National Geographic : 1944 Feb
VoL. LXXXV, No. 2 WAS INGTON FEBRUARY, 1944 THE MAGAZEN COPYRIGHT, 1944, BY NATIONALGEOGRAPHICSOCIETY, WASHINGTON,D. C. INTERNATIONALCOPYRIGHTSECURED Paricutin, the Cornfield That Grew a Volcano BY JAMEs A. GREEN HOW DOES it feel to be the owner of a live volcano? What do you do when, having plowed for corn, you reap ashes and lava? Where do you go when your level field becomes a cone of fire? Owner of such a property is Dionisio Pulido, a simple Indian who lived in the vil lage of Paricutin, State of Michoacan, Mexico. His story is almost as incredible as that of Jason who sowed the mythical dragon's teeth and harvested armed men. I heard Dionisio's story from his own lips. On February 20, 1943, he and his ox were turning furrows for corn. Dionisio's small son was with them. His Cornfield Growls and Fumes "My boy," Dionisio told me, "came run ning and said he had heard a noise under the ground. As I had been shouting to the ox, I heard nothing. Then I stopped and listened. I heard a low rumble, as if something under ground had growled. I looked; there was nothing. Then, just behind my furrow, I saw a spiral of white smoke." As if lost in contemplation, Dionisio stopped talking. "What then?" I asked. With a sweep of his arm and a soft whistle he conveyed the impression of speed. "My boy and I ran," he said. "The ox ran, too." Dionisio hastened to save his animals. Then he broke the news to the padre at Pari cutin, two miles away. Thereafter he in formed the presidente of Parangaricutiro, a village two miles from his own. That night Dionisio's terrified neighbors saw a luminous spiral smoking above his field. They heard the thunder of explosions. On the following morning those who ven- tured near saw a cinder cone, possibly 25 feet high. At noon it began belching stones. Again they felt the earth quake. It had been trembling for a week. Within a week the cone had grown to 500 feet. In ten weeks it was 1,100 feet. From its crater masses of vapor rose three miles. Vesuvius Flared up Again Old volcanoes that flare into renewed activ ity are not a new phenomenon. Vesuvius is the classic example. But the volcano born under a man's feet is probably beyond human experience. Certainly few men have lived to tell such a story as Dionisio's. I met Dionisio just three weeks after his run for his life. I asked what he thought of El Monstruo-such is the Tarascan Indians' name for the fire-breathing monster known to the world as Paricutin Volcano. Dionisio had little interest in volcanology. All that concerned him was his private calam ity. Not content with engulfing his farm, the monster now crept on his home. Half a mile away a column of lava was being channeled through the valley. Dionisio's palm-thatched cabin and half-dozen fruit trees were doomed. A government inspector tried to cheer Dionisio with word that the Republic would relocate him on another farm. The Indian remained disconsolate. This was his birth place, the only place he knew. Away from it he was sure to be unhappy. He wanted only a miracle that would re-establish the world of February 19, 1943. His neighbors prayed for that miracle. I saw them when lava had advanced within a few hundred feet of their own acres (page 132). With the simple faith of Indians they dug with spades 20-foot crosses into the turf.