Mexcalitán is a small village on an island located in one of the lakes in the estuaries north of San Blas, in the municipality of Santiago Ixcuintla, in the Mexican state of Nayarit. The island is fascinating to look from the air. Two parallel streets cross the oval-shaped island from north to south, and two others from east to west, where they intersect in the middle to form a modern plaza. The only other street runs around the island in a circle, parallel to and not far from the water’s edge. There is church, a few shops, a billiards hall, a museum, and an administrative office at the central area of the village, while low houses, of adobe, brick and cement, line the dirt streets and extend right down to the water’s edge. For several months during the rainy season, the rising waters flood the streets making travel by boat the only option. For this reason, the island has earned the name “The Mexican Venice.”
This ancient island village is believed to be the ancestral homeland of the Aztecs before they set out on their pilgrimage in 1091 to found Tenochtitlan (modern Mexico City). These days Mexcaltitán is mostly a tourist town with shrimp fishing the main economic vocation of the island’s inhabitants. Men head out into the surrounding wetlands in the early evening in small boats, to return just before dawn with their catch. All day long, shrimps are spread out to dry on raised sidewalks. Aside from providing space for sun-drying of shrimps, these high curbs protect houses from flooding when water levels rise too high.