Thursday, December 29, 2016

Taxco Part 9: Hotel Monte Taxco's dramatic vistas

The spires of Parroquia Santa Prisca, silhouetted against mountains and sky. I took this long-lens shot from Hotel Monte Taxco's restaurant terrace. Carole and I decided to pay it a visit after touring ex-Hacienda del Chorrillo (see Part 8). I will finish my series on Taxco with the hotel's stunning vistas. Monte Taxco is a mesa that looms hundreds of feet over Taxco. The hotel sits on the edge of the mesa's dramatic cliffs. Ex-Hacienda del Chorrillo is located not far from the station of a tram called the Teleferico. We decided to use it to reach the mesa's top and were rewarded with an exhilarating ride. To locate Hotel Monte Taxco and the tram station on a Google map of Taxco, click here.

El Teleferico

The Teleferico, heading up. The four-passenger cars make the round trip at regular intervals. Since there were no other occupants besides Carole and myself, I had full access to all the windows for photos. The Teleferico runs 8am - 7pm, Monday through Thursday, and 8am - 10pm on Friday and Saturday. Fares are $65 pesos ($3.15 USD) one-way and $95 pesos ($4.60 USD) round-trip for adults. Children younger than 11 pay $45 pesos one-way and $65 round-trip. In addition to the Teleferico, there are two other routes to the top. One is a cobblestone road called Calle Alfredo Checa Curi. The other is a foot trail. We chose to take the tram up and then walk down the road because those routes offered the best views.

Carole turns to look back at the Teleferico station. The tram car gained altitude quickly and the view improved as each moment passed. The ride was quiet and smooth, enabling a rapid-fire series of photos in all directions. I only include a few here to give you a taste.

As we rose toward the summit, more and more of Taxco came into view. The tram station is the building with the bright red roof in the lower center. In this shot, you can get a sense of the steepness of the slope to which the city clings.

Speaking of clinging... On our way up, we passed these houses, cantilevered onto the sides of a nearly vertical cliff. As land suitable for construction becomes scarcer, and views become increasingly valuable, builders resort to daring solutions. Taxco has had one earthquake in the last 30 days and 8 in the last 365. I'm not sure I'd want to be in one of these structures when a big one hits.

Hotel Monte Taxco

Hotel Monte Taxco can be seen on top of the mesa in the upper left. This shot was taken from the balcony of the Angel Inn restaurant, looking north across central Taxco. The cliffs below Monte Taxco are blackened by mineral stains. They drop hundreds of vertical feet. In the foreground of the photo is ex-Convento de San Bernardino de Siena, seen in Part 8 of this series.

The hotel is built so that most rooms have balconies with views of the city. We considered staying at Hotel Monte Taxco, but decided on Hotel Los Arcos instead (see Part 1 of this series). Although the views from Monte Taxco are breathtaking, and the hotel itself is both lovely and reasonably priced, it is quite removed from the center of town. This would have necessitated regular use of our car on the crowded and narrow streets. We always like hotels that are near the main plaza of a town, where most of the interesting things can be found. Those without a car would need to use the Teleferico or a taxi to get down to the city below. At Los Arcos, we could keep our car garaged most of the time and just walk around.

An arbor walkway extends out from the center of the hotel toward the cliffs. This would be a nice spot to enjoy the shade on a warm day. There are great views through the arches on either side of the walkway.

A view to the west from the arbor walkway. The red tile roofs cover part of the hotel's guest rooms. Each of the rooms faces the city far below.

View to the east from the walkway. Here you can see the pool and, above it, some of the rooms. To the right of center, under the tile roof, is the terrace of the restaurant. Carole and I decided to stay for lunch and picked a table between the two columns on the far left of the tile roofed area.

Carole sits at the table at the end of the restaurant terrace. At that moment, we were their only customers. This allowed us to choose the table with the most panoramic view.

