Anales de Tepoztlán

The Portada de Semillas in Tepoztlán in 1996




September 8, 1996

This arch, located at the portal of the church of the Virgin of Nativity, is an expression by the draftspersons who live in Tepoztlan and reflects a synthesis of Christian beliefs and prehispanic serpents.

The art is decorated with 64 kinds of seeds made festive by their colors which form two entwined serpents, one with rattles that evoke legends, and the other in a flight of quetzal feathers ruffled by the breath of Wind Jewel (Precious Wind, Ehecatl), distant and yet a force in Tepoztlan's culture.

Large image(196k.) @ 150 dpi for printing

This time the portada can be interpreted from left to right or vice versa and also from the bottom to the center of the arc and then down on both sides, or from the general to the particular.

One serpent has a a six celled rattle on his tail and the other has quetzal feathers. Both, created from seeds in their various colors, ascend from the bottom left to descend in waves on the right. At their heads, the plumed serpent tells us legends and the other ends in a foot and footprint which repel evil.
Entwining themselves, the two serpents form circles, four on each side, along their length, and in them are seen the eight symbols of the barrios of the municipality's main town. In the lower left circle we see the
possum of barrio San Pedro, with a preoccupied look because he makes a tasty dish at fiestas; on the lower right is the ocullín or maguey worm of barrio los Reyes. Further up, on the left is the elegant tlacomiztli or "half cat" of barrio Santa Cruz, watching the cólotl or scorpion of barrio San Sebastian. Continuing upward on the left, the tzícatl or ant of barrio la Santísima Trinidad, raising his antenna to find the handsome cuetzpallín or lizard of barrio San Miguel and finally the cacaton or frog of barrio Santo Domingo who looks further up at the leaf covering the totomostle or ear of corn of barrio San José. From these serpents shall come the germs of the flowering of tomorrow's children.

The arch is crowned by a maguey plant and its leaves from which triumphantly emerges a tlatoani, one who leads men by the force of his words, the victor over Xochicálcatl, the Lord of the Place of Flowers, among white clouds, as the legend tells it, with his shield containing the symbols of the God of Pulque and of Tepoztlan. Clutched in his right hand he raises high his staff of office while in a firm voice he cries out in order that the nation and the world listen to his demand for respect of his culture, the cry for justice and dignity before a government which is deaf and dumb to the people of Tepoztlan.

Our grandfathers, grandmothers, and other elders tell us of when the serpent's rattles grew eighteen cells of wisdom, when quetzal feathers sprouted from its aged hide, when it learned to fly here and there within human thought, journeying from hill to hill to reach the sea and bathe in the sun. The plumed serpent rose in clouds of purity which flew with the sea wind to kiss the mountains and disperse itself in the form of rain, but which also punishes wicked peoples by transforming itself into a black cloud and descending as a whirlwind.

Our grandparents also tell us how the serpent crossed the hilly lands in order that water not carry away the fertile soil and so plants which humans could eat would grew in it. This one they called te-pan-coa-te or or the serpent laid our as a line of rocks: from June to November from its body come flowers which disperse their perfumes for everyone; but also neglect by humans who, in the dry season, set fire to their fields and to the hills stirs them to unleash fire serpents from their heights and the tepancoates become black serpents (tilcoatas). At other times, fatigued, the serpents undulate watchfully over the corn fields.

The grandparents of our elders told them how they saw the serpent undulate over the waves of the ocean, and that some returned loaded with the joy of living. Others returned through the interior of the earth, forming caverns as they passed and their featghers were converted into natural jewels, the beauty and treasure of the earth. They say that some of these caverns open into the sacred mouths of certain places; certain it is that when man knew of these caverns and these caves in the interior of the earth, he made clay vessels, jade beads ,and from precious stones images of the gods of rain, of wind, of fire, and of earth, and went to offer them with rites and beliefs as ancient as those not only of the Tepoztecans but of the majority of Mexicans.

