The spectacular Guachimontones, or circular pyramids, near Teuchitlan probably mark the “capital” of a sophisticated civilization that dominated western Mexico 2,000 years ago.
If you’d like to visit the site – only a 50-minute drive west of Guadalajara – with an English-speaking guide, call the Phil Weigand Interpretive Center (384-109-0388, cell) ahead of time to make arrangements. Just in case things don’t work out, tour guide Jonathan Alvarez kindly helped me prepare the following notes for a self-guided visit to Guachimontones’ six “stations.” (The route is also on Wikiloc.com under “Guachi 1 Tour” and you can follow it on your smart phone if you have the Wikiloc app.)
The stations mentioned below are shown on the accompanying map. The round-trip walk, starting from the parking lot, is 1.7 kilometers with an elevation gain of 98 meters. Bring plenty of drinking water!
Station 1. On the cobblestone road, 240 meters above the parking area.
When you reach this point on your walk up the steep road to the Guachimontones, you’ll probably be happy to stop and catch your breath. Below you, to the southwest, lies the modern town of Teuchitlán, which few people realize is just as old as Guadalajara. Both, in fact, have existed for over 470 years. You should easily be able to spot the tower of the church dating back to the 17th century and dedicated to the Señor de la Ascensión (Lord of the Ascension). The mountains in the distance belong to the Sierra de Ameca, which limits the valley to the southwest.
Station 2. Entrance to the Guachimontones (Registration Book).
You are standing in front of Guachimontón Number Two, called La Iguana. This was a ceremonial center where people used to come for rituals. We know about some of these rituals thanks to clay models found in this area showing people gathered around the circular pyramids, engaging in various activities. One of these is the ceremony of the Volador or Flyer. For this, a priest would climb a tall pole set at the very top of the mound. He wore a feathered headdress called a penacho, as well as feathers on his arms and feet, suggesting he was going to fly like a bird.
The priest would then lie on his stomach, balancing himself on the very top of the pole, perhaps playing the role of the main god of this culture – Ehécatl, god of the wind. Meanwhile, hundreds of people would be chain dancing around the mound, with men and women alternating. Musicians would often play in center of the circle and sometimes dancing took place around a huge bonfire.