Day 7 — In Which There Are Very Old Churches

Well, there we were, on vaca­tion, tak­ing a cou­ple of days off for fire­works and parades. But that’s all over and only the con­fet­ti and red, white, and green bunting are left. So it was time to get mov­ing again.

Out to the Mix­te­ca. Once the cen­ter of cochineal pro­duc­tion and the Span­ish Empire’s new world eco­nom­ic engine. Now a sleepy agri­cul­tur­al back­wa­ter.  The last time we were out here it was Feb or Mar — the height of the dry sea­son. The hills were spec­tac­u­lar­ly red. Now it’s Sep­tem­ber and the end of the rainy sea­son. every­thing is green and growing.

kinda like the columbia valley
broad val­ley, low clouds

We start­ed with the old­est and largest of the colo­nial church­es. Yanhuitlan.

really big
look­ing up the stairs at the main door

There has been a lot going on in the church. Inte­ri­or restora­tions, roof repair, stonework.
The huge retablo are being moved away from the walls and restored from the back out.

work in progress
three of many

Some of the details are inspir­ing. Like this nat­ty fellow.

fine looking fellow
nice clothes on this gentleman

Much of the stone work is repairs — done in such a way as to pre­serve as much of the exist­ing work as can be saved and them adding new work that looks like the orig­i­nal would have 450 years ago.

appealing in it's honesty
some new, some old

Yan­huit­lan was once the cen­ter of the Domini­can’s pow­er and the church prob­a­bly seem more in scale 400 years ago.  But now Yan­huit­lan is a farm­ing vil­lage and the church looks like a UFO hangar dropped into the mid­dle of Iowa.

image what it must have looked like when the valley was bustling
the biggest build­ing for 50 miles (or so)

We took a lit­tle dri­ve out of the vil­lage to find a spot to take that pic­ture. We met a cou­ple of charm­ing folks who were pleased to make some new friends. Even if we were a lit­tle odd. (And not Catholic, but Nico, who is, was hap­py to accept their gift of a milagro.)

reminder of a special saint's celebration
we seem to make peo­ple gig­gle uncontrollably

We talked a lit­tle about the weath­er and a lit­tle about where we were from and a bit about the bean crop. Jim took this pic­ture of their farm yard from the top of the hill.

home and farm buildings
small farm­ster­ad and hill­side plantings

We moved fur­ther out from Oax­a­ca to Coixt­lahuac and anoth­er church that is near­ly as old. This church is small­er and in much more fre­quent con­tem­po­rary use.

lovely yard
approach­ing the church from the main street

The inte­ri­or is still bright­ly paint­ed. This is part of the arch­way around the entrance to a side chapel.

a small part of the archway

Oth­er parts of the clois­ter haven’t fared as well as the main church but there is restora­tion work in progress.

no paint yet — just per­fect­ly smooth plas­ter and restored windows

This stair­way was fea­tured in a PSA for the fed­er­al arche­ol­o­gy and his­to­ry institute.

About the Author

Lara Harriger