This is the story of my experiences living as an ex-pat in Mexico since 2003. It's to culminate in a published book. With your help, I'll be editing, selecting a title, and cover art: a participatory project. Your comments encouraged!

Letters from Mexico


July 28, 2018

Watery Places

La Posa de Quetzalcoatl

Hike to the birthplace of the god, Quetzalcóatl, near Amatlan, Mexico. Video by Don Karp.

In the last blog post, I covered water sustainability. Where I live, Tepoztlan, in central Mexico, there is a rainy season and a dry season. Most rivers and streams here flow only during the rainy season. During the dry season, they are “ríos secos,” dry rivers. In this blog, I’ll introduce you to two places where water runs year round. These places have been “spiritual sites” since antiquity.

La Posa de Quetzalcoatl is the birthplace of the “God of Light.” They say he is in the same mold as Jesus.

For me, traveling there involves thirty minutes of public transportation followed by a glorious hour hike on mountain trails.

My first time there was a year after I moved to Mexico on New Year’s Day, January 1, 2004. A bunch of friends were visiting from the US, and we were very fortunate to have Don Julio, the town elder, as our guide.

While we were hiking, Don Julio told me that sometimes when he’s hiking, he finds himself on a distant mountain without knowing how he got there.

The final trail was a step descent to the pond and year round waterfall. When we got there, we stripped down for a refreshing dip. Don Julio gave us each, one at a time, a special initiation under the falls. He gave me my Nahuatl name, Xopanteptl, pronounced: “show-pan-te-petal,” meaning “mountain of time.” I like that name.

Returning we stopped at small caves where offerings are made and written prayers left to get a blessed year. We met a local family there, and they joined us hiking back to my place. I served the family and my US visitors tea. As an expat who just arrived, it felt neighborly to host a local family.          


The Ahuehuete Tree. Photo from 

Sacred site near Chalma, Mexico

The Ahuehuete Tree. Photo courtesy of

Chalma is a village two hours west of Cuernavaca over a lush range of mountains. Cuernavaca is a half-hour bus ride from Tepoztlan. Our bus proceeded over roads that switch back and snake through the mountains on its dizzying climb.

When we were within twenty minutes of Chalma we met up with a watery prelude,The Ahuehuete Tree. It’s 1100 years old—tall with a wide trunk. A river of water pours out of its base emptying into a man-made pool where Mexicans bathe in their underwear. The atmosphere is very festive, with street vendors and outdoor restaurants. Along the road many women are offering flower wreaths for sale to wear.

The main church in Chalma. Photo from

Booth of a vendor, Chalma. Photo from

Chalma is a pilgrimage site. Twice a year thousands of pilgrims walk to Chalma from Puebla, a five day hike, camping along the way. Groups include families with Grandma and Grandpa, schools, churches, etc.

I was there during a pilgrimage and don’t recommend it.The crowds are large and dense. Booths line the passage way to the church, all vending the same things, but in different arrangements: candies, crosses of various sizes and types, effigies of Jesus, etc. Although running water is plentiful, the griminess of the town detracts from its beauty.

The Catholic Church adopted this deity when a priest saw the Senior in a vision.

A ten minute taxi ride from Chalma is Chalmita, a smaller more rural suburb. I lived for ten months in a crude adobe cabin there, on the pilgrim trail (2005-6).

Walking along this trail towards Cuernavaca for half an hour, one encounters a high cascade of cold pure water. Hiking down from the trail on a side trail, avoiding the poison ivy, it takes another ten minutes to get to the cascade. A dip in the icy water was delightful!

Cabin I lived in from 2005-6, along the pilgrim trail in the mountains near Chalma. Photo by Don Karp.

Cascades off the pilgrimage trail near Chalma.                                   Video by Don Karp.

In future blog posts we’ll encounter other nature aspects of unusual beauty.  

Stay tuned!





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