There are coincidences in the meaning of words, as we can appreciate. The word temazcal contrasts a limited space with the grandeur of California, but both terms imply warm places. The first is a small space that literally means “house where you perspire.” Nahuatl: temazcalli. A temazcal consists of a medicinal and relaxing steam bath. It is a much sought after experience and some modern spas include it in their services.

On the other hand, California takes its name from the Spanish word “Cala,” meaning small inlet of the sea, and the Latin word “Fomix” that translates as “vault.” It is also said that when Hernan Cortez discovered these lands, he wanted to show off his knowledge of Latin and christened the area with the term “Callinda Fomax” because of the heat he felt upon reaching the peninsula he originally thought was an island.

The temazcal is generally built of stone and mud and in the form of an igloo about five feet high and a little more than six feet long. The structures can be square or round, although the latter are the most common. The entrance is covered with a blanket and the interior is almost dark. The use of steam in conjunction with certain herbs has medicinal purposes. It detoxifies the body by making you sweat.

On the outside, through a wall of stones, wood is burned in a “tlexictli.” The fire is used to heat the interior and prevents smoke from entering the temazcal. Inside, a small fire, “tlalchinolli,” raises the temperature to heat water.

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People enter backwards to avoid a blast of heat in the face and prevent dizziness or vomiting. Once inside, they must remain lying face up. Subsequently, the temazcalero throws hot water, “the tlazas,” on the walls using palms. The steam reaches down, “tlalchihuiz,” to the bathers who should already be sweating. The temazcalero touches the bathers lightly with branches and asks them to change their position so they sweat all over.

The second part of the temazcal experience consists of removing the access blanket and introducing hot water infused with herbal teas to rinse the entire body, except the head. Small, smooth stones are provided so that bathers can carefully rub their bodies and remove dead skin. A second cleaning follows with hot water and soap made from a type of grass. Next, the bathers wash their heads with soap and rinse with cold water. Before leaving, body temperatures are balanced with another rinsing of hot water.

The bath has physical, medical, therapeutic and emotional effects. Relaxation and deep meditation evokes memories of the time in the womb. The temazcal is considered a healing and purification ritual; if the body is clean so are the thoughts.

At the end of the experience, bathers leave the temazcal headfirst and, once outside, must rest, lying covered for a half hour without drinking anything cold for an hour.

Traditionally, when the construction of the temazcal was finished, it was christened with pulque and given a name. A great meal was prepared and fireworks were set off in honor of “Toci” (our grandmother), known as the patron saint of temazcaleros, doctors, midwives, herbalists and diviners. A figure of Toci was placed at the entrance of the bath and in the middle a floral offering.

Temazcales were used by several Native American cultures. The Mayans called them “zumpul-che.” The Mixteca knew them as “Nihi.” The Purepechas called them “huringuequa”. In what is known as Meso-America, the cave-like darkness of the temazcal reminded the natives of the god “Texcatlipoca.”

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Archaeologists have discovered ancient temazcales in Mexico in the ruins of Teotihuacan, Tlatelolco, Tula, Xochicalco, Monte Alban and in Mayan areas, including Palenque, Chichen Itza, Tikal, Tulum and Dzibilchaltun. In some municipalities at the State of Mexico, you can find names related to the temazcal such as Temascaltepec, Temascalcingo and Temascalapa.

When the Spaniards conquered America, they often used the temazcal as a means to bathe and as a therapeutic remedy. The tradition was lost during the colonial period and prohibited because it was considered an illicit experience in a dark space with naked women and men.

Steam baths have always existed in the different cultures of the world. For example, the famous Roman baths. Modern times have simplified the facilities and we can find steam baths in any sports club and spa, although they lack the ritual, tradition, mysticism, mystery and spirituality of the temazcal.

Temazcales can be found in various regions of our “great hot oven” Baja California, including La Paz, the capital of Baja California Sur and ranches near Tecate. The climate of the region allows us to enjoy the outdoors and the natural beauty of the sea, deserts and mountains, as well as sports. Fine hotels allow full rest and relaxation in the heat of our “great bathhouse” and the warmth of our people.

