Catemaco - The City of Witches
By Logan Hawkes
It's a very beautiful and very strange place. You can sense it before you can see it, a strangely mythical atmosphere supercharged by the thick tropical air and mingled with swirling mists of the Sierra de Las Tuxtlas mountains near Vera Cruz, Mexico.
This is Olmec country, one of the most ancient cultures of the Americas, home of the famous giant stone faces of La Venta, and the place where many legends and myths were born; where many still survive.
Catemaco, Mexico, is known far and wide as the Mexico's (some say World) 'Capital of Witchcraft', a place where you can easily find a cure for any curse; where supernatural healing awaits at every turn; where you can hire a witch to perform a curse on someone you don't like, or offer an herbal remedy for most anything that ails you. For in the streets and alleys of the charming city of Catemaco are seers and prophets, magicians and witches; where the occult and supernatural are as natural as the dense vegetation of the nearby tropical rain forest.
March is the perfect time for traveling to Catemaco if you want to attend the annual "Noche de Brujas", or the Night of the Witches annual celebration. In a community that prides itself in being the world's "capital of witches," the first weekend in March each year is marked by gala events, special ceremonies, and plenty of supernatural advise if you have a few dollars to contribute to your favorite witch or wizard.
This year's fest promises to be another circus of curiosity seekers, makeshift spiritualists and a few serious practitioners that consider wizardry a real way of life.
Signs in shops and along roadways point the way to the homes of the famous and not-so-famous witches and magic healers of the community. For a price, you can explore their occult arts and consult about remedies to address your personal problems.
But be aware there is a growing feud between the magically inclined of Catemaco. A few serious worshipers of the Dark Arts are apparently displeased with the commercialism caused by a large influx of 'fakes' who have set up business in the community to prey on the increasing number of visiting tourists.
But even if you're not into the witches of Ctaemaco, adventurers to the Vera Cruz region will find great diversity and mystery in the many outdoor opportunities that abound surrounding the mysterious lakeside town. As old as time itself perhaps, the green coastal plains of the Gulf Coast and the encroaching mountains and forests are full of ancient ruins and Olmec sites of great power and legend. Exploring such places not only excites the need to be physically active, but the brush with history in these ancient locations provide an experience that can bring chills to the spine.
Lake Catemaco abounds in a small boat activity, the perfect chance to explore the mystical laguna. In the center of the six-mile wide lake are a number of islands. One of these is known locally as Monkey Island, named after a number of imported monkeys from Thailand that were brought there for scientific study - and then left there to multiply and grow into a successful colony.
To the south you can descend to the coastal plains and the small villages that dot the coast. There are unspoiled beaches to discover and very little tourism traffic to these remote regions.
In the opposite direction from the "witch City" lies a lush tropical rain forest that provides an unbelievable and intense opportunity to experience the unspoiled tropics. The film "Medicine Man" (starring Sean Connery) was filmed in this forest, as well as several dozen other films including Mel Gibson's Apocalypto.
Back in the community of Catemaco, you will find many modern and charming sites and a beautifully landscaped city with clean streets, clean people, and magic on every corner. From the rich and famous to a former Mexican President, those that come here often seek advise or healing from the local mystics.
You'll also find many great eateries and restaurants in the city, but be warned that the native food is a little different than many parts of Mexico, with fish proving to be the dominant item on most every menu.
Regardless whether you're visiting for the natural aspects of the region or for the supernatural aspect of the community, an adventure into this magical part of Mexico is well worth the visit.
Correspondence to the author should be directed to Loganhawk1@aol.com.