A Sustainable Island Community: Mexcaltitlan

A Sustainable Island Community: Mexcaltitlan

The island of Mexcalatitlan de Uribe is known as the Mexican Venice.  It traces its origin to the Aztlans of the Aztecs.  Its round shape reflects their belief in moon worship, while its colorful houses and legendary history point to the birthplace of Mexico in 1,091 AD.  This sustainable island community is full of adventure, ancient history, traditional culture, exotic wildlife and delicious food.

Getting there

I had an opportunity to visit Mexcaltitlan with a group of urban studies students from ITESO in Guadalajara, Mexico.  Mexcaltitlan is accessible by boat from La Batanga, which is approximately 15 minutes away.  Getting to Mexcaltitaln is an adventure in itself as the journey takes you through local roads winding their way through the state of Nayarit until you hit a dead end, and the only way to proceed is by boat. 

The island of Mexcaltitlan
The island of Mexcaltitlan 1

The birthplace of Mexico

Mexcaltitlan is an island community on the Pacific coast of the state of Nayarit in Mexico.  Its name comes from two words, Mexcalli and Titlan.  Some historians believe that it was the birthplace of the Aztlans of Aztecs.  According to one legend, an Aztec priest had a vision here, which he interpreted as an order for the Aztlans to head South.  They set out on a pilgrimage which took them to Tenochitlan, which eventually became known as Mexico City, the capital of Mexico. 

A sustainable island community

The island is situated in the middle of mangroves full of shrimps, oysters, alligators and turtles.  Shrimp fishing is a source of livelihood and pride for the inhabitants of Mexcaltitlan.  In addition, they are known for their traditional crafts created with palm leaves and manta cloth.  The island community has not changed much over the past centuries and it demonstrates how a locally self-sufficient community can live comfortably with sustainable practices for living, working and recreation.

The Plan of Mexcaltitlan
The Plan of Mexcaltitlan 2

The Mexican Venice

The community is laid out with a circular ring road on the perimeter and a pair of roads in East-West and North-South directions forming a square in the middle.  The square is the town plaza with an elegant gazebo, where people gather together to celebrate holidays and social events.  The Church of Saints Peter and Paul is on one side of the Plaza and a tiny museum known as El Origen Museum is on the other.  The houses along the streets are painted in vivid colors.  A narrow sidewalk in front of colorful homes is usually filled with shrimps which are placed there to dry in the hot Sun.  Along the water’s edge you can see fishermen loading and unloading shrimps.  In the rainy season, the streets are flooded and the only way to travel around is by boat.  That is why Mexcaltitlan is also known as the Venice of Mexico

A magical day trip

A visit to Mexcaltitlan is a magical day trip from Guadalajara, Mexico.  It is full of adventure, ancient history, traditional culture, exotic wildlife and sustainable living practices.  This sustainable island community comes alive at night with its streets illuminated in vivid colors, while the rest of the structures are in darkness. 

  • Title image:  Mexcaltitlan – By Luis Méndez Covarrubias – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=72710420
  • 1 The island of Mexcaltitlan – By Comisión Mexicana de Filmaciones from México D. F., México – Isla Mexcaltitán, Nayarit/ Mexcaltitlán Island, Nayarit, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=66038631
  • 2 The Plan of Mexcaltitlan – By Andy Raeber, Lucerne, Switzerland – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=28050803

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