Miracles or mumbo-jumbo? The Foco Tonal of Ocotlán
By JOHN PINT – At the end of a dusty dirt road about three kilometers southwest of Ocotlán, lies an extremely curious “site” which is located next to an extremely curious “sight.” The latter — a castle built by Don Manuel Domínguez, a local citizen with quite an imagination — you can see from afar, towering over the nearby fields, farms and fences of piled volcanic rocks.
The public, however, does not come to this spot to gaze at the curious castle, but to visit the “site” mentioned above: a spot just 400 meters to the east, known locally as the Foco Tonal (Tonal Focus). It’s usually crowded with people who hope to be energized by standing in this exact spot.
There is something curious about “The Spot” which everyone seems to experience, from the very gullible to the highly skeptical. Anyone who stands on The Spot and speaks loudly, hears his or her own voice distorted by a kind of reverberation, or echo. While everything else going on at this place could be attributed to wishful thinking or whatever, I haven’t heard any good scientific explanation for the weird sound distortion.
Foco Tonal is supposedly what Carlos Castaneda would have called a Power Spot—discovered by a Shaman in 1998, when Don Manuel Domínguez invited the clairvoyant to visit him at the castle. The shaman, Don José Sebastián, wandered about the area and came back to Don Manuel with the news that there was “a very powerful foco tonal” on his property. Don José was quite excited about this, because he normally had to travel all the way to Michoacán to find anything similar.
Soon, word spread far and wide that there was something strange about a certain spot on Don Manuel’s property and people started coming to soak up the good vibrations, psychic energy or whatever it was. Word spread that many were cured of various infirmities and from a trickle of visitors, it turned into a torrent, especially on weekends.
So, what will you see at this place, which some people claim is a “door to infinity?” The answer, almost certainly, is: nothing out of the ordinary. The spot is marked by a sunken ceramic circle enclosed by a low wall. When you step into the exact center of the circle, you see nothing special, but your hearing suddenly changes, as if you had just stepped into a giant tin can and if you speak, you clearly hear a reverberation almost like an echo.
I first suspected that this auditory phenomenon was due to reflection from the 50-centimeter-high circular wall around The Spot, but on a second visit, I tried covering part of the wall with a blanket, but this had no effect on the weird sound at all. Also, the auditory phenomon reportedly extends well above the spot. You may want to visit the place and try to figure it out for yourself.
As for the curative powers of that special spot, my nephew Ricky Ibarra reported that three busloads of his schoolmates went to the Foco Tonal and most of them claimed they had been cured of one health problem or another. “I myself,” said Ricky, “went there with a painful back injury—from playing football—and left the place with no more pain. However, I must admit that several weeks later, the pain came back.”
The maximum amount of time you are allowed to spend inside the Foco Tonal is fifteen minutes (in order to give everyone a chance), and the number of visitors has grown so large that you may now be forced to “join a group”. Perhaps longer exposure might produce a longer-lasting cure for someone like young Ricky. My neighbor Joel says that he always experiences a surge of energy for about three days after a visit to this place and the local caretakers report that droves of visitors claim to have been cured of all sorts of maladies.
It is interesting to note that this seems to be a “secular site,” not associated with any saint or religious group and people who step into the ceramic circle are liable to do just about anything, from Tai Chi moves to simple gawking.
Between the castle and the Foco Tonal, there is, of course, a gift shop. This place features incense, chimes, crystal bowls, a wide assortment of rocks, and books on the paranormal or supernatural.
How to get there: Foco Tonal is located about an hour’s drive from Chapala. To get there from Chapala, head north on the Carretera (Hwy 44) and take exit (Hwy 36) toward Atequiza, Ocotlan and La Barca. About 0.3km before you reach Ocotlán, turn right at the entrance to the Ocotlan Golf Course. Bear to the right, continue to the end of the road and then make another right. When you reach Centro Botanero Familiar Los Petates (a restaurant), make a left. From here, follow the unpaved road about 0.4km.
The Google Map coordinates for Foco Tonal are: 20.324356, -102.790591
Admission: At last report, the Foco Tonal admission cost was 15 pesos.
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Editor’s Note: the first version of the above article and photos was copyrighted in 2005. The updated and revised text has been reprinted courtesy of John Pint.
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Explorer and adventurer John Pint is a regular columnist for the Guadalajara Reporter and author of several books in both Spanish and English, including “Outdoors in Western Mexico” (co-authored by John and his wife Susy). The Pints’ website offers many fascinating articles about caves, geology, history, and many hidden or little-known natural wonders and mysteries in Mexico.