hace mucho

Almost twenty years ago , a one of a kind newpaper was published in Yelapa. Here are a few interviews with some of the towns elders. Rosalio has since passed on. Piri is still working daily at his Casacada Resturant. Emerson was the great grandchild of Ralph Waldo Emerson and was buried here in Yelapa.


This article is reprinted from the original printed in Hola Amigo Vol. 1-No. II 1987- 1988 Yearly Magazine

Rosalio is one of the best known of the old ones (viejos), the storytellers in the Comunidad. He is one of the few remaining of the pre-literate generation who learned the oral transmission of the Old Stories and Traditions. These were never written out, but were remembered and passed down to the next generation. His mind is a treasury storehouse of the Old Stories.

My name is Rosalio Garcia Rodriguez. I was born in Chacala in 1899 on the 29th of October. I moved to Yelapa, then later to Miramar in Nayarit and worked as a fisherman for five years from 1925 to 1930. Then I moved to Yelapa the same year as the Farmers Cooperative was founded. I was asked to join but since I had land near Yelapa in this indigenous territory, I thought I had better get back to it.

The cyclone hit in 1906 and it was a big one. Lots of rain and the river got bigger and took a big part of the town around the river. It took many houses. There were no casualties. It happened during the day. By nighttime, all was gone. The worst lasted two hours, and it was very hard. Nobody was able to eat. Everything was lost or destroyed. The next day was like someone had plowed all the land. Everyone went to the other side of the beach to live for four years and in 1910 we came to the village where it is now and have been there ever since.

There were ten families, but more like extensions of three large families. We were all relatives. We were 68 Catholic people. Small and large. We moved here from Chacala because of the work. Cabelleros with our horses. We had a right to claim any land we wanted.

The tourists didn’t start to come until 1962. There were very few and only a few little boats would some with 10 – 15 people. The company Viva Tours then got a boat that would bring 550. Vallarta was very small then. But in 1940 it started to grow up. Very successfully. Growing and spreading like a current of water. The people in Vallarta were fishermen, but before that the big business was mining for gold. The mines were up in the mountains and up to two years ago they were still working. They were up the arroyo and they employed many.

I have many memories of the Revolution of 1914. But the only action we had was in Vallarta in 1915. In 1916 Don Francisco Y Maderos, a revolutionary was put in prison in Guadalajara. Francisco Y Maderos got out of jail and asked the people to go with him to the revolution or go back to their families. A lot of people went with him including my brother. None of them ever came back. A lot of people died.

There were revolutionaries from Puerto Vallarta to El Tuito. The soldiers followed them to El Tuito, and that was the last we saw of them. It stayed peaceful here. We are still in the revolution. This is a town that you can only get to by a little horse path or by the ocean. Some came here to hide. They had been followed and we never feared. Our beans and food were our defense.
One bandit hid in Chimo and his name was Pedro Vazquez. He had killed two people in Ixtlahuahuey. His men and him went to Chimo. The soldiers killed tow of his men and let Pedro and his brother free. That was 1917 and we haven’t had bandits since.
The Gringos moved here in the ‘50’s. The first one was called Emerson and he was here ‘til he died. He lived by the beach in Casa Matilde. He was here a long time and hardly went to his own country. He liked it very much here. Emerson was quiet but friendly.
The tourists came here for the beach. The river cleaned it every year.

About five years ago the ladies started making pies. It used to be 25 pesos but now it is 800 pesos and I don’t buy it so much. There were many changes when the Gringos came. The kids take tourists to the waterfalls when they don’t go to school.
Before meat cost 15 centavos for two kilos. One kilo was meat and the other bones. A whole cow cost 15 pesos in 1917 before the Farmers’ Cooperative. Milk used to be 5 centavos a liter. Cheese was brought from Llano Grande and other ranchos every 8 days. They cost less than one peso.

It is a beautiful place to live and I am very accustomed to it.


This article is reprinted from the original printed in Hola Amigo Vol. 1-No. II 1987- 1988 Yearly Magazine

Espiridion Joya Ramos known to his friends as Piri, is a former president of this community and has the reputation for knowing something of the history. He has told me he has a Xerox copy in his possession of the land grant to this community from the then king of Spain. We are sitting in his little palapa, a humble cottage of two or three rooms, and he is looking for the papers.

C: When were you president of the community?
P: From 1979 to 1981.

C: You studied the history of the document then?
P: I knew the documents of the community and they were in my possession. They were expedited by the Royal Crown of Spain.

C: In what year were you born?
P: In 1936, in Chacala.

C: What can you tell us about this document?
P: The document is dated in 1581. The Crown concedes the land to the Indigenous Community of Chacala. The document defines the land as reaching from one mountain to another mountain with a river passing in the middle. This document was accompanied by another document that referred to the city of Amula, today the city Guzman. The Indigenous people later bought the land from the Crown with money believed to have come from the mining that supported the 12.000 inhabitants of Chacala, and the document was safeguarded with a family in Chacala. It is said that Chacala disappeared twice. The first time from the attacks of the Spanish army, the second time from an unknown epidemic. So says the Scriptures. The document defined the 25,000 hectarias of the community and, starting in 1729, the community, little by little, acquired additional land in which is now found Chacala, the headquarters of the community, Yelapa, Quimixto, Las Animas, and, to the south, Pisota, Mascotia, and Ela Algodon. In order to join the governing rule it was necessary to make titles and confirmation of communal rights, which happened in 1945 when my grandfather was president of the community. When this happened, problems arose with the community of Xochitlan del Refugio who disputed the boundaries from 1956 until about 1969 even though a presidential solution was reached in 1962. Further problems arose when the family of Juan Dip appeared around 1961 claiming to have legal documents to take Quimixto. The documents were found to be illegal but Juan Dip attempted to make them legal with his pride. This conflict lasted until 1971 when a presidential solution of communal title rights was reached. These rights exist to this day and continue to be respected. Now the community no longer fights over boundaries, it has other problems. It fights to develop.

