An enterprising family has transformed Amatitán’s impressive Ruinas de Chimulco into a restaurant which is not only charming and picturesque, but, I’ll venture to say, unique, because its table-side pool is fed by a qanat, a kind of underground aqueduct which was invented in Persia 3,000 years ago.
Amatitán is located 33 kilometers northwest of Guadalajara and is worth visiting if only to see its church – reconstructed by Luis Barragán, Mexico’s most famous architect – which houses four “forgotten” paintings by iconic muralist José Clemente Orozco. On top of that, Amatitán claims to be the true birthplace of tequila and has an impressive museum which purports to prove just that.
In 2010, Amatitán officials asked my caving club to map the qanat which has supplied water to a pool alongside the plaza for centuries. During this task we discovered four passages totaling 113 meters in length, with an air temperature of 18 degrees and 83 percent humidity. No sooner had we handed our map over to the municipality than a local tourist guide told us about another qanat called El Chimulco, located at the southeastern end of town.
“Let’s have a look,” I told Ezequiel García, and several days later I found myself with caver Luis Rojas and bat expert Leonel Ayalla, peering through a doorway at an ancient swimming pool enclosed by four walls and an arched ceiling.
The water was coming from the town’s second qanat, which turned out to be nearly 50 meters long, reaching deep into the nearby hillside to a spot where water had been found ages ago.
We surveyed the tunnels, handed local officials our map and heard nothing more about the place until a few days ago when I learned that El Chimulco was now a restaurant. “Let’s check it out,” I told my wife Susy and friend Rodrigo Orozco.