Last updateFri, 06 Feb 2015 4pm
Deli Ocho

Secrets of Río de la Pasión: Mammoth bones, Spanish moss & ecotourism

Do you know way to San José? Of course, I mean San José de Gracia, one of the most dynamic little towns in western Mexico, located 80 kilometers south east of Guadalajara and about 90 minutes from Jocótepec. 

“You have to visit San José,” my friend Alejandro Solís insisted. “You’ll love the projects they´re doing along El Río de la Pasión and you can even go hunting for dinosaur bones.”

Naturally, I accepted Alex’s offer and off we drove to San José, which lies eight kilometers due north of Mazamitla, just over the Michoacán state line. We started out by visiting the town hall where we found a curious “cartoon mural” depicting San José’s most illustrious sons. One of them was wearing an eye patch and I soon discovered his name was Luis González y González, a world-famous historian. He is also said to be the inventor of “Microhistory” as well as the founder of the Colegio de Michoacán, that marvelous institute which supported archaelogist Phil Weigand’s discoveries when “the powers that be” were lined up against him.

In the town hall we met the municipal mayor and the local ecology and tourism director, Jorge González, who has found all sorts of fascinating fossils in this neck of the woods.

We jumped into Jorge’s truck and drove for about two kilometers to a place called Paso Real where Jorge suddenly pulled off the road and parked. Next came what I’d call the Quintessential Mexican Hike because it began with us squeezing through a barbed-wire fence beyond which there was no path and plenty of thorn bushes. Thus began Jorge’s fascinating introduction to the many fossils in the area. We saw all sorts of places where bones were literally sticking out of solid rock walls. It was obvious that long ago these walls were layers of mud or conglomerate and we were looking at the remains of some poor animal that got stuck in the muck eons ago.

The most exciting bones were mammoth and gomphothere tusks. “There was a big lake right here for a long time,” said Jorge, “but about 15,000 years ago it slowly dried up.”

Our next stop caught me off guard. After passing through low, deserty scrub, the horizon was suddenly filled with gigantic trees gloriously festooned with heno (Spanish moss). I gasped. Not only did those trees resemble Montezuma Cypresses, they seemed to me the most majestic and beautifully decorated trees I had ever seen ... and I’m including those which I’ve seen in Louisiana’s bayous as well.

Cypresses in the desert? Was I going crazy?

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