The view from our table. Our server was very attentive and obliging. At my request he pointed out several landmarks so that I could zero in on them with my telephoto lens. The food was excellent and reasonably priced, but it was hard to pay it any attention with this spectacle before us.

La Vista Grande

View toward the south showing central Taxco. Parroquia Santa Prisca is in the upper right quadrant of the photo. The city spills down the steep slopes like water flowing downhill. It then pools out into a depression surrounded by low hills. White walls with red tile roofs are the dominant color-scheme, a style that has persisted for centuries. Taxco's many attractive qualities have enabled the city to achieve the coveted status of Pueblo Magico (Magic Pueblo).

Santa Prisca is surrounded by closely packed homes, hotels, and other structures. In the background, range after range of mountains extend into the distance. Towns and cities can became Magic Pueblos if they possess natural beauty, cultural riches, or historical relevance. Taxco has all three of these qualities in abundance. Since the program was launched in 2001, over 100 Pueblos Magicos have been designated throughout Mexico.

As Taxco expanded over the centuries, one possible direction was uphill. The steep slopes of the surrounding hills are packed with structures, many of them dating to colonial times. Narrow cobble stone streets wind and twist throughout these neighborhoods.

Some neighborhoods extend right up to the base of awesome cliffs. These are among Taxco's most impressive natural features.

Some parts of the city extend down into the various arroyos that cut through the area. Building in arroyos is always risky. Heavy rains bring mudslides which roar through them with devastating effect. People who build, or buy properties, in arroyos always seem to think "it will happen sometime, somewhere, but never here."

A cobblestone road with hairpin turns connects Hotel Monte Taxco to the city below. After lunch, we decided to walk down this road, rather than take the tram. We were rewarded with more stunning vistas, as well as a look at some of the beautiful homes along the way.

View of Hotel Monte Taxco and hillside homes from the road below. The tall white structure in the middle of the hotel is an elevator. It is at the end of the arbor walkway that extends out from the hotel.

This completes Part 9 of my Taxco series. In the next couple of postings, we will visit the great, pre-hispanic ruin called Xochicalco, to the northeast of Taxco. I hope you have enjoyed the series as much as we did the actual visit. If you have questions or comments, please either leave them in the Comments section below or email them to me directly.

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

Hasta luego, Jim

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Taxco Part 8: Ex-convento de San Bernardino de Siena and ex-Hacienda del Chorrillo

View of ex-Convento de San Bernardino de Siena from the Angel Inn restaurant balcony.  In the background, sheer cliffs rising hundreds of feet provide a dramatic backdrop. Attached to the convent's church is a white building with a red tile roof and five arched windows. This was once part of the convent complex. Behind the ex-Convento, you can see the white steeples of Parroquia Chavarrieta, another of the small churches serving the barrios of Taxco. The ex-Convento is located along Calle Juarez, another of this Magic Pueblo's wonderful walking streets. Juarez stretches from Plaza Borda down to the Carretera (highway) near the eastern entrance to the city. Unlike many of Taxco's streets, Juarez' grade is relatively gentle, making for easy walking. In this posting, we'll look at the ex-Convento and the ex-Haciennda de Chorillo, both built in the 16th century. To locate these sites on a Google map of Taxco, click here.

Ex-Convento de San Bernardino de Siena

Calle Juarez makes a "dog-leg" turn where it meets Plazuela del ex-Convento. The Plazuela is a small plaza which adjoins the church. Ex-Convento de San Bernardino de Siena was built in 1592 by a Franciscan friar named Francisco de Torantos. The initial work was financed by Antonio Verru Bravo, a wealthy Taxco silver miner. However, construction funds ran out before the convent was complete, so the rest had to be financed with alms. In 1802, the original adobe church burned down. When it was rebuilt with stone in 1804, a Neo-classic facade was added to the original Romanesque structure. The convento is named after San Bernardino de Siena (1380 - 1444), a Franciscan friar. In his early career, he threw all of his considerable energy into helping the sick. Later, he began to preach with such impact that some towns refused to let him leave unless he promised to return. Even when he was dying, San Bernardino preached for 50 consecutive days. He refused various offers of a bishop's position, but eventually became Vicar General of the Franciscan Order. Pope Pius II called him the "second Paul".

