COLIMA, Mexico – Living with respect and in suspense is part of daily life for those living and working under the Colima Volcano, the most active in Mexico with 40 violent eruptions since 1576.
The last eruption of the so-called Volcano of Fire, in January 2017, spewed gases up to three kilometers high and lava half a kilometer during a week of intense eruptions.
This volcano is located along the borders of the states of Colima and Jalisco with an altitude of 3,960 meters above sea level and is very close to the Nevado de Colima Volcano.
Since pre-Hispanic times, people living under this volcano have learned to work and survive by constantly monitoring it, while a few also use it as a way of healing.
“The old people have a deep respect and fear towards the volcano,” said Juan Ignacio Martinez de la Rosa, general director of the National Institute of Anthropology and History of Colima.
“In pre-Hispanic times, the people of Colima had a feeling of wonder and respect towards the volcano. They presented offerings to it as if it were a god,” said Martinez de la Rosa while showing EFE the archaeological remains of La Campana National Park.
With the volcano in the background, the remains are arranged like a gigantic altar with stones and geometric shapes.
“The volcano was the center of culture with its own rituals and ways of life of this area, where La Campana National Park is now located,” Martinez de la Rosa said.
The oldest remains of the pre-Hispanic findings date back 3,500 years, with no reliable evidence of the human sacrifices made to the volcano.
“There is no precise data, but they are known to have existed. There is a Mictlan, the underworld, with its nine levels, and a plaza that indicated the sacrifices,” said the anthropologist.
Sacrifice as a way of relating to the fury of the volcano in Colima continues to this day in the form of the Plaza de Toros.
La Petatera bullfighting arena was built as an offering to St Philip so that he would protect the people of Colima from natural disasters.
In La Becerrera, La Yerbabuena and other towns, located 8 and 12 kilometers from the volcano respectively, people live and work with coffee and livestock as their main sources of income.
“I grew up in the Yerbabuena. It is scary at times, but we are used to it. I would even risk living up there, closer to the volcano,” said Isabel Ramirez, a day laborer.
“The truth is that I see no danger. If you have to evacuate, then evacuate,” said Jesus Michel Cubian, a beekeeper, who works just 7 kilometers away from the volcano.
The Volcano of Fire, surrounded by oak, sacred fir and pine forests, also creates a mystical attraction now channeled into healing therapies by shamans.
“I owe him my way of healing. He is an energetic being,” said El Tata Chimino, a prominent figure of healing, referring respectfully to the volcano.
“When I connected to the ancestors, the elders told me that I was a guardian of the volcano. I started with the temazcal and then the purifications with a method that works and I thank him for it,” added El Tata Chimino.
“I am 73 years old and I keep going up there. Now he is resting but I like it more when he is active,” he added.
Antonio Alonso Oseguera’s tasks are quite different. He arrived here 42 years ago to make watering holes and practice beekeeping.
“The volcano has benefited us. We have learned despite the sand and ash,” he said.
Antonio’s crops form a brush that surrounds the ceremonial spaces.
“The authorities pressured us to leave because they wanted to build three luxury hotels. I presented an appeal and beat the previous state government. The volcano generates benefits, but also greed,” explained Alonso Oseguera.
The presence of a few luxury properties in the surroundings is part of the landscape.
“Here they come from all countries to purify themselves. Eighteen years ago I found the light of the place. When I was in darkness, I fell ill and I lived in despair,” insisted El Tata Chimino.
“I found,” he continued, “links where I started to learn all the energy movement of the volcano. It is releasing our negative energies. My work supports people who come with problems.”
El Tata Chimino is happy at the possibility of dying under the volcano.
“It would be an honor. The volcano kills innocently. My transcendence would be different and I would enjoy it more,” he concluded with his gaze fixed on the Colima Volcano of Fire.