There are coincidences in the meaning of words, as we can appreciate. The word temazcal contrasts a limited space with the grandeur of California, but both terms imply warm places. The first is a small space that literally means “house where you perspire.” Nahuatl: temazcalli. A temazcal consists of a medicinal and relaxing steam bath. It is a much sought after experience and some modern spas include it in their services.

On the other hand, California takes its name from the Spanish word “Cala,” meaning small inlet of the sea, and the Latin word “Fomix” that translates as “vault.” It is also said that when Hernan Cortez discovered these lands, he wanted to show off his knowledge of Latin and christened the area with the term “Callinda Fomax” because of the heat he felt upon reaching the peninsula he originally thought was an island.

The temazcal is generally built of stone and mud and in the form of an igloo about five feet high and a little more than six feet long. The structures can be square or round, although the latter are the most common. The entrance is covered with a blanket and the interior is almost dark. The use of steam in conjunction with certain herbs has medicinal purposes. It detoxifies the body by making you sweat.

On the outside, through a wall of stones, wood is burned in a “tlexictli.” The fire is used to heat the interior and prevents smoke from entering the temazcal. Inside, a small fire, “tlalchinolli,” raises the temperature to heat water.

People enter backwards to avoid a blast of heat in the face and prevent dizziness or vomiting. Once inside, they must remain lying face up. Subsequently, the temazcalero throws hot water, “the tlazas,” on the walls using palms. The steam reaches down, “tlalchihuiz,” to the bathers who should already be sweating. The temazcalero touches the bathers lightly with branches and asks them to change their position so they sweat all over.

The second part of the temazcal experience consists of removing the access blanket and introducing hot water infused with herbal teas to rinse the entire body, except the head. Small, smooth stones are provided so that bathers can carefully rub their bodies and remove dead skin. A second cleaning follows with hot water and soap made from a type of grass. Next, the bathers wash their heads with soap and rinse with cold water. Before leaving, body temperatures are balanced with another rinsing of hot water.

The bath has physical, medical, therapeutic and emotional effects. Relaxation and deep meditation evokes memories of the time in the womb. The temazcal is considered a healing and purification ritual; if the body is clean so are the thoughts.

laura-bueno-029-04

At the end of the experience, bathers leave the temazcal headfirst and, once outside, must rest, lying covered for a half hour without drinking anything cold for an hour.

Traditionally, when the construction of the temazcal was finished, it was christened with pulque and given a name. A great meal was prepared and fireworks were set off in honor of “Toci” (our grandmother), known as the patron saint of temazcaleros, doctors, midwives, herbalists and diviners. A figure of Toci was placed at the entrance of the bath and in the middle a floral offering.

Temazcales were used by several Native American cultures. The Mayans called them “zumpul-che.” The Mixteca knew them as “Nihi.” The Purepechas called them “huringuequa”. In what is known as Meso-America, the cave-like darkness of the temazcal reminded the natives of the god “Texcatlipoca.”

Archaeologists have discovered ancient temazcales in Mexico in the ruins of Teotihuacan, Tlatelolco, Tula, Xochicalco, Monte Alban and in Mayan areas, including Palenque, Chichen Itza, Tikal, Tulum and Dzibilchaltun. In some municipalities at the State of Mexico, you can find names related to the temazcal such as Temascaltepec, Temascalcingo and Temascalapa.

When the Spaniards conquered America, they often used the temazcal as a means to bathe and as a therapeutic remedy. The tradition was lost during the colonial period and prohibited because it was considered an illicit experience in a dark space with naked women and men.

Steam baths have always existed in the different cultures of the world. For example, the famous Roman baths. Modern times have simplified the facilities and we can find steam baths in any sports club and spa, although they lack the ritual, tradition, mysticism, mystery and spirituality of the temazcal.

Temazcales can be found in various regions of our “great hot oven” Baja California, including La Paz, the capital of Baja California Sur and ranches near Tecate. The climate of the region allows us to enjoy the outdoors and the natural beauty of the sea, deserts and mountains, as well as sports. Fine hotels allow full rest and relaxation in the heat of our “great bathhouse” and the warmth of our people.