C: How was Yelapa before the Gringos arrived: And when did they arrive?
P: About 30 years ago, around 1958. The first foreigner to arrive that is still here was Peggy, about 25 years ago. Then came Gloria bout 20 years ago. Then came Wilson. He was the first to rent on the beach. He constructed six houses where the hotel is and rented them to Americans. He was later accused of trafficking marijuana and was taken as a prisoner of the government to Guadalajara. The houses passed on to Mr. Brown who operated the first Lagunita Hotel. These homes later passed on to the benefit of the community for touristic development. When Mr. Brown arrived, he became partners with Jacinta Gomez in a boat named the Paladin, which was already making daily trips to Yelapa from Puerto Vallarta. It carried a maximum of about 50 passengers and the round trip was 50 pesos. We from Yelapa were charged 10 pesos each way. The dollar then equaled 12.50 pesos. Another boat called the Zorro with a capacity for about 80 passengers began coming in the early ‘60’s. It was replaced by the Guadalajara Fiesta with a capacity for 300 passengers. (Ed. Note: The Guadalajara sunk in the harbour in Puerto Vallarta in the late ‘60’s and was replaced by the Sombrero which in turn was replaced by the Serape. And then there was the Lucinda, the “Amazon Queen” of Yelapa operating through the ‘60’s and ‘70’s bringing food, gas, grain, pigs, chickens and a few hardy passengers daily from Vallarta.)

C: What have been the changes to Yelapa since these boats have been coming?
P: Well, there are more restaurants and more houses. But the boats are the ones that take all the money. They bring people to see Yelapa as if it were a movie, to see all of this beauty, and then they leave us their garbage. This is a problem now for Yelapa. The boats demand many things from us, but they don’t help us find a solution to the garbage problem.

C: Let’s get back to how Yelapa was before the Gringos came. How many houses were there?
P: About 30

C: How did people earn a living then?
P: They devoted their time to agriculture and fishing. Many fished for sharks and were well paid for the shark livers. Many cultivated bananas and corn. They sold their produce in Puerto Vallarta and other ports, traveling in canoes using oars and sails. If there was a good wind the trip to Vallarta took only one hour, just like the motorboats today. When they had to row the trip took 6 to 8 hours or more.

Another source of income from 1943 to 1972 was gathering chicle. They would go to ranches in the mountains and work all week extracting the chicle and return on Sunday to sell it. For almost thirty years the widow of Jesus Palacion, Sra. Fermina Bernal, bought it all and made a lot of money exporting it to the United States to make chewing gum. She began by paying 21.50 pesos a block and was paying 50 pesos a block in the later years.

One other major source of income, dating back over 100 years, was harvesting the small coconuts for oil. Soap and oil companies from Guadalajara and Compostela sent representatives to buy them. All over the community, in which there were more than 200 ranches, people were building houses of palapa. They would cut the cocos, break off the shells, and carry the nuts to the closest port to sell them – Yelapa, Pizota or wherever. The whole cocos were sold loose, the shelled nuts were sold in bushels.

The major agricultural crops were corn and beans. Only for the last 25 years has the banana been cultivated locally for export to the United States. Before there were roads to Puerto Vallarta, all the bananas were shipped out of Pizota in the sailing canoes and taken to Matanche, by San Blas, where they were loaded on trucks and taken to the United States.

In the mountains away from the coast one of the oldest ways of earning a living was making raicilla. People have been doing this for over 100 years. Raicilla comes from the mescal plant. The yellow plant is ready at 5 years, the green at 7 years. And the ashen plant at 14 or 15 years. When the plant is ready it becomes engorged with liquid and a huge stalk starts to grow from the center of the plant, which will be the blossom. An “oven” is then prepared by burning oak wood and placing rocks on top of the hot coals. When the rocks are red hot the mescal leaves are split in half, placed on top of the rocks and covered with branches, and everything is covered with earth. Two days later the oven is opened and if the leaves are thoroughly cooked they are taken out, beaten with sticks, and placed in wooden barrels or in wooden canoes to ferment. In 2 or 3 days water is added. If the weather is hot, the fermentation takes place rapidly, but if it cold it can take up to 8 days. It also depends on how good the mescal plant is. Once it has reached the proper fermentation point and is foaming and bubbling it is ready to be distilled. The distillation process takes place in a clay oven fired with huanacastle wood and involves copper pails and a water system for cooling. This is the old primitive and rustic way of making raicilla. Today, in Chacala and Mascotita, there are small factories set up for making the raicilla, which are more modern and which the tourists like to visit.

C: This is all very interesting, Piri. I’m sure you have many more stories but we will save them for another issue of Hola Amigo. Thank you very much.

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