The church nave shows a strong Neo-classic influence. The Convento played a role in the War of Independence from Spain. In 1821, the war was at a stalemate, with the insurgents unable to beat the royalists, and the royalists unable to stamp them out. Political changes back in Spain prompted royalist General Agustin Iturbide to approach his opponent, the insurgent General Vicente Guerrero, with a proposal to an end to the conflict. Iturbide used the Convento as the site to draft the Plan de Iguala, which is also called the Plan Trigarante (Plan of the Three Guarantees). The Plan established Mexican independence with three guarantees: a constitutional monarchy; an official religion of Roman Catholicism; and equal rights for Mexicans, whether they were born in Spain or Mexico. Vicente Guerrero recognized this as the best chance to end the war and win independence. He agreed to merge the insurgent and royalist armies and signed the Plan de Iguala. On August 24, 1821, the Spanish Viceroy ratified the Plan by signing the Treaty of Córdoba. With this, Mexico became an independent nation.

This Virgin of Montserrat is a copy of one of the most famous statues in Spain. The Spanish statue is kept at the Maria de Montserrat monastery on Montserrat Mountain in Catalonia. The original statue, sculpted from wood in Romanesque style, was probably carved in the 12th century. The Madonna and Child of Montserrat originally had much lighter complexions. Over the centuries, either candle smoke or chemical changes in the varnish caused the faces, hands, and feet to turn black. The copy seen here reflects the original's later appearance. The orb that the Virgin holds in her right hand represents the universe. San Pedro Nolasco (1189 - 1256) made a pilgrimage to visit the Virgin of Montserrat in 1203. As a result he was inspired to found the Order of the Blessed Virgin Mary for the Ransom of Captives to help Christians enslaved by the Moors. Three hundred years later, in 1522, a Spanish soldier named Ignatius Loyola visited the Montserrat shrine. There, he laid down his weapons forever, as the first step toward creating the Society of Jesus, or Jesuit Order.

Several of the statues above are carried in Taxco's various religious parades. In the center, under the crucifix, a female figure reaches up from the middle of roaring flames. This is called Anima Sola (the Lone Soul) and represents Purgatory, similar to a statue in the Capilla de San Nicolas Tolentino, seen in Part 7. To the right of Animal Sola is a statue of San Francisco (St. Francis of Assisi) who founded the Franciscan Order. To the left of Anima Sola is a small statue of San Judas Tadeo. He was one of the Twelve Apostles, but was not the Judas who betrayed Christ. Almost nothing is known of San Judas Tadeo because he is the least mentioned Apostle of the Gospels. Abhorring a vacuum of information, Catholic Tradition created a story for him. According to legend, San Judas Tadeo accompanied Simon the Zealot to Persia to evangelize. There, they were both arrested and executed for refusing to worship the local gods. There is some dispute over whether Judas' head was crushed with a mallet or cut off with an ax, but no disagreement about the result. The statue of the monk on the far left is unidentified.

San Margarito Flores Garcia was martyred during the Cristero War. Margarito Flores Garcia (1899 - 1927) was born in Taxco, and is still revered here. At 15, he started to study at the seminary in Chilopie, Guerrero. He became a priest in 1924, only two years before the outbreak of the Cristero War. This was a conflict between Mexico's revolutionary government and reactionaries closely allied with the Catholic Church. There were atrocities on both sides. These included summary executions of priests by government forces and the murders of farmworkers by the Catholic Cristeros. The government was breaking up the hacienda system and farmworkers, called agraristas, were trying to participate in the land redistribution program. The Cristeros had genuine issues about government religious repression, but they were also closely allied with the hacendados (hacienda owners). Many agraristas were murdered by Cristero death squads acting on behalf of the hacendados. Margarito Flores Garcia was one of a considerable number of priests who were arrested and executed for involvement with the Cristero movement. For this, Pope John Paul II sainted him in 2000, along with 24 other priests martyred during the war.

