The People and the Crystal Cave…

The People and the Crystal Cave (Cueva de los Cristales)

By Hwaa Irfan

In the much abused country of Mexico, 900 feet into the belly of the earth, hydrothermal fluids arise from a pressurized area of molten rock to form a pure beauty that is one of the signatures of the mineral world. Under  a working mine of silver, lead, and zinc owned by the Penoles Company, are the largest crystals known.

From the very high temperatures of magma, extremely hot water solutions (rich in minerals) from the magma cools and solidifies. Settling in cracks this solution makes its way to the surface of the Earth forming mineral deposits of perfect geometry determined by environmental conditions met.

A forest of crystals of selenite (gypsum –  calcium sulfate hydrate (CaSO4•2H2O) with some up to 4 feet in diameter, and 50 feet long form a complex system of caves that run a long as geological fault simply known as the Cueva de los Cristales (Crystal Caves), the Naica Mines, or the Naica Crystal Caves.

In the material world, of course, a prospector was the first to discover what was hidden under Chichuahua in 1794 when he struck a vein of silver at the base of the hills of Naica, as it is referred to by the indigenous Tarahumara Indians.

With temperatures near 120ºF (48.8ºC) and over 80% humidity, there is the story of the miner/prospector who tried to steal some of the crystals, but overwhelmed by heat and humidity, as well as the lack of oxygen, lost consciousness, and was found days later cooked alive!

The heat that was, was guaranteed by a magma chamber just three miles below the mountain.

It was a recent as  April 2000, that the mining company t thook courage from the water table on the other side of the fault, for it had lowered sufficiently to begin drilling.

The moonlight glow from the crystal, does not seem to calm material man, as all kinds of investigations into these extremely slow growing crystals have been underway. That began in 1975, with the  mining company pumping away the water enough to begin mining. By 2000, The Crystal Cave was discovered, and the crystals stopped growing, as the mining company had removed the mineral rich waters that fed the crystals.

What happens when material man extracts an entity from its context! We only have to look at modern medicine, and agricultural to get a strong clue.

Prospectors by another name, the researchers from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences took some water and crystals to grow crystals in the safety of their laboratory with some interesting reults. However, the growing conditions do not include magma, and gypsum does not grow over 136 Fahrenheit (58 Celsius), and less than 129 Fahrenheit (54 Celsius). From the research, they were able to ascertain that the rate of growth achieved by the largest of crystals was over a period of a  million years.

It is fortunate that gypsum crystal to date has no commercial use. Photographer, Richard D. Fisher describes the crystals on his first visit as:

“This is a geode full of spectacular crystals as tall as pine trees, and in some cases greater in circumference. They have formed beautiful crystals that are a translucent gold and silver in color, and come in many incredible forms and shapes. Some of the largest are essentially columnar in shape and stand thirty to fifty feet high and three to four feet in diameter. Many of the smaller examples are four to six feet in circumference, have many incredible geometrical shapes, and probably weigh in excess of ten tons. The columnar pillars are at first the most striking shape, but later I noticed there were thousands of “sharks teeth” up to three feet high placed row upon row and dispersed at odd angles throughout the caverns. While some of the crystals are attached to the ceiling walls and floors of the cave as might be expected, some exist in great masses of spikes and almost float in air. These crystals seem to defy gravity, as they must weigh several tons.”

A spectacle to behold.

Momentarily, the penetrating heat is forgotten as the crystals pop into view on the other side of the newly named “Eye of the Queen”. The entire panorama is now lighted and the cavern has a depth and impressive cathedral-like appearance that was not visible on earlier trips with just our headlamps.

When inside the great cathedral of crystals, the pressure of intense heat makes my feelings run up and down the emotional scale from shear religious awe to outright panic. The ladies are no longer “glowing” and indeed are “red hot”. When I’m done working after three trips into the great cavern, my friends almost have to carry me out. We want to see more, but physically cannot. When the experience is over there is a great relief, but all we can think about is when can we go back in.”

There is a type of crystal formation which is peculiar to Cueva de los Cristales, which is why it is also known as Cueva de las Velas (veils). There are extremely thin, and elongated crystals (Selenite) that only grow in this cave.

The Crystal Cave is a complex of:

The Sword Cave, discovered in 1910, is descriptive of its appearance. Being the first discoveed cave, it is the shallowest and the most accessible. The crystal have been found to contain the DNA of pollen. Some crystals were taken og vourse by various museums around the world.

Three more caves were discovered in April 2000, and were named the Queen’s Eye Cave, The Candle Cave, and the Crystal Cave the latter containing the forest of crystals. The speleothems (the candles), are descriptive of Candle Cave.

When brothers Eloy and Francisco Javier Delgado, came upon this cave while digging an exploration tunnel -300 m in 2000 and entered, they saw a cave lined by large white translucent and transparent crystals. It seemed like an eye was looking at them as they experienced a bubble of total darkness, with light shining like a dimaond from the crystal surround, and thus called it  “Queen`s Eye” cave.

