Adapted from Jim Conrad's
Naturalist Newsletter of July 13, 2007
issued from Sierra Gorda Biosphere Reserve,
QUERÉTARO, MÉXICO

CAVE OF THE GODDESS CACHÚN

UPDATE: Miguel Angel Izquierdo Sánchez, an amateur archeologist in Morelos, writes confirming that Cachún was indeed a Pame diety. He further writes that he has read that the Franciscan priest Fray Junípero Serra, founder of many villages and churches in Sierra Gorda, removed a monolith of Cachún and gave it to the Archobisp of Mexico, who was known as a destroyer of monoliths in his ideological war against indigenous beliefs.

The cave we visited is known as the Cave of the Goddess Cachún. Pancho and his family didn't know anything about Cachún, not even which indigenous culture she was from -- maybe Pame, he suggested -- and I can't find anything about her on the Internet.

The cave's entrance, with a small wooden cross mounted above it, was about large enough to admit a Volkswagen Beetle if somehow you could get a Beetle onto that steep slope. Just inside, however, a large cavern opened up. The picture I took with a flash turned out perfectly black, but with Photoshop I was able to coax a grainy image into being, which you can see below:

CAVE OF THE GODDESS CACHÚN

In that picture the globes of light toward the right are reflections of drops of water. There were no bats or snakes, but there were plenty of broken stalactites and other shattered and crunched speleothems. People had thrown stones at the ceiling to knock stalactites down. Pancho said typically only two or three people visit the cave in a year, but, still, the destruction mounts up.

The Eastern Sierra Madres are mostly composed of limestone, which is very different from the Western Sierra Madres, which consist mostly of igneous and metamorphic rock. Limestone tends to fracture, water seeps into the fractures, the water is slightly acidic and dissolves the limestone so over thousands and millions of years subterranean cracks develop into caves and caverns.

Don Gonzalo tells me that inside the cave there's a stone throne where the Goddess is supposed to have sat. The Don also says that there's another cave in the area with a woman in it hanging from a rope, wearing old-time clothing. Well, Don Gonzalo also says he has a burro who can make the sign of the Cross, so who knows?

I hadn't realized what a cave-oriented place the Sierra Gorda area was until I came here. Many backcountry people, if they see a gringo wandering around, stop and ask if we're looking for good caves; this happened to me last week. In past Newsletters whenever I've mentioned our area's caves I've received a flurry of email queries from spelunkers and rock- climbing connoisseurs of Mexico's deep holes. For those folks I provide links to the following Mexican- cave sites:

The Association for Mexican Cave Studies' lists of long and deep caves, and deep pits, appearing at http://www.amcs-pubs.org/longanddeep.html.

To see unbelievably large crystals in Chihuahua state (notice the man at the left in the top photo), go to http://www.crystalinks.com/mexicocrystals.html.

A list of Mexico's major "archeological caves" is at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_caves_in_Mexico.

"The Cave Diving Website" for Mexican caves appears at http://www.cavediving.com/where/mexico/index.htm.