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SOLEDAD DE MACIEL


GUERRERO, MEXICO

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(Soledad de Maciel, large cactus.)
A 350 YEAR OLD CACTUS

Story and Photos by
LEE A. WOOD

In the middle of nowhere is a small hill, possibly the sole survivor of a tragedy that happened thousands of years ago.

North of Acapulco, Mexico, about 110 Km. and South of Zihuatanejo, about 30 Km. is a little hill surrounded by thousands of hectares of fertile valley. Though it only extends above the surrounding coconut trees by a mere 200 M., the hill gives, except for the trees and Cacti that adorn its peak, an unobstructed view of a vast basin that at one time was the home to some 300,000 Aztec Indians.

ROADSIDE
SIGN
(Soledad de Maciel, Sign.)
Passengers wait by this sign for the bus to Soledad De Maciel.

The road to Soledad de Maciel is about five Km. long and is dusty and rough but not an ordeal to travel. It starts with a large sign, easy to see, on the side of the main highway, about six Km. North of Petatlan.

STREET in
SOLEDAD
DE MACIEL
(Soledad de Maciel, street.)

About a Km. from the small hill, in the small barrio of Soledad de Maciel, across from the inevitable concrete floored basketball court, stands a small church. Near the entrance to the church is a large rock which bears hieroglyphics that are over three thousand years old.

STONE WITH
HIEROGLYPHICS
(Soledad de Maciel, Stone.)

If you can understand Hispaniola, or a basic thereof, the guide will explain, he does know some English, to you, the meanings of the markings on the stone. He will also explain to you that the rock came from a nearby hill.

If you wish, the guide will take you down the street to a small museum in which is housed other artifacts excavated from the hill. These are mostly small figurines which have not so much been excavated as exposed by the rains washing away the dirt on the side of the mountain. On the wall of the museum, which is also the guides home, are his diplomas in Archeology.

For those who are into a short climb, quite steep, the guide will take you to the hill.

GUIDE(Soledad de Maciel, Guide.)

First a stop at the store to get water and then a short drive back down the road toward the highway. Through a small gate in the barbed wire fence, along a winding path, through a small grove of dried trees, to the first flight of stairs that has been dug into the side of the small mountain by the guide and his brother.

The climb is not extremely hard nor is it easy. The entire climb has been staired but many of the stairs have been washed away by rain.

STONE WITH
HIEROGLYPHICS
(Soledad de Maciel, guide standing on rock.)
The petroglyphs on this rock were a map for ancient Aztec travellers.

At the top of the main climb is a large rock presenting a petroglyph of a map. Three thousand years ago the map explained to Aztec travellers the positions of the cities in the local area. One arrow points South to, present day, Petatlan and another arrow points North to, present day, Barri de Potosi.

350 year old cactus(Soledad de Maciel, I and my friends beneath the cactus.)
(L - R) Paul, France, Alexi, Anna, ?, Guide, Celine, Guide.

The next part of the trail is fairly level and takes you to an enormous cactus, some three meters wide, ten meters high, and some three hundred fifty years old.

From the cactus the trail goes to a large rock. Climbing atop the boulder, one can view thousands of hectares of land that is some three hundred feet below sea level. At one time the entire population of this area lost their lives when the area was flooded by the sea. In the distance, thirty-seven Km. South of Zihuatanejo, can be seen the present city of Petatlan.

360 DEGREE VIEW FROM THE TOP OF THE HILL AT SOLEDAD DE MACIEL

VIEW TO THE NORTH

LOOKING NORTH OVER THOUSANDS OF HECTARES OF COCONUTS

VIEW TO THE NORTH WEST

THE PETATLAN AREA IS THE LARGEST COCONUT PRODUCING AREA IN MEXICO

VIEW TO THE SOUTH EAST

NOT SURE, BUT I THINK, THAT IS PETATLAN IN THE DISTANCE

VIEW TO THE SOUTH WEST

SOLEDAD DE MACIEL HIDES AMONGST THE COCONUT TREES

VIEW TO THE SOUTH EAST

ON THE HORIZON A FREIGHTER MOVES SOUTH ON THE PACIFIC OCEAN

The trail continues to the top of the mountain where you can climb another, much larger, rock and enjoy a view, this time looking West and North, of more thousands of hectares of coconut palm trees. Amongst the trees you can see villages. Past the trees you can see the Pacific Ocean. On the far horizon we could make out a tiny dot that was a large ocean going freighter.

CAVE OF
FALLEN ROCKS
(Soledad de Maciel, rocks forming a cave.)
Giant boulders rest upon one another to form a cave.

The trail winds down, and around, the back of the small mountain to a cave like opening amongst large boulders. An earthquake has shifted the boulders and sealed off the view of the underground stream that goes down inside the rocks to come out amongst the trees in the valley below. There is a small opening between the balanced boulders into which a person can squeeze to view more petroglyphs.

EXCAVATION
SITE
(Soledad de Maciel, hole at base of cliff.)
Here someone uncovered some large artifacts and tried to steal them.

A few feet below the opening is a large rock face at the bottom of which is the remains of an excavation. Here foreigners removed some large artifacts. The stones were too large for easy transportation and the thieves were caught. The stolen artifacts were recovered and now reside in Petatlan.

After we descended the hill we were invited to go back to Soledad de Maciel and view a hole in the ground where humans were sacrificed to the ancient Gods but as our time was pressed we left our guides at this point and they walked back to the village.

There is no charge for viewing the museum nor climbing the hill but this is the only source of income for the guides so we tipped them well. (A little extra because we didn't give them a ride back to the museum.)

FEDERAL AND
MUNICIPAL
POLICE
(Petatlan, police car.)
Officers at work on the outskirts of Petatlan.

EL CENTRO
PETATLAN
(Petatlan, recovered artifact.)
The smaller of the two stones that had been stolen from the hill.

From Soledad de Maciel we drove to Petatlan. There at the base of the gazebo in El Centro, the town square, are the recovered artifacts. Two large cylindrical pieces of stone, and a large, wheel shaped, stone, covered with Aztec hieroglyphics. The archaeologists in Soledad de Maciel hope to, someday, get these artifacts back to the museum in Soledad de Maciel.

In Petatlan we stopped to visit some friends. These people too showed us some artifacts. Bits of pottery and figurines that they had uncovered in their own back yard.

When the area had been flooded, the waters had covered many hectares and destroyed many villages. The remains of the homes are not that far beneath the present surface of the earth and artifacts can be found almost anywhere. But only from Soledad de Maciel can one get a breathtaking view and an appreciation of the area that was devastated.

END

2010 UPDATE

La Chole is now the site of a major archaelogical excavation sponsored by the Tourism Dept. The new museum is scheduled to open in March 2010. Meanwhile, visitors can park near the gates to the dig and tour it (in Spanish) with a very well-informed local guide named Eric. -- C.F. (visited January 2010)

END

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