Mexico City.

The Books and Movies

One Man's Hero starring Tom Berenger, a Paramount film, is the best known of the 8-10 movies made about the participation of the San Patricio Battalion in the Mexican American War. While it white-washes the injustices of the US army against the Mexican civilian population, the burning of churches, and other events, it at least acknowledges the event in history.

Local Author—Great Books

lepr-aMichael Hogan, the head of the Department of Letters and Humanities at the prestigious American School in Guadalajara, is the author of a number of books, including the critically acclaimed Making Our Own Rules.

Hogan, himself of Irish descent and living in Mexico has written a pair of books about the Irish involvement in the Mexican American War -- The Irish Soldiers of Mexico and Molly Malone and the San Patricios. Both books were published in 1999 and are available on Amazon.com

Click here to read the other two posts in our Salute to Irish-Mexicans:

The Mexican Irish Connection and Celebrating St. Patrick – March 16 –

Was Zorro from Ireland? – March 17


Judy King is publisher of Mexico Insights—Living at Lake Chapala, a monthly online magazine for people interested in Mexico's Lake Chapala region, in the state of Jalisco.

Judy, a 19-year resident of Ajijic on Lake Chapala's north shore, conducts weekly newcomer's seminars and shares her expertise about Mexico in her ezine at www.mexico-insights.com, and in the "Mexico Lindo" column of the Lake Chapala Review.

Judy also is a speaker for local organizations and visiting tour groups about the Lakeside area about Mexican customs and holidays.

Was Zorro from Ireland?

by Judy King 17. March 2010 08:43

 

“Out of the night, when the full moon is bright, comes a horseman known as Zorro.

This bold renegade carves a Z with his blade. A Z that stands for Zorro.

Zorro the fox so cunning and free. Zorro, who makes the sign of the Z…

Zorro…Zorro…Zorro.”

 

lepr-a Baby boomers and their parents remember these words which introduced the 1957-1959 TV series featuring Guy Williams as the dashing caped swordsman Zorro, who aided the oppressed and bedeviled greedy despots in early California.

 

Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Zorro, the Mexican Robin Hood was Irish!

Now here is a St. Patrick’s Day gift for our Irish friends. Research by Italian paleography professor Fabio Troncarelli has possibly unmasked the real 17th century Mexican hero in Vatican inquisition Zorroandbernardorecords. Troncarelli maintains Zorro was Guillen Lombardi, not a fable, nor a Mexican, nor a Spaniard. Zorro, the cunning fox, was an Irishmen, schooled by the Jesuits in Dublin.

Wexford County’s William Lamport

He was William Lamport, the son of a wealthy Catholic family in Wexford County, Ireland. “…the key information is buried in the records of the trials of suspected heretics and subversives conducted by the Inquisition,” Troncarelli said after 25 years of research in Rome, Dublin, Madrid and Mexico City archives. “They were meticulous. The name of Lamport kept coming up in the testimony of suspected rebels.”

zorro3 Lamport accepted Spain’s offer of citizenship when he was forced to leave Ireland following his open opposition to England's oppressive rule of Ireland. He first took up with a band of pirates, attacking English merchants.

William Lamport becomes Guillen Lombardo

Still in his twenties, William Hispanicized his name to Guillen Lombardo and enlisted in one of the Spanish Army’s Irish regiments where he was commended for bravery and inducted into the Spanish Royal Service.

After his seduction of a Spanish noblewoman, William was sent to Mexico in scandal. There he took up the plight of the oppressed indigenous Mexicans, learning from them traditional healing skills and astrology. Between social and official engagements, he was a spy for the chief minister of King Phillip IV.

FairbanksMarkofZorroSpying in Mexico; Trouble with the Inquisition

His association with Mexicans put him again under the unwelcome scrutiny of the Spanish Inquisition which led to charges of “conspiring against Spain to liberate the Indians and the black slaves and to set himself up as king of an independent Mexico.”

 William escaped from jail in Mexico while the Inquisition continued to gather information against him--for ten years. He left his hiding spots at night to scrawl anti-Spanish graffiti on Mexico City walls. Many of his notices included the letter Z which was a starting point for unraveling of the true story of Zorro more than two hundred years later.

The First Book: Memories of an Imposter-- 1872

Mexican General Vicente Palacio Riva was a Freemason and avid student of the Inquisition. During retirement he wrote several historical romances in the style of the Three Musketeers, in his 1872 Memories of an Imposter, which outlined the life of William Lamport. The book’s hero was Guillen Lombardo who led a double life as a nobleman Diego de la Vega. Palacio Riva mentioned the “Z” in William’s graffiti, as he recognized it as a Masonic symbol of vital life.

zorro 1919Set in California: The Curse of Capristrano—1919

Johnston McCulley wrote the story of Guillen Lombardo in his 1919 The Curse of Capistrano, but McCulley, as Troncarelli says, “Plundered without compliments” information from Palacio Riva’s book and from the 1908 book by Mexican historian Don Luis González Obregón.

To create a tale that looked new, McCulley set his story in California and gave the swashbuckler a mask to shield his identity. His story inspired Douglas Fairbanks’ 1920 silent film, The Mark of Zorro.

Zorro’s Sad End

Eventually William was discovered in bed with the wife of the Viceroy of Mexico. He served seven years in prison before being released to the Inquisition to be burned at the stake. “He cheated the Inquisition one last time,” Professor Troncarelli reported. “Before the flames were lit, he managed to strangle himself with the rope used to bind him to the stake.”

And the legend continues:

And that my friends, is the story of one of St. Paddy’s lads from the old Sod. Books, movies and TV shows continue to be made featuring the life of this likeable scallywag. In recent years, you saw Anthony Banderas in The Mask of Zorro  Have you read the story of Zorro as presented by one of my favorite authors, Isabel Allende?Her novel, Zorro, is actually a prequel to that 90-year-old story, The Curse of Capistrano.  You’ll find it in the Lake Chapala Society’s Mexico Collection.

Want More About the Irish in Mexico?

The Irish Mexican Connection --  Yesterday we wrote about famous Irish Mexicans and the Irish who settled the fishing villages of San Patricio, Melaque, and Villa Obregon (O’Brien) on Mexico’s Pacific Coast.

The San Patricio Battalion – Come back tomorrow for a look at Mexico’s Irish soldiers who joined he fray against the US invasion of Mexico.


Judy King is publisher of Mexico Insights—Living at Lake Chapala, a monthly online magazine for people interested in Mexico's Lake Chapala region, in the state of Jalisco.

Judy, a 19-year resident of Ajijic on Lake Chapala's north shore, conducts weekly newcomer's seminars and shares her expertise about Mexico in her ezine at www.mexico-insights.com, and in the "Mexico Lindo" column of the Lake Chapala Review.

Judy also is a speaker for local organizations and visiting tour groups about the Lakeside area about Mexican customs and holidays.

About Judy King

Judy King

Hi There — Welcome to my little corner of the world. I'm Judy King and I live in the centuries-old village of Ajijic on the north shore of Lake Chapala, Mexico's largest natural lake.

I've lived here full time since 1990, and... [ more ]

Let's Be Social

Become friends with
Judy on Facebook,
or follow Judy on Twitter.

Log in