Our elders tell us that Ce Acatl Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl was born in Xochiatglaco, the valley of flowers, purity, love, and the Nahualatl pool, that is, the water where men are transformed, just as el Tepozteco, confronted by the Lord of Xochicalco, changed himself into different animals (rabbit, jaguar, eagle); so that in the water of this pool and its waterfall, Quetzalcoatl washed away his impurities and, as a penitence it was there that he punctured his ears with maguey spines.

From a mountainous fissure in Tepoztlán,slithering from left to right, tilted upwards towards the turquoise blue heights, emerges a serpent whose quetzal feathers have been ruffled by the breath of the wind; it delivers its cultural greetings - zochicalcas perhaps, or perhaps teotihuacan? This forked tongue serpent is protected by a cave, before the gaze of death and of human life. In the center of the arch are the roots of the maguey plant in the form of a hand of a man who can control himself and his beliefs. It is here that the historic Quetzalcóatl is remembered as the creator of virtuous life.

Two undulating serpents of rocks surround the Valley of Tepoztlán from north to south and descend towards where the sun rises. On the east of the valley undulates a third serpent called female butterfly or Zohuapapalotzin. All of them are dressed in jade, sprinkled with flowers and prehispanic rock paintings. Some of the summits of these sacred mountains contain pyramids in ruins. Yohualinchan or in the house of night, the Tepoztécatl, Xochitépetl or flower mountain, and Teotzintépetl or mountain of the corn god. Other sites became cities in their days: Tlamanco, Analco, Calamatlán, Axihtla, Tlaxomolco y Tecuescontitila, with pyramids oriented to the four cardinal points.

We should feel proud of the plumed serpent, because some of its virtues continue to rule over our everyday life: the coatéquitl(serpent work), which is no more than the individual's responsibility for collective work to benefit the pueblo, to cultivate the fields of the holy saint of the barrio, to maintain the churches, the streets, the graveyards, to help the relatives of the dead, to stand guard over the municipal offices and their barriers, and so many things more.

In order to eradicate the virtues of prehispanic society, the Spanish conquistadors made the serpent into something negative and imbued it with the Hebrew culture;'s idea of sin, but such is the tolerance and prudence of the serpent that you can provoke it, you can disturb it with your feet and it will continue to be curled up, but it will react violently when it feels itself being stepped on, not just bodily but also in the sense of its dignity and respect for the life of others. It then will unwind with the speed of the wind at the moment when it launches its fatal bite.

Let's return to the portada. Tepoztlán's artisans this time returned this time, perhaps unconsciously, to the forgotten virtues of the plumed serpent, not to remain romantically in that past, but rather to educate us with this colorful and collectively realized handcraft.

In the scene at the left, five commoners (who symbolize the pueblo), with thoughtful words and good manners, name their wise governor or tlatoani in accordance with their traditional usages and customs. This tlatoani knows how to dialogue with nature, with his own heart, but above all with his brother men. He knows how to listen in order to have the right to be listened to. He never shouts; he reasons and he does so with humility.

Another tlatoani, located above the first one, was removed because he spoke lies (for which reason the "comma" which symbolizes speech is reversed): which means that he wanted to, or did, cheat the pueblo of his b birth by swearing and signing in documents that he would never do anything against it or without its agreement, but faced with money and power, he did the opposite, along with his group of followers.

Protecting this scene on the right are the sacred mountains of Chalchitépetl (Mountain of precious stones), Cematzin (A hand) and el Yohualtécatl (the Guardian of night). On the left are seen first El Ocelotépetl (Tiger Mountain) spotted with light and shadows, El tlacaltépetl (Mountain of Men), El Tepolztécatl with the pyramid at its peak and with a rabbit which speaks the number 2 (Ometochtli), El Tlahuiltépetl (Mountain of Light), El Ehecatépetl (Wind Mountain) with a cave with tattoos of prehispanic gods, Malinaltépetl (Mountain of the Rain Drops) and flowers which from July to November come in an invisible serpentine cascade, biting our throats with the freshness of their teeth. In the center one can observe the glyph of Tepoztlán with its stylized mountain and ax in the upper part.

