The plaza and Catholic church of Ixtlahuacan de los Membillos, Jalisco, México.
The town of Ixtlahuacan de los Membrillos is the location of Hope House and the home of our missionaries when they’re on staff in Mexico. Located 45 minutes south of Guadalajara and 15 minutes north of Mexico’s largest lake, Lake Chapala, Ixtlahuacan is a small town between two destinations. Here are seven things you should know about Ixtlahuacan de los Membrillos:
1. The etymology of the town’s name is subject to some interpretation. What is clear is the Spanish phrase, “de los Membrillos.” It was appended in 1824 and means “of the quince fruit.” Quince are not native to Mexico but it’s apparent they were plentiful by the early 19th century. Ixtlahuacan is a little more challenging to decipher. It’s understood to be a compound word in Nahuatl. (Nahuatl is a language of the Uto-Aztecan family.) Ixtlahuatl is the word for field or plain. Canah (-can) is a generic place name. Thus we could interpret Ixtlahuacan de los Membrillos as “The place of quince fruit fields.” It’s worth noting that Ixtlacateotl was a regional deity and one interpretation sees Ixtlahuacan named with reference to the god. Other possibilities include: “A place from which you can see far” and “A watery field.”
2. Membrillos (or quince fruit) are available year round in Ixtlahuacan, though they are seasonally a summer fruit. A membrillo can be imagined as a cross between an apple and a pear. They are sold as produce but have many derivative uses as well, including: jams and preserves, candy, shaved ice, punch, and salsa. One of the specialty products the town is known for is cajeta de membrillo, a sweet dessert jelly that can be found at many corner stores. If you’re searching for orchards, there’s one just off the highway heading south.
3. The patron saint of Ixtlahuacan is el Apóstol Santiago, or the Apostle James. The town’s coat of arms features his cross and colors, red and white, which incidentally are the colors painted along the main road to town. The parochial temple is named after St. James and every 25th of July there is a procession through the streets in his honor. If you pay close attention to the raised statue as you enter Ixtlahuacan, you will see St. James seated upon a horse, holding membrillos in his arms.
4. According to the latest census data (2010), the population of Ixtlahuacan is over 6,100. That is after a 12% increase from five years prior. The municipality nearly doubled its population to 40,000 in the same time frame. In short, the town and surrounding countryside is growing.
5. Ixtlahuacan has an active communal life that is centered around the plaza. Aside from the daily activity, there are several cultural and religious festivals held throughout the year. There is the Festival of Membrillos, the Independence Day festival, the Majestic Day of the Dead festival, and various small religious festivals for select saints, St. James, and the Virgin of Guadalupe. These festivities involve live music and lots of street food. Ixtlahuacan tried to put itself on the map during the 2017 Day of the Dead festival by constructing a 48.1 m tall skeleton in the plaza. It was finished a couple of days after the main events.
6. Your basic taco is the most popular prepared food in Ixtlahuacan. At last count, there were no less than 5 vendors within one block of the plaza. Likewise, nieve —or ice cream—is very popular, with three vendors in the plaza. There are a couple of sit-down restaurants and some small eateries out of people’s homes; it’s not a lively restaurant or bar scene. Speciality foods would include birria —a spicy goat stew native to the state of Jalisco— and cajeta de membrillo.
7. Ixtlahuacan de los Membrillos has schools that range from grades K-12. Children usually enter Kindergarten at age three and they attend for three years. However, to access the secondary school—or preparatory school (grades 10-12)—students must take an exam, submit an application, and be accepted. The prep school in Ixtlahuacan specializes in agricultural studies for those looking for a technical degree (not a surprise considering the economic significance of agriculture in the area). Many students will not make it that far. Statistics from the municipality show that nearly 45% of the population 15 years and older have an incomplete primary school education.
Editor's note: Please remember to pray for Isaiah and the other missionaries and Hope House staff serving in Ixtlahuacan. Financial support can be sent to Isaiah by clicking here.
“A Dictionary of the English and Nahuatl Languages.” Mañana, manana.cz/slovnik/nahuaco_en.php.
“Ixtlahuacán De Los Membrillos.” GOBIERNO DEL ESTADO DE JALISCO, www.jalisco.gob.mx/es/jalisco/municipios/ixtlahuacan-de-los-membrillos.
“Ixtlahuacán De Los Membrillos.” Gobierno Ixtlahuacán De Los Membrillos, www.ixtlahuacandelosmembrillos.gob.mx/t_historia.php.
Mexico, SEDESOL, “Catálogo De Localidades.” www.microrregiones.gob.mx/catloc/LocdeMun.aspx?buscar=1&tipo=nombre&campo=loc&valor=Ixtlahuac%C3%A1n%20de%20los%20Membrillos&ent=14&mun=044.