Text and photos by Miguel Omaña.
In Southeast Mexico City’s huge valley there is a place cluttered with volcanoes, hills, forests, but also with strange stories since times of old.
Summit of the Sacromonte hill, with view of the snowy volcanoes and the town of Amecameca, Mexico. Copyright 2011 Miguel Omaña.
The Sacromonte, a magnet to stories of magic.
Although many towns are sprinkled below the active Popocatepetl volcano, one stands as the to-go town, Amecameca. Not only roads intersect there, but it seems to be in the middle of the area, with hotels, restaurants, and farmers’ market. To the west of the small town of Amecameca there’s a hill. Now crowned with a church and a cemetery from Colonial times, it used to be a magnet for stories involving the magical — the Sacromonte.
Geographical names in Mexico give you a hint of what happened there.
Sacromonte means in Spanish Sacred Hill, and the name gives us clues of its importance. In Mexico, the names of geographical places carry a clue of the place. Many hills are named for whatever was there, for example the Peñon De Los Baños — The Boulder of the Baths — refers to the hill where the Mexica Aztec rulers used to have their spa and baths installations (nowadays Mexico City’s airport radar can be seen there). In this case, the purpose of this hill was its sacredeness. In ancient times the hill was called Chalchiuhmomoztli.
View of the Sacromonte hill, and what lies below, still surrounded by crops. Copyright 2011 Miguel Omaña.
A mysterious temple that guarded magical waters.
In the Sacromonte Chalchiumomoztli Hill a temple standing probably where the European church now stands. The mysterious temple guarded magical waters that gave powers to the Olmeca Xicallanca people, original inhabitants of the area, before they were pushed to the other side of the volcanoes. Those powers involved transforming themselves into animals or rain.
Iztaccihuatl Volcano as seen from the Sacromonte hill. Below the town of Amecameca, Mexico. Copyright 2011 Miguel Omaña.
A magical arrow that burned magical waters.
There is another story where Atonaltzin, a Totolimpaneca warrior and chieftain shot an arrow to the spring of this magical water and the water burned and only to disappear. This seems to have been the end of those magical waters that, if stories are accurate, once flowed from this hill.
Shapeshifters in Mexico are known as Nahuales.
In other places stories exist of people transforming into animals, wind, rain, and other weather elements. Some of these stories are recounted as being literal, while other stories may be metaphorical. Nowadays, in modern Mexico, these shapeshifters are called Nahual (plural Nahuales). While some contend this are metaphorical stories that invite us to an inner understand of ourselves, others claim they have seen or hear Nahuales still to our days.
If you like stories from Ancient Mexico, you may enjoy my novel Till Stars Shut Their Eyes.