Because what has been discovered is a fragile place the Naica Project was initiated. An international team of scientists, researchers, photographers, artists and disseminators of various nationalities along with financial and professional infrastructure  who willl take responsibility for recording what they can before it disappears. If they were looking to conserve, then all they would have to do is stop the pumps, and let the caves refill with the rich mineral waters that feed them. Instead Speleoresearch & Films, a Mexican corporation, signed an agreement with Industrias Peñoles in 2006. Speleoresearch & Films coordinate the Naica Project. Those mineral waters at 53°C have been found (Mine of Naica, 2006) to have meteoric origin

Ten years after the amazing discovery, scientists are petitioning the Mexican government to claim for Unesco World Heritage status to protect the unique formations for future generations. That is already for sale on places like Ebay wherre one can buy a Niaca Mine Crystal (Selenite). In the world of vibrational/energy healing Selenite is a powerful healer that brings light to the body clearing all enery points. It does not need to be cleaned but cleans other stones, naturally resonating with the 6th energy point the pineal gland, that processes light into chemical and non-chemical forms via human physiological processes.

However, all this bounty was named long ago by a people, the Tarahumara Indians.


Naica is a tough and dusty mining town in the middle of northern Mexico’s Chihuahuan Desert. Few foreigners go there but buried deep is an extraordinary geological wonder. While various experts and enthusiasts are wrapped up by the beauty of the caves, the people who named it Niaca, the Tarahumara Indians is becoming extinct!

What is their knowledge of such a place, does it have a sacred relationship with the environment, and with these people. A people who as National Geographics’ Cynthia Gorney put it a people who:

“…evaded Spanish conquerors in the sixteenth century. But can they survive the onslaught of modernity?”

The Tarahumara call themselves Rarámuri who see each star as a Tarahumara soul, with men having three, and women four live on Mexico’s Sierra Madre Occidental where they retreated to escape Spanish invasion 5 centuries ago. From that experience they refer to ‘others’ as chabochi, a “person with spiderwebbing across the face.”

The Tamahumara/ Rarámuri have become known for their long distance running for Rarámuri means “foot-runner” or “he who walks well.” Spiritual obligation is more important to them than work, which they regard as a matter of survival. Private possession is not a part of their concept, and what anyone has belongs to everyone under the system of as kórima,  the obligation to distribute wealth for the benefit of everyone.  What an antithesis to the corrupt global economic system in which we live, whereby those that consider it their right to have more regardless of the suffering it costs.

They live in small communities in small adobe or wood houses, or caves, or homes partway under outcroppings so that the rock itself provides the roofing. But this is due to the greed of others, as the wealth of Tarahumara land  has become sought after by the mining industry.

The second largest indigenous Mexican group of 50,000- 70,000 people these expert farmers have suffered theft of their natural wealth, and the severe northern Mexican drought. Farming was a community affair,  as sharing is considered noble and money and materialism holds no place in their world. Passive resistance, withdrawal, and avoidance play important roles in their non-violent world, but not a match for colonialism. As much as Christian missions set out to convert them, they rightfully considered their beliefs to be morally superior. That superiority rests in the ability to lie, cheat or fail to help another member of the tribe.

It took a mass suicide of 50 people, unable to provide for their families at the beginning of 2012, to bring attention to their need, which resulted in the Mexican Red Cross and regional and federal government agencies sending emergency supplies.

The plight of these people can be summed up by Joshua Fishman, in Reversing Language Shift as:

“The destruction of languages is an abstraction which is concretely mirrored in the concomitant destruction of intimacy, family and community, via national and international involvements and intrusions, the destruction of local life by mass-market hype and fad, of the weak by the strong, of the unique and traditional by the uniformizing, purportedly “stylish” and purposely ephemeral.”

While the international community is focused on exploiting their mineral wealth, their geophysicl beauties, and their capacity to run long distance, yet another group of indigenous people are dying off who possess important lessons to the world in terms of sharing, and more. To them all life is an extension of their souls, an extension that is severed as they merge with the millions in search of low-paying jobs in a dysfunctional world.

These people gave the crystal caves a name, what is the meaning behind that name, and their relationship to those caves. Instead of returning much needed land, and supporting their communities so that they in turn can help themselves, one can find crystals from the caves for sale online, as the government struggles to implement a Copper Canyon (Sierra Tarahumara ) development plan. Turning what is left of their world upside down, the development plan includes an airport in an area that suffers periodic drought after years of rape from illegal logging companies. Creel priest named Pedro Juan de Velasco Rivero painted the picture quite clearly to National Geographic:

“Don’t pretend these are projects to help the Tarahumara,” de Velasco said crisply. “They’re to attract tourists and increase private profits. A ‘Tarahumara village’ is an absurdity—a lie, really. A gondola over the canyon would be a desecration. And this is an area without water; one new hotel will use more in a day than what a Tarahumara family consumes in a year. With what the government is preparing to invest for hotels, they could bring potable water to all the Tarahumara, which would be much more useful to them than creating a fake village where they can sell things.”

Malnutrition, high blood pressure, diabetes, and depression are the gifts from the globalized world, that cares not for a people’s ways. A wealth that has now proven to be short lived when sharing is taken out of the equation.


Barnabei, T. et al. ” Sails: a New Gypsum Speleothem from Naica, Chihuahua, Mexico.” International Journal of Speleology 36 (1) 23-30 Bologna (Italy) January 2007

Beauregard, A. “Running Feet.”

Crystals Break Slow Growth Record

Fisher, R. D. “Crystal Cave of the Giants – Discovery of the Largest Crystals on Earth.”

Gorney, C. “A People Apart.”

Lencheck, S. “The Tarahumaras: An Endangered Species.”

Wilkinson, T. “Mexico’s Tarahumara Indians Suffering Grave Hunger Crisis.”

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One thought on “The People and the Crystal Cave…

  1. These stunning images, which were taken by world-renowned Spanish photographer Javier Trueba, show the sheer size of the crystals, some of which measure up to 11 metres.

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