The myth of the Virgin of Zapopan, the “Reina del Lago,” is responsible for the increasing level of Lake Chapala would be no more than a cute, local folk tale if it were not so actively encouraged and promoted by the Catholic Church. Anyone with a modicum of education and common sense, and one hopes that the Archbishop of Guadalajara does qualify, ought to know that the fluctuations in the water level of Lake Chapala are due to the combination of two factors:
1. The amount of rain that falls in the Lerma River watershed (from the state of Mexico, to Guanajuato, Michoacan and Jalisco). This rainfall depends on the number and strength of the hurricanes that move up the Pacific Coast from June to October. These in turn depend on the intensity of the meteorological phenomenon known as “EL Niño.” Note that the rainfall in the Lake Chapala basin itself, however heavy it may be, contributes only a few centimeters to the rise in lake level.
2. The management (or mismanagement) of the Rio Lerma watershed flow distribution by the National Water Commission (Conagua). Since Conagua gives priority to the water supply available for the agricultural and industrial businesses along the Lerma, it will first and foremost ensure that the numerous reservoirs on the Lerma get replenished as much as possible during the rainy season. Only when these reservoirs are nearly full, will it open the valves that let water from the Lerma flow into Lake Chapala, bringing with it large quantities of water hyacinths (lirio) that cover and choke the reservoirs.
Therefore, only if the Virgin of Zapopan somehow would control the “El Niño” phenomenon and have influence on Conagua could she be praised and thanked for the significant increase in the lake water level during years of abundant rains. But then shouldn’t she be blamed and castigated in the years of drought?
I find it sad that so many educated and intelligent Mexican citizens whom I have met continue to subscribe to the myth and superstition of the “Reina del Lago.” I find it reprehensible for the Catholic hierarchy to support and encourage them.
J.C. Tatinclaux, Ajijic