The Signs at the Petroglyphs at Alta Vista

For anyone who has hiked the petroglyphs at Alta Vista (about 2 hours north of Puerto Vallarta), you’ll remember the distinctive green signs posted along the self-guided trail. These signs provide hikers with interesting information about the archeological site, the petroglyphs (rock carvings), as well as a little history of the area and its people. There are 15 signs in all and they are listed in numerical order below, although they are not posted in this order along the trail. 
Note: This is the second part to the petroglyph story we published a few weeks ago.

The verbage included below was taken directly from the signs, and only minor spelling changes have been made.

Alta Vista (Sign #1): Archeological petroglyphs site of Alta Vista 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 concentration of engraved rocks.

Piletas Creek

The Tecoxquin (Sign #2): The Tecoxquin (Tequecteoui, “Throat-Cutters”) were the original users of the Alta Vista site. Long before the arrival of 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 north as southern Sinaloa, and as far south and east as Colima and Michoacan.

The Tecoxquines Religious Life (Sign #3): 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 this 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.

Two of the actual signs posted along the trail 

The Last of the Tecoxquines (Sign #4): 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 Gods.

The Tecuales (Sign #5): 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 repopulated with Tecual Indians 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 African 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 Alta Vista in a distinct manner.

The Water Cycle (Sign #6): 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 Alta Vista attract heavy rainfall leaving the areas to the east much drier (the opposite side of the mountain has a semi-desert climate). Perhaps for this abundance of water, Alta Vista was seen as a special place, and venerated for its fertility.


For more information about the petroglyphs and how to get there, read our recent article entitled “Hiking the Petroglyphs at Alta Vista.”

Article and photos by Allyson Williams

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