Friday, November 04, 2011

Not another Church?

If you've been to Mexico you have been to at least one church and probably one archeological site.  Today we went to a town that is northeast of San Miguel.  The one attraction in the town is a church that was built in the 1740s and illuminated by one artist (Miguel Antonio Martinez de Pocasangre).  The priest who initiated the project was named  Fr. Luis Felipe Neri de Alfaro.  Who was a native of San Miguel.  This is not the oldest church in the state of Guanajuato. (By a long shot) But among all the churches I have been in Mexico or even around the world, it is one of the most impressive.

The ceiling frescoes are dark but if you go through the church carefully you will find the major parts of Christ's life.  For example there is a scene of Judas receiving the 30 pieces of silver and in the background of Judas after he hung himself.   Like many churches in Mexico this one changed as the population changed.  So it grew from the initial sanctuary to a series of side chapels.  It has been named as one of the 100 most endangered monuments by the World Monuments Fund.

The church remains important as a religious location for a couple of reasons.  First, it is the beginning of an annual pilgrimage from it to the city of San Miguel where a statute of the Lord is brought to the city.   The tradition began when a wealthy merchant was ill and asked that the statue be brought to him to comfort him in his final hours and he recovered.   Second, the church is the site of a series of pilgrimages from Catholics all over Mexico seeking repentance.   Our guide said that as many as 7000 people come for these annual events.

For me the most beautiful part of the church was the most subtle.  Evidently the entire church building was painted but the outside paintings have been mostly destroyed by sun and the elements.  But as you walk into the main sanctuary you see a series of door panels which have been partially protected from the elements.   These images are faded but even in their current condition you can see their absolute beauty.

Atotonilco is also a location that was important to the 1810 revolution.  Miguel Hildago is supposed to have aroused some of the native people against the Spanish here - so there is a statute of him in front of the church.   

Later in the day we went on to Dolores Hildago.  This town has an important church in it.   And if you want to see pictures of that church you will have to go to my Flckr site to see those shots.   The original name of the town was Dolores, but in honor of Miguel Hildago the name was changed.  (Not unlike San Miguel de Allende after another of the four leaders of the 1810 revolt.)

One of the highlights of our visit there was lunch.  We stopped at a small cafe that specializes in Carnitas - which is basically fried pork.  You buy lunch by the kilo and they bring you out fresh tortillas, condiments, onions, chills, salsa, pico de gallo and even possibly some soup.  This place was called Vicente.  If you have ever had what passes for Carnitas in the US, if you try this you will become a lot more picky.

Our guide today was named Mario- he had a good sense of humor.  When we got into his car he told us solemnly "I was born in the last century."   Good line.

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