Statue of a participant in one of Taxco's unique religious parades. This is one of three very unusual statues standing behind the ex-Convento. During Semana Santa (Easter Week) members of several cofradias (religous brotherhoods) march in a series of parades over three days. The cofradias as a group are called penitentes (penitent ones) and all wear black hoods with eye holes. Except for the women, all are naked to the waist. Each cofradia acts out a different ritual. The man above is one of the Flagelentes. They carry 100 lb. crosses balanced on their extended arms. Periodically the Flagelentes hand the crosses to helpers and then lash their own bare backs with metal-studded whips. You can see the white-tipped whip hanging down from the Flagelente's right hand.

An Encruzado (crucified one) is strapped to a bundle of sharp-thorned blackberry canes. The bundles weigh 40-50 lbs, forcing the men to walk in a stooped position. The thorns pierce the bare flesh of the Encruzados' arms and shoulders as they walk along. Only when the procession pauses do helpers ease the weight of the bundles to give the Encruzados some relief.

The Animas (Souls) are from the only cofradia that permits women to join. Above, a female Anima carries two candles and walks in a hunched position. Local people sometimes refer to this group as "the bent ones". The Animas hobble along with chains around their ankles and they can only rest on their hands and knees when the procession stops. All three of the cofradias act out traditions dating far back into Medieval history. Over the centuries, the Church has attempted to suppress these rituals, but they continue in Taxco as if it were still the 12th century.

Ex-Hacienda del Chorrillo

This ancient stone structure may have once served as a gatehouse for the hacienda. There was no identifying sign, but its age and proximity to ex-Hacienda del Chorillo strongly suggest that the building was part of the complex, possibly providing some security for the entrance. The ex-Hacienda now functions as the School of Fine Arts of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).

View through one of the arches of the hacienda's aqueduct. The building in the background was originally one of the hacienda's work structures. In 1524, only two years after his conquest of the Aztecs, Hernán Cortéz wrote a letter to the King of Spain reporting the discovery of silver near Taxco. The hacienda, originally named Cantarranas, was built to process the silver ore extracted from nearby mines. The water necessary for the extraction process flowed along this aqueduct, which was constructed by Spanish soldiers in 1534. The hacienda later became known as El Chorrillo, which means "steady trickle" in Spanish.

This is the building seen through the aqueduct arch. It may have been where the ore was crushed. Today it houses administrators and classroom space. Although the interior has certainly been remodeled, the rough stone walls of the exterior very likely date back to the 16th century. Hacienda del Chorrillo functioned as a silver processing operation continuously from Hernán Cortéz' day until the Mexican Revolution. However, at various times during the colonial period it was also used for religious and administrative purposes by the Church and by Spanish officials.

An antigue wooden gate provides a passageway between two of several patios. The "patio system" of ore processing was invented by Bartolomé de Medina in 1555. The aqueduct provided large amounts of water which was forced through the ore to help break it up and free silver particles. Then, in the patios, salt and mercury were used to leach silver from the crushed ore.

A smelter chimney stands in the corner of one of the patios. Its construction suggests that it was built in the 18th or 19th centuries when bricks became widely available. After leaching, heat was used to separate the mercury and other minerals from the silver. The molten silver was then cast into bars, most of which were shipped to Spain during the colonial period. Because of this, hard currency was chronically in short supply in Nueva España (Mexico), in spite of the colony being one of the chief sources of this flood of silver.

One of the ore-processing patios now functions as a student break area. The exterior of the stone building and the surface of the patio itself are probably original. Notice the fountain pool at the lower right of the photo.

