Jalisco: This is what the Juanacatlán Falls, the “Niagara of Mexico”, was like before pollution


The name Juanacatlán comes from Mayan, structured around poetic resonances, and means “waterfall between the cane fields.”

The Juanacatlán Falls are located about 15 kilometers from Lake Chapala, and approximately one hour away from Guadalajara. They run over the large bed of the Santiago River, between the municipalities of Juanacatlán and El Salto, in a tumultuous overflow between the plains and the hills, and between mesquites and thorny bushes that sprout from the cliffs that the centuries formed.

The waters of Juanacatlán are sad, foaming, dragging in their course a torrent of pollution from the companies and industrial complexes that in turn devastated the moors, the sugarcane fields and the wooded plains of the valley. On both sides of the riverbed there are demolished farms where it does not seem conceivable that humans could live, and which combine the panorama of desolation.

El Salto de Juanacatlán is one of the red spots of pollution in Jalisco, and over the years fruitless attempts have been made to heal and clean its waters, in words for political purposes that never amounted to true facts. They are late attempts that will take time to sort out the catastrophe left by decades of complicity between the government and the industries that used the falls as a drain.

Those who live around the waterfall denounce the unbearable stench, the poison in the environment and in life itself, and the repercussions that the toxicity of the water has caused on people’s health, with damaged kidneys, blood poisoned, and hopes without a future.

Things were very different a century ago, and not even that different. There was a moment in our history when the Juanacatlán Falls were considered “the Niagara” of Mexico. The comparison was not nonsense: the water of Juanacatlán, when falling on the rocks, was a roar of an enormous beast that could be heard from kilometers away, and its channel was so strong and so voracious that it had more intensity than a storm in the ocean.

Photographers of the past, however, portrayed it forever in the glory that was once believed to be eternal, and of which today only the remains remain. A 19th century traveler came to describe it in an almost fantastic way, surprised by the strength of the water as a definitive example of what life is:

“When there were a little more than five kilometers left to reach it, a roar like distant thunder could be heard; we were getting closer, and the noise was increasing. Suddenly, as we emerged from a thick bush, ah! We were amazed. with the view of the imposing spectacle that we had in front of us. For a long time, we contemplated this wonder, amazed that the immense flow of waters of the great Lerma River rushed to a height of 50 meters, forming a glass curtain (…) and also pleased of the thousand rainbows that were formed with the vapors.”

Juanacatlán today rots in its own waters, in the waste that resists the logic of nature and life itself. Gone are the times when the torrent meandered through the valley and fragmented into a roar of foam and colors that silenced the birds and everything that was miles around, and that led the people of their time to the illusion happy that we had a Niagara in Jalisco, in Mexico.

Source: El Informador