In the scene at the lower right we see the governor of Cuernavaca (whose jurisdiction is greater than that of Tepoztlán) who also tells lies while the conquistador of today offers him a bag full of cacao (which was the money of prehispanic times), a governor who thinks that he knows everything and those who do not think like he does he buys with money, offering them a public position, and if they can't be corrupted he represses them to death, as happened to Marcos Olmedo. It was on the 10th of April 1996, there in Tlatizapán (place of chalky earth) that one of the soldiers of the governor of Cuernavaca grabs Marcos by the hair and another threatens him with a club and shield. Another Tepozteco sadly retreats after being beaten. The two Tepoztecans were unarmed. This fact is indicated by the count of 10 circles at the lower left.

Beneath this scene appear symbolically the water-bearing strata which, had the construction of the golf club been permitted, would have brought death to the entire pueblo because a pueblo without land, without water, even without its pyramids, is a pueblo without history, a pueblo of fantasy only. To the right appear the four sad faces of the four political prisoners, but proud of their dignity and of their pueblo. On the two sides of the arc, in the middle part, two sacred incensers spread copal incense with the fragrance of our actual fiestas, rites and beliefs. Slightly above the incensers two rabbits stand guard over nature in order later to raise themselves up in a song of the 12 breezes of the wind (in the form of halved seashells) and jump into space to retreat, full-bodied, into the full moon, according to our beliefs.

Two serpents in unity and in the struggle of a pueblo. One gives life, the other energy. A hand in the scene at the left unites them. The two are one another at the same time. It is the legendary Tepozteco who freed his people from the Lord of Xochicalco. Today it is a collective Tepozteco who says "no" to cheating and to the ambition of the few who concentrate power and money. But this evil is not just in them but also in some Tepoztecos who try to take advantage of this crisis, forgetting the honesty and prudence of the plumed serpent. The people of Tepoztlán along with the rest of the nation live through difficult moments of great definitions and great learning.

Sacred seeds of the gods which come from Tlintzinetl the (sacred bean) and Tzintéotl (the god of maize) where in ancient times man, maize and beans were born. Today we suffer because a new man has been born in a mixing of Christianity and the virtues of the plumed serpent.

For Tepoztlán which, in these time of mobilization of voices and of thought, has dreamed strong and united in search of justice and dignity for all.; It is the love of the song and the flowers of its culture.

Alfredo Martínez Rojas
Rafael Carillo Campos
Arturo Demasa Ortiz


Simón Rojas Ortiz
Gilberto Ortiz Trejo
Ignacio Campos
Lorena Medina
Antonia Sedano Noriega
Maria Flores
Teresa Ortiz Flores
Cecilia Cortés
Marino Medina Lezo
Gerardo Noriega
Jesús García

Arturo Demasa Ortiz

Inocencio V. Rodríguez F.


Unión de Comerciantes Independientes en Pequeño
Calle Revolución de 1910
Unión de Artesanos Lado Norte
Unión de comerciantes de Frente al Palacio Minicipal

Adriana Flores, Mónica Flores, Agustín García,
Nicanor Coómez, Armando Gómez, Lisbeth,
Agustín Marquina, Guillermina Ortíz, AriatnaOrtíz,
Elvira Polanco, Merced Rojas, Reyna Romero,
Remigio Santos, Agustín Tano, Gloria Vázquez,
Rafaela de Villamil y demas personas que no se anotaron.

José Rivera Lara
Juan Carlos Sedano Valencia
Emiliano Flores Navarrete
Juan Jiménez Polanco
Fausto Farfán
Helio, Ramiro, Pío y Karla


Amigos de Tepoztlán, A.C