The fountain's water emerges from a spout extending from the mouth of the sculpture. The statue is of a pre-hispanic god named Huehueteotl, the God of Fire. His name means "Old, Old God" and he may be the oldest deity in the whole pre-hispanic pantheon. The head dress contains a bowl where incense would have been burned during ceremonies. I could not determine whether the statue is an original or a copy.

Another patio contains a well and a small, wood-fired oven. During the Mexican Revolution (1910 - 1921), the hacienda was sacked and demolished by the revolutionary forces of Emiliano Zapata. After that, silver processing ceased and the hacienda stood in ruins for a couple of decades. Then, in the 1940s, an American couple named Sullivan acquired the ruins and turned them into guest cottages. Distinguished visitors to ex-Hacienda del Chorrillo included John F. and Jacqueline Kennedy in the 1950s..

I first mistook this for a chimney, but it actually appears to the the remains of a pillar. In the 1980s the ex-hacienda was purchased by the State of Guerrero for use as the headquarters of the Centro de Gastronomy Guerrerense a cooking school specializing in dishes from Guerrero. Other parts of the property became the Centro de Artes Plastico de Taxco. In 1990, the State offered the ex-hacienda to UNAM, which created a school to teach drawing, engraving, photography, sculpture, jewelry-making, and enamel on metal artwork.

View of the aqueduct, looking out. In 2011, UNAM added Visual Arts, Visual Communication, and Art and Design as degrees offered at the school. Mexico's dedication to preserving and utilizing its architectural heritage has always impressed me. In the US, all this would have long since been bulldozed to put up a Walmart or a glitzy hotel.

This completes Part 8 of my Taxco series. I hope you enjoyed it and, if so, you will leave any thoughts or questions in the Comments section below or email them to me directly. If you leave a question in the Comments section PLEASE leave your email address so that I can respond.

Hasta luego, Jim

Monday, December 5, 2016

Taxco Part 7: Churches and chapels along Calle Hidalgo

View through the entrance gate of Capilla de la Santisima Trinidad. While strolling down Calle Hidalgo, Carole and I visited several neighborhood chapels, some dating back to the 16th century. Capilla de la Santisima Trinidad (Chapel of the Holy Trinity) is situated several blocks from Plaza Borda, at the confluence of three streets: Calles Hidalgo, Cenaobscuras, and Morelos. In this posting we'll examine the architecture and furnishings of three of these old chapels: La Santisima Trinidad, San Nicolas Tolentino, and San Miguel Arcangel.

Capilla de la Santisima Trinidad

Street view of La Santisima Trinidad. Notice the rough stone work of the peripheral wall and of the church's exterior walls. These features date from the 16th century. Every colonial city was built according to a standard plan devised by King Phillip II, of Spanish Armada fame. A town would be laid out around a central plaza, with the most important church on one side. In Taxco's case these are Plaza Borda and Parroquia Santa Prisca (see Parts 2, 4 & 5 of this series) The wealthiest Spaniards built homes on, or adjacent to, the plaza. People of lesser wealth and social status lived in concentric circles radiating out from the center. The indigenous population was the poorest and so lived in the outlying barrios (neighborhoods). La Santisima Trinidad serviced one of these barrios.

View of the church from inside the peripheral walls. La Santisima Trinidad has a single bell tower and is surrounded by a flagstone patio. After visiting quite a large number colonial structures during my nine years in Mexico, I have learned to recognize the era in which they were built. The earliest churches were constructed of adobe with thatched roofs. Few of these survived into modern times. Most were replaced within a few decades by structures built with rough, uncut stones, like those you see above. If there were pre-hispanic structures in the area, particularly temples, these were sometimes cannibalized for building materials. However, no such structures existed in the immediate area around Taxco. Although the interior of La Santisima Trinidad was remodeled in later centuries, the exterior retains its 16th century appearance.

