One of Jalisco’s more unusual side-trips could be the perfect place for new-age enthusiasts searching for more connective experiences with their inner selves.
For many people, the “cosmic vortex” (known as the Foco Tonal), a few miles outside of Ocotlan, will be nothing more than a mere curiosity. Others, however, swear they find renewed energy after a visit, and some even profess to be cured of their ailments.
Skeptics will argue that gullible folk will believe whatever they want to, but most visitors to the site – some say it emits magnetic vibes and is like a “door to infinity” – are struck by its soothing and restful qualities, if nothing else.
Hidden away on the shores of Lake Chapala, the Foco Tonal is reached by a rough road that is passable for most vehicles. Visitors are usually taken aback by the quirky edifice that guards the entrance to the site: a “castle” that would not look completely out of place on the curriculum of Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi. Characterized by a mish-mash of styles and techniques, the toy-like structure with its turrets and towers rears up into the sky as if dreamed up by a Disney animator bored of drawing fairy tale princesses and talking animals.
“You can’t go inside, I’m afraid,” said the young woman on the gate, after pocketing 30 pesos for each person in our group. (The car park had just cost 20 pesos.)
This eccentric property is home to the site’s owner, Manuel Dominguez, and off-limits to visitors, most of whom, it must be said, are happy to visit the Foco Tonal for its “mystical” powers alone. Originally from Monterrey, Dominguez purchased the land and built the castle more than 30 years ago when he says the lake’s waters lapped at the property’s edge. (The lake has receded at least half a kilometer since then and cannot be seen from the site.) Dominguez says he didn’t discover the focal tonal until later, after a visiting psychic felt the “vibes.”
The centerpiece of the site is a sunken circle surrounded by Romanesque columns each painted in a different pastel color and with a Star of David on the middle.
Visitors are invited, shoeless, into the circle in small groups, where a guide explains the history and meaning of the Focal Tonal. Then each person is asked to stand in the center of the circle to say their name. As you talk, the words reverberate, sounding as if one is talking inside a large metal box. The feeling is strange but not unpleasant. As I pondered a possible scientific explanation, the guide insisted the phenomenon is proof of the existence of the site’s extraordinary powers.
Before leaving the circle, visitors are encouraged to stand in its center to “cleanse” themselves or meditate, or whatever they choose to do. The experience, the guide pointed out, is spiritual but not in any way religious – all faiths are welcomed at the Foco Tonal. Nonetheless, he informed us that the two circles adjoining the main one are dedicated to the Catholic Virgin of Guadalupe and another saint. With at least 85 percent of Jalisco’s population proclaiming to be Catholic, that may simply be a concession to draw in a few more patrons.
Visitors are also encouraged to wander into the bushes surrounding the circles to experience the magnetic energy supposedly found there. If they’re lucky they may also spot some of the duendes (goblins) that are said to reside there. I, unfortunately, did not run into any little green men.
Naturally, the Foco Tonal also boasts a large “gift” shop hawking all kinds of esoteric merchandize, from crystals, beads and incense, to books on spiritualism, and even the occult.
We later talked briefly to Dominguez, a laid-back man now in his eighties, who had ventured out of his castle to mingle with the Saturday morning visitors. He chatted amiably with us, expressing his pleasure that he is able to share his “discovery” with so many people, and that everyone is free to make of the place what they wish.
Needless to say, a somewhat cynical journalist like myself was unable to perceive the energy of the Foco Tonal, but maybe that was never going to happen from the outset. (My aches and pains are still around, I regretfully have to report.) Another in our group, an Italian tourist, had been enthusiastic about the place from the beginning and insisted afterwards that she had felt a “sudden surge of energy” as she stood among the undergrowth surrounding the Foco Tonal. To each his/her own.
For those who wish to delve deeper into the Foco Tonal’s potential powers, testimonies from people who have been cured of various aliments after visits can be found on the Internet.
To get to the site, take Highway 36 to Ococtlan and turn right at the golf course at the entrance to the town. Follow the signs to the Foco Tonal for another ten minutes. About an hour’s driving from both Guadalajara and Chapala.