A powerful earthquake struck the town of Ocotlán in the state of Jalisco, on 2 October 1847. The following day, the Mayor of Ocotlán J. Antonio Ximénez wrote to advise the State Governor:
Yesterday, Saturday the 2nd [of October 1847] at seven thirty in the morning a strong earthquake, which lasted more than five minutes, was felt in this town. It did not, however, cause any damage. The repetition, happening between nine and ten o’clock on the same morning, was terrible. In an instant, some of the town’s buildings were knocked down, and the others were completely destroyed or in imminent danger of collapse.
As of yesterday, 46 persons of both sexes, and of various ages, had been found dead, and it is not possible now to know with certainty the number of injured and wounded who miraculously escaped the destruction. It was not only the town that suffered this misfortune. The same thing occurred in all the other places in the municipality. There was terror and fright everywhere, especially when rocks broke away from the hill and the wild animals were terrified.
This morning, your Excellency, 24 hours after the unfortunate events, the perfect image of Our Lord Jesus Christ on the Cross was seen between west and north, formed between two clouds and lasting for half an hour: in which time more than 1,500 people who were in the plaza fell to their knees, performing acts of contrition and crying to the Lord to show mercy…
From the ruins of Ocotlán, October 3, 1847.
J. Antonio Ximénez
[This post is an edited extract from Lake Chapala Through the Ages, an anthology of traveller’s tales]
Earthquakes in Mexico are discussed in detail in chapter 2 of Geo-Mexico: the geography and dynamics of modern Mexico.