Jan 042014

Many Mexicans use January’s weather to forecast what the weather will be like for the rest of the year.

Many Mexicans, especially campesinos (peasant farmers), who are closer to the land than most, believe that the weather during the month of January serves as a long-range forecast for the entire year. The precise prediction system, known as las cabañuelas, is thought to be based on long cycles of observations carried out in an age when people depended far more on the weather than they do today. The system is quite complicated.

The first twelve days of January are known as las cabañuelas “a derechas”. The weather on January 1 foretells the likely weather for the rest of the month. The weather on January 2 predicts the weather for February and so on, with the weather of January 12 suggesting likely conditions for December. The next twelve days (January 13 to 24 inclusive) are known as las cabañuelas “a rataculas”. This time, the weather of January 13 foretells December, that of January 14 November, and so on.

Jan 18: Pondering a miserable July

Next, each of the six days from January 25 to January 30 inclusive is divided at noon. The morning of January 25 represents January, the afternoon February. The morning of January 26 hints at March’s weather, while the afternoon applies to April’s, and so on.

Finally, even the 24 hours of January 31 are used. Each hour in the morning will be reflected in the weather from January to December. (Presumably the weather from midnight to 1.00am is a true reflection of what has already happened in January!) Then, each hour in the afternoon can be used to forecast future weather in the reverse direction. Hence, noon to 1.00pm gives us clues for December, 1.00 to 2.00pm for November and so on. Apparently, an alternative version, used in some parts of northern Mexico, divides January 31 into 12 periods of 2 hours each, with each division corresponding to the months in reverse order.

Whatever the details, the system is said to be at least as reliable as scientific forecasts over the same time period. (Though, thinking about it, perhaps that is not that hard!)

The same cabañuelas system is used in various parts of Spain, but the annual forecast does not always begin on the same day. For instance, in Alcozar, las cabañuelas “a derechas” begin on December 13. Elsewhere in Spain, they start on August 2 or August 13. According to Divina Aparicio de Andrés, predictions in Alcozar based on las cabañuelas lasted until well into the 1940s, but their use has declined since.

See also: The origins of the cabañuelas system of weather forecasting

This is an edited version of an article originally published on MexConnect.com

The climate of Mexico is discussed, with several maps,  in chapter 4 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico. Climatic hazards, such as hurricanes, droughts and floods, are looked at in detail in chapters 4 and 7. Mexico’s cultural geography and cultural landscapes are discussed in chapter 13.

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