Archeological Petroglyphs site of Altavista known as "La Pila
del Rey" located along the Piletas creek on the sides of the
Copo volcano. It covers an extension of about 80 hectares where
there is one of the biggest concentrations of engraved rocks.
2) The Tecoxquin ("Throat-Cutters")
They were the original users of the Altavista site. Long before
the Spanish, this indigenous group inhabited an extensive region
covering the entire southern coast of Nayarit and neighboring
coastal and mountain regions of Jalisco. They were mainly farmers,
fishermen, salt-producers, and traders in cacao and cotton.
The Tecoxquines were organized in a series of villages under
the control of Teuzacualpan in the Chila valley (the modern-day
town of Zacualpan). Their commercial links allowed them to establish
an intense trade which reached at least as far as southern Sinaloa,
and as far south and east as Colima and Michoacan.
3) The Tecoxquines Religious Life
Many of the religious ceremonies which occurred at this site
were undoubtedly based on nahualism. Nahualism, or shamanism,
is an ancient religious practice by which certain persons communicate
with their gods and spirits through altered states of consciousness.
This tradition has deep roots in the region; the name of the
state of Nayarit derives from the word "nahualli". The Tecoxquines
used psychotropic plants and tobacco to attain states of ecstasy
that brought them into contact with their deities.
4) The Last Of The Tecoxquines
In 1524 an army led by Francisco Cortes de Buenaventura incorporated
this zone into the jurisdiction of Santiago of Colima. Six years
later, Nuño de Guzman formed the kingdom of Nueva Galicia covering
the entire northern and western regions of Mexico. Following
the Spanish conquest, deaths from epidemics and forced labor
completely annihilated the Tecoxquines as a people. Today in
the mestizo towns of the area people still speak of "white indians,"
ghosts who appear from the mountains to honor their ancient
5) The Tecuales
In the 17th century, European landowners cultivating cacao in
the region needed a new workforce. The old Tecoxquin villages,
as far as the salt-producing town of Ixtapa were populated with
Tecual who were ancestors of the modern-day Huichol. A new wave
of Europeans arrived from the town of Compostela and formed
haciendas such as Chila and Las Varas. They also brought in
slaves through the nearby port of Chacala which had trade links
with North and South America. Each of these new peoples reinterpreted
the petroglyphs of Altavista in a distinct manner
6) The Water Cycle
The state of Nayarit is characterized by high rainfall, the
fifth highest in the country. The rains are concentrated in
a period of intense storms between May and October. In dramatic
contrast to the dry season the rest of the year, the mountains
of Altavista attract heavy rainfall leaving the areas to the
east much drier (the opposite side of the mountain has a semi-desert
climate). Perhaps becuase of this abundance of water, Altavista
was seen as a special place, and venerated for its fertility
This concept was a central part of ancient mesoamerican cosmology.
Tamoanchan is the cosmic tree which connects all life and sustains
the world. Its roots are underground in the realm of water and
fertility. Its trunk is among humans above ground and reaches
upward. The crown of the tree is in the heavens, in the realm
of the gods and the rains. Tamoanchan was represented by the
Ceiba tree in many parts of Mexico although other large trees
such as the pine and the strangler fig could also have served
the same purpose.
8) Warfare: Trophy Heads
The "flower war" was one of the principal religious practices
associated with the Tecoxquines . The goal was not conquest.
Rather the objective was to obtain warrior prisoners for ritual
sacrifice, and whose severed heads were later offered to the
gods. These wars usually occurred locally, although they were
also held in places as far away as the valleys of Talpa, Mascota,
and the Mochitiltic Canyon in Jalisco.
In ancient Mesoamerica, water was thought to lie underneath
the earth, and so the underworld was considered a place of fertility.
Tlalocan was the "water paradise" beneath the earth. It was
inhabited by the Chanes, or Water Spirits, as well as the spirits
of those people who had drowned or whose death was connected
to water. Tlalocan was also the place of the mythical crocodile
Cipactli, an "earth monster" who symbolized fertility and the
10) The Devoted Christ
The first historical references to the Altavista archeological
site date from 1612. They describe complex writing, a multitude
of crosses, and above all a devoted Christ whom the local people
hold in great veneration. This is possibly a reference to the
so-called "Maize Man", a figure symbolizing fertility and growth.
Local farmers leave offerings of candles and gourd bowls of
salt to this figure in order to obtain fertility for their coffee
and tobacco crops or in hopes of obtaining work when they travel
to the United States.
11) The Apostle Matthew
Beginning in the 17th century the belief arose among the Spanish
that the apostle Matthew traveled to the new world in prehispanic
times to evangelize the indians. This was thought to account
for the rock carvings of Altavista, especially the crosses.
By the 20th century this belief had developed to the point where
Matthew was credited with creating the cross of grass, which
is now a religious sanctuary in Tepic and is thought to possess
miraculous powers. According to local legend a stream of blood
beginning at the cross of grass flowed down the mountains to
Altavista, connecting the two sacred sites.
12) The Cross
The fact that the cross was a sacred symbol among the Tecoxquines,
somewhat surprising to the Spanish, and led to the legend of
the apostle Matthew. But for the Tecoxquines, like most other
ancient mesoamericans, the cross was in reality a mental map
of the cosmos. It symbolized the five sacred directions: the
four cardinal points and the center. Each direction was associated
with certain gods, colors, and sacred realms, as well as one
of the four trees which formed the tamoanchan. The idea of the
four-cornered universe is still present among Mexican indians
today, and is symbolized by crosses, diamonds and other similar
13) Communication With The Gods
It is possible that the rocks of Altavista were associated with
the mythical trees of Tamoanchan which connected the underworld,
the earth and the heavens. The prayers of the people traveled
up through the sap of the tree trunks to the realm of the gods.
In turn, the gifts of the gods, rain, fertility, and good health
returned to the earth through the same trees. For the Tecoxquines
, the rocks of Altavista would have served the same purpose,
a medium of communication between the people and their gods.
14) Tecoxquin Symbolism
The spirals, wavy lines and other symbols carved in the rocks
of Altavista most likely constitute a ritual language of prayers
to the Tecoxquin gods. As an agricultural people, the Tocoxquines
would have been concerned with obtaining rain, fertility of
the earth, and the continuance of the seasonal rhythms they
depended upon. Although the exact meaning of the symbols will
never be known, the spirals have been interpreted as the sun,
rainstorm, wind, coiled snakes, or as a symbol of the natural
rainy and dry cycle
15) Huichol Offerings
The Huichol indians who occasionally visit Altavista originally
lived in the mountains of Nayar although in recent years a small
group has moved to the Las Varas area. They leave offerings
and perform ceremonies here for Nakahue, "our grandmother of
fertility," and also for Tatevari, "our grandfather of fire".
Some Huichols also travel to the nearby port of Chacala where
ancient rock carvings are located and leave offerings to Tatei
Aramara, "our mother ocean."