Monday, January 25, 2016

Zamora Part 8: Patamban, a window into the past

A local couple sits across from Patamban's plaza. Portales (covered walkways) line all four sides of this small pueblo's plaza. Patamban is a very picturesque community located in the mountains to the south of Zamora. The couple above were among the few people we saw on the streets when we arrived. The empty cobbled streets and rustic structures gave the place an other-worldly feeling, like stepping into the past. For a Google map of Patamban and the surrounding area, click here.

Plaza Patamban

A pretty plaza occupies the center of the pueblo. One of the few residents to be seen was the little girl in front of the kiosco (bandstand). Unlike most Mexican plazas, the kiosco in this one is rectangular rather than octagonal. The town descends in stages down the side of a hill, with about half the town above the plaza and the other half below. In this shot, you are looking uphill.

Across the cobblestone street from the plaza is another set of portales. This one contains a block of local government offices. In most pueblos I have visited in Mexico, the portales' pillars are stone or sometimes brick covered with plaster. In Michoacan, because of the state's vast forests, wood is used for pillars, as well as window frames and balconies.

A local vendor set up shop on the steps of yet another set of portales. She was selling large wooden paddles for stirring food in a vat, as well as smaller wooden cooking tools. We had arrived at the tail-end of the tianguis (street market). Usually once a week, residents of the pueblo and the surrounding villages gather at the plaza to sell each other the produce they grow or handicrafts they make. Patamban's artisans specialize in pottery. In the upper left, you can see a small store with the name Abarrotes Orozco. Abarrotes are groceries and Orozco is the name of the proprietor. A stand along the walkway advertises "Hot Cakes". Like many other pueblos in Michoacan, Patamban's local tongue is Purépecha and Spanish is only the second language. Given this, I was surprised at how often English signs appear.

A pair of local women chat in the street while another couple walk in the distance. Not only were the streets empty of people, but also of cars, trucks, or other motor vehicles. All this gave the place a 19th century feeling. Notice, also, how the streets are free of trash or debris in all these photos. People here may be poor, but they take pride in their community.

A sign for Sol beer adorns the worn wooden walls of this walkway. Nearly all the roofs in town were covered with red clay tiles. This method of roofing can be traced back 10,000 years to Neolithic China and the Middle East. During the millennia since, the practice of roofing with clay tiles spread all over the world. One of the primary benefits is the fire resistance of clay tiles.

A single pedestrian strolls down another quiet street. Most of the buildings in town appeared to be constructed of adobe or concrete, or a combination of both. The streets are paved with cobblestone, the cheapest and easiest paving method in poor communities.

Iglesia San Francisco de Asisi

The forecourt of San Francisco Church is approached through this old gateway. Through the gate, you can see a colonial-era cross set on a pedestal in the middle of the forecourt. Behind it is the main entrance of the church.

View of the church from within the forecourt. The man in the cowboy hat, seen in the lower right, kindly informed us that most of the village was attending a funeral inside the church. He assured us that the service would end shortly and that we could then enter for photographs. Such courtesy and friendliness to outsiders are often encountered in Mexico's remote pueblos. The yellow structure was constructed in the 17th and 18th centuries, while the steeple is more recent.

The main entrance to the church is framed by carved stone. A century ago or so, this part of the church was damaged by an earthquake and then rebuilt. The very first church on this site was constructed in the 1550s by a Franciscan friar named Juan de San Miguel. However, that primitive adobe and thatch structure was later replaced by a sturdier stone building.

The left side of the church shows some of the 17th century construction. The old staircase leads to an arched doorway framed by simple, unadorned pilasters. Notice how the wall on either side is constructed using stones of various sizes and shapes. This is an indication of the early date of its construction, when evenly cut stones weren't available. Set in the wall above the doorway is a fascinating little relief sculpture.

The sculpture above the entrance portrays three figures standing in the doorways of a church. The figures are quite worn and obviously very old. Richard Perry publishes the website Arts of Colonial Mexico. He is my best source on colonial arts and architecture. According to Richard, the reliefs above "appear to portray Saints Peter (left) and Paul (right) with God the Father at center."

This keystone is located at the top of an arched doorway to the right of the main entrance. The date "1700" marks the inauguration of this part of the church. The arched doorway leads into the patio of the old Franciscan cloister.

The stone patio of the 300 year old cloister was covered by green moss. I could almost hear the shuffling sandals of the friars who onced lived and worked here. The balcony of the cloister's upper story carries the decorations from a recent fiesta. I was hesitant to intrude on this space, but one of the women working there cheerily waved me in.

Main sanctuary of the church. The church has a single nave, very simply decorated, as befits a Franciscan edifice. The Franciscans were generally quite serious about their vows of poverty and simplicity.

The main altar area. Again, simplicity reigns. Lit by candles, a few pieces of furniture and statues adorn the space. In some churches I have visited, actual candles have been replaced by banks of electric lightbulbs. Instead of lighting them with a match, you put in a coin. Call me a traditionalist, but I prefer the real thing.

In a side chapel, a worshiper contemplates a statue of Christ on the Cross. She is wrapped in a traditional rebozo (shawl) of brilliant blue. Several of the women in my photos wear similar rebozos. People in little pueblos like Patamban are deeply religious.

Hospital de la Concepción Inmaculada

An old adobe building stands adjacent to the atrium of Iglesia San Francisco. This is probably the oldest structure on the church property, possibly dating back to the 16th century. It is quite similar to another structure I showed in my previous posting on San José de Gracia. Both structures were built for the same purpose: hospitality. The original meaning of "hospital" was different in those days. These places were originally intended to offer food, shelter, and religious services to pilgrims. Over time, the friars began to provide medical treatment for the sick and injured. Ultimately that became the primary function of these hospitals.

Entrance to the hospital. Decorative carving adorns the stone doorway. The lower walls are of rough stone, while the upper section is of adobe. The wooden door may be hundreds of years old. I find structures like this deeply evocative, as well as highly photogenic. The very air I breathed seemed ancient.

A pair of school girls pauses for a photo. With a little persuasion, these two stopped and produced shy smiles for me. Mexico's beautiful children are often my best photographic subjects.

This concludes Part 8 of my series on Zamora, and ends the series itself. I hope you have enjoyed visiting Patamban and can stop in there some time in the future. If you would like to leave a question or a comment about this posting, please do so either in the Comments section below or by emailing me directly.

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Hasta luego, Jim

1 comment:

  1. Hey Jim! I recently read your posting of your adventures in Patamban Michoacan. I enjoyed your pictures as it brings me back memories of my familys village. Your articles are entertaning and really interesting. I will follow your entries through google plus!


If your comment involves a question, please leave your email address so I can answer you. Thanks, Jim