Saturday, February 12, 2011

Mazatlán Part 3: The Cathedral, Revolution Park, & Pino Suarez Market

Mazatlán's Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. There is much to see in the Centro Historico. We found that it helps to break a visit into "bite-sized" chunks. Carole and I spent a morning exploring the area around Parque de la Revolución (also known as Republic Square). Our visit included stops at the Catedral and the Mercado de Pino Suarez. To locate these places, click on this map of Centro Historico. Above, you see the Catedral, which faces south onto Parque de Revolución. The west side of the Parque is occupied by the Palacio Municipal (City Hall) and the east side by the post and telegraph offices.

The Catedral is relatively new, for Mexico. Above, the Catedral is seen from the top of Cerro de Neverias (Icebox Hill). Begun in 1855, the construction was not completed until 1894, although the first mass was celebrated in 1880. It helps to remember that prior to the 1830s, Mazatlán was little more than a collection of fishermen's huts. Once the city began to develop as one of Mexico's major West Coast ports, local businessmen looked for ways to improve the appearance of the town. In 1875, Father Miguel Lacarra mobilized these businessmen, among them Don Pedro Echeguren, to help financially. These contributions spurred the previously slow construction work on the Catedral. Don Pedro, owner of mines, textile factories, water works, and other land holdings, was one of the richest men in the area. He had been living in sin but he promised Father Lacarra that, once the Catedral was finished, he would marry his live-in lover there. He kept his word.

Spanish Bishop Juan de Zumárraga kneels before the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe. Most Mexican religious art depicting the story of the Virgin of Guadalupe either shows her alone in her classic pose, or includes Juan Diego, the indigenous man who first encountered her in the early 16th Century. The statue above, found to the right of the Catedral entrance, is unusual in showing a different aspect of the story. Bishop Zumárraga had been very skeptical that the Virgin had really appeared before this lowly person. He asked for proof. Juan Diego returned to the ruined Aztec temple and the Virgin told him to collect flowers (traditionally roses) from the hill on which the temple was located. Juan Diego returned to the bishop with a cloak full of miraculously out-of-season flowers (it was winter). Opening the garment, both he and Bishop Zumárraga were astonished to find the image of the Virgin imprinted on the fabric. That moment is captured in the statue above.

Virgin of Guadalupe in her classic pose. Her image is engraved into the glass of the front door of the Catedral. I was puzzled at first that she appears to be facing to the right, when all other depictions I have seen show her facing to the viewer's left. Then I realized I was looking through the back side of the glass.

Interior of the main nave of the Catedral. The style of the church is very eclectic, combining Moorish, Gothic, Baroque, and a touch of Neo-Classic. Similarities can be found with the Cathedrals of Bordeaux in France, and Toledo and Siguenza in Spain. Elements from the Mosque in the Spanish city of Cordova also found their way into the design. The steeples, which were completed between 1893-94, are covered by yellow tiles manufactured in Europe. The main altar contains magnificent statues of saints and angels made of Italian marble, as well as the jewel of the church, a relief carving of the Last Supper.

The main altar is covered by a lovely cupola. The octagonal cupola forms the interior of the dome seen in the second photograph of this posting. The cupola contains four paintings, two of which are seen above. The arch is decorated by the Spanish version of a quote from Jesus: "Come to me all who are afflicted and I will console you."

San Ambrosia occupies one of the four corners below the octagonal cupola. The other three paintings are of San Bernardo and the Old Testament Prophets Zacarias and Moses. St. Ambrose (337-390 AD) was one of the Four Doctors of the Catholic Church who are considered its greatest theologians. While he was a great theologian, he also advocated violent action against synagogues, becoming one of the earliest anti-semites. He successfully protested the Roman Emperor's order to rebuild a synagogue destroyed by a mob. This led to similar anti-semitic destruction all over the Empire, of which St. Ambrose explicitly approved. The Church at the time was struggling to gain dominance over religious practices within the late Roman Empire. In addition to the Jews, there were various powerful Christian splinter groups such as the Arians, as well as many supporters of the old pagan gods of Rome. St. Ambrose successfully confronted several of the Roman Emperors of his time, persuading them to reverse their stances on religious issues and to support the Catholic theological positions.

Ceiling of one of the four lateral naves. Two of these naves are on either side of the main altar, and the others bracket the main entrance. The ceilings show Neo-Classic influence. The four naves are dedicated to the Virgin of Rosario, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, San Jose, and the Virgin of Guadalupe.

