HISTORY OF PRESIDIO ISLAND: LAKE CHAPALA

Mezcala Island Tour: Mezcala Island, also known as El Presidio, is located a few kilometers southeast of the town of Mezcala on the northern shore of Lake Chapala, a few miles east of Chapala. From 1812 to 1816, a small band of Mexican rebels held off the Spanish army and navy against overwhelming odds. Tired of the humiliation, the Spanish finally negotiated a peaceful surrender with the insurgents. The island then became a Spanish prison for many years. Rumors have it that indigenous structures and hieroglyphics existed on the island before the fortifications were built, but if so all traces disappeared with the construction.

Informador Article: Mexico's Independence Day is 16 de Septiembre when Mexicans celebrate the anniversary of Father Miguel Hidalgo's cry to arms against the Spanish in 1810. The rebel army of Mexico grew from the original handful of Father Hidalgo's parishioners to hundreds of thousands in just a matter of months. Two months after war was declared on September 15, 1810, José Antonio Torres had assembled 20,000 rebel fighters from all of the villages in this part of Jalisco for his march on Guadalajara.

The Spanish poured enormous amounts of manpower, weapons, supplies, and even a stream of boats brought overland from San Blás to attempt to squelch the determined insurgent army that was defending the shores of Lake Chapala. Lakeside fishermen and farmers fiercely fought the Spanish from the shores of the lake and from Mezcala Island, which was renamed Presidio Island. Of the many local heroes that emerged from the local battles, you'll recognize the names from the following three — from the local streets named in their honor.

José Encarnación Rosas was the indigenous captain of 60 local fishermen and farmers who gathered to protect the shores of Lake Chapala from the invading Spanish troops. A Tlachichilco fisherman, Encarnación Rosas joined forces with Mezcala native José Santa Ana to set up a fortress on Mezcala Island. Encarnación Rosas was killed by enemy forces in 1813.

There were two Mexican heroes with the name Santa Ana in the 19th century. José Santa Ana was a native of the tiny Lakeside village of Mezcala de Asunción. During the War of Independence, he fought to protest the cruelties imposed by the Spanish against the indigenous people at Lake Chapala. The combined local forces of Encarnación Rosas and Santa Ana had their headquarters on Mezcala Island and successfully held off the Spanish for nearly four years.

Padre Marcos Castellanos was the driving force behind the armies of Encarnación Rosas and Santa Ana on Mezcala Island. Father Castellanos Mendoza was born in the Lakeside settlement of La Palma and was serving in the Bishop's offices in Guadalajara when war broke out. He begged to be relieved of those duties and returned to Lake Chapala where he planned defenses and methods of protection.

Unlike many other areas where insurgent resistance faded under the onslaught of the superior Spanish forces, the insurgents of Lake Chapala held their ground. In June 1814, the leader of the 8,000 Spaniards garrisoned around Lake Chapala proclaimed: "In all the kingdom, the rebels hold no military positions with the exception of Lake Chapala and that will soon be their sepulcher."

Disease and lack of food had killed as many of the local army as the fighting during those four years of battle, even with the heroic efforts of the residents of Mezcala and other Lakeside villages to feed the soldiers and tend their wounds. Eventually Padre Castellanos Mendoza convinced the insurgents to allow negotiations for the pardon and surrender of the island troops. The Lake Chapala soldiers were the first pardoned by the Spanish when Commander General José de la Cruz signed the pardons and agreements as the head of Spanish military operations in Tlachichilco on November 25, 1816.

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Outing to Presidio Island
Our Godsons: Outings 2011
Our Godsons