Nave of the Virgin of Guadalupe. A pair of worshipers stands reverently before the image of the Virgin. The woman, in front, appears to be preparing to light a candle, a traditional Catholic ritual. I was somewhat bemused to discover that in this church, and apparently in many others, one does not actually light the candle anymore. In front of the woman is a plastic-covered bank of fake candles with electric lights. After you deposit a donation, one of the candles will "light." It felt a bit too modern and mechanical for my taste, but then I am not a Catholic.

Near the front entrance, one of many statues in the Catedral. The beautiful purple robe contrasted nicely with the alternating light and dark stone blocks of the wall. According to a nearby sign, this church did not become a basilica cathedral, and the seat of Mazatlan's diocese, until 1958--103 years after construction was begun.

Parque de la Revolución

Parque de la Revolución spreads out directly south of the Catedral. The Parque is one of several plazas in the Centro Historico. This one follows the classic pattern established in early colonial times, with a church one one side, and public buildings and commercial establishments on the others.

A classic 19th Century kiosco. Surrounded by lush gardens and palm trees, the kiosco rises gracefully on delicate wrought-iron pillars. One has to look long and hard to find a central plaza in Mexico not graced by one of these structures. They always form beautiful centerpieces to the gardens.

Another typical sight in a Mexican plaza. Someone is always selling their wares at a table or booth, or even just a humble cloth laid on the sidewalk. Here, the proprietress (left) waits hopefully as a customer tries on one of the many pieces of handmade jewelry displayed on her table.

Mercado Pino Suarez

Mother and son enjoy a laugh at a cheese booth in Mercado Pino Suarez. The Mercado is located one block to the north of the Catedral on the corner of Calles Benito Juarez and Leandro Valle. The covered but otherwise open-air market was inaugurated on May 5, 1899, but didn't open for business until early 1900. This was the height of the Porfiriate, the 30 year rule of dictator Porfirio Diaz, when Mexico was rapidly modernizing and many public/private buildings like this were erected. Financing for construction came from prominent businessmen, who were later reimbursed by the municipal government.

Pig's heads anyone? You can find many unusual delicacies at the Mercado Pino Suarez. If you want your food fresh, not frozen or plastic wrapped, this is the place. The Mercado was built by the Sinaloa Foundry and designed by that company's owner, a Mazatleco of French descent named Alejandro Loubet Guzman. The style of construction is Art Nouveau, and the structure is the only one of its kind in all of Mexico to be built with the identical techniques used to construct Paris' Eiffel Tower. 110 years later, the building is still used for its original purpose.

Bright colors promise tasty treats. A green grocer waits for customers at his produce stand. The produce here looked temptingly fresh.

Carneceria proprietor makes a sale. A carneceria is a butcher shop, from the Spanish word carne, or meat. A mother and her young son prepare to take possession of that night's dinner.

An abundance of fresh fish is to be expected at a major port. A variety of species was available for inspection. Almost certainly, these were still swimming off the coast only a few hours ago. Mazatlán's local restaurants serve wonderful fish dishes.

Easy good humor seemed to pervade the Mercado while we were there. Another proprietor shares a joke with a customer as she bags her sale. We found Mazatlecos to be warm and friendly wherever we went.

Handmade dolls eagerly await a new owner. Mercado Pino Suarez sells a wide variety of goods, not just food. You can also purchase jewelry, shoes and other leatherwork, hand-embroidered dresses, and much more. Even if you don't plan on any purchases, a walk through the Mercado is entertaining in its own right.

Back at Hotel La Siesta, another spectacular sunset. One wonderful aspect of our visit to Mazatlán was the sunset that ended each of our days there. The balcony of our room afforded a front-row seat to an always different, but always spectacular view. Above, a rainbow of shining clouds swirls above Piedras Blancas, the rugged rocks off Playa Olas Altas that were home to many sea birds.

This concludes Part 3 of my Mazatlán series. Next week, I will take you to Mazatlán's Aquarium, home not only to a wide variety of shimmering fish, but also trained sea lions, a diver who swims with sharks, and a wonderful aviary. I hope you enjoyed this weeks posting. I always appreciate feedback. If you'd like to leave a comment please either use the Comments section below, or email me directly. 

If you leave a question in the Comments section PLEASE leave your email address so I can respond.

Hasta luego, Jim


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  2. I loved your photos! Thank you for all the ideas for our upcoming trip. Do you happen to know when mass is held at the cathedral?


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