The church interior is simple, with a single nave and no side-chapels. The stark white walls are decorated with various statues and religious paintings. The altar, seen at the far end of the nave, is of the Neo-Classic design. This style became popular in the late 18th century and remained so through most of the 19th century, Notice the robed statue on the wall at the extreme right center of the photo. This is Nuestra Señora de los Dolores (Our Lady of the Sorrows), one of the many manifestations of the Virgin Mary.

The altar is topped with a triangle enclosing the Eye of Providence, surrounded by a sunburst. I was curious about its association with La Santisima Trinidad. The Eye of Providence, also known as the All-Seeing Eye of God, has been an important symbol for centuries. In fact, it appears on the back side of the Great Seal of the United States and on the $1.00 bill. During the Renaissance, the image was used to symbolize the concept of the Trinity. Therein lies, its connection with La Santisima Trinidad. The All-Seeing Eye was not an original part of the 16th century church, since the use of a sunburst in the symbol didn't come into practice until the 17th century. It was probably added when the church was remodeled in the 18th century.

Our Lady of Sorrows. Nuestra Señora de los Dolores (Our Lady of Sorrows) is one of several statues in La Santisima Trinidad that are taken out and paraded through the streets during religious festivals. The "sorrows" refer to seven sorrowful moments Mary had during Jesus' life, including his crucifixion. She is sometimes depicted with seven arrows puncturing her heart.

Capilla de San Nicolas Tolentino

Capilla de San Nicolas Tolentino stands on Calle Hidalgo, facing Parque Vicente Guerrero. This 16th century Augustinian chapel was constructed using the same kind of rough stones as La Santisima Trinidad. However, some cut stones were used on the corners as you can see above.

The Capilla's facade and steeple. The single steeple has openings for four bells, which are rung by hand. The Neo-Classical facade, with its four pilasters supporting a triangular pediment, was probably added in the 18th century. When we visited, the church had an antique feel about it. Even so, it is one of the most active of the neighborhood chapels.

Carole walks up the aisle of the single nave. The wood ceiling was fairly unusual. That and the stained white walls added to the sense of antiquity. Aside from the altar area, the interior of the church contained few decorations. These included small paintings marking the Stations of the Cross, two depictions of a crucified Jesus, a scene of souls in purgatory, and a small altar to San Charbel Maklouf. Except for the electric lights, it would be easy to feel that one had stepped back into the 16th century.

The main altar contains five statues. The central figure is San Nicolas Tolentino, for whom the Capilla is named. On the lower left is San Rafael Arcangel and to the right is San Gabriel Arcangel. Above are two figures, a woman on the left and a man to the right. These I haven't been able to identify, but they appear to be of 16th or 17th century origin.

San Nicolas was an Italian saint who lived in the town of Tolentino during the Middle Ages. San Nicolas Tolentino (1245 - 1305) was a mystic who gained a great reputation by ministering to the poor. Nicolas joined the Augustinian Order at the age of 16 and was ordained at 25. He acted as a peacemaker during the civil strife in Tolentino between supporters of the Pope and those of the Holy Roman Emperor. According to legend, he cured the sick by feeding them bread over which he had prayed. This was the origin of the Augustinian custom of blessing and distributing St. Nicholas bread. It is a practice continued at the Capilla to this day. Nicolas also fasted, but those around him felt he went too far, sometimes endangering his own health. However, the fasting provided him with visions, particularly of Purgatory. In Catholic belief, this is where souls are purified before being allowed to enter Heaven. As a result, Nicolas spent much time praying for the souls in Purgatory and he is considered their Patron. Notice the small whip held in his right hand.

San Nicolas used a whip like this for self-flagellation. The barbed tip has been painted red to simulate fresh blood. The practice of beating oneself with a whip to drive out sin began in the 13th century during Nicolas' lifetime. As a mystic, he was attracted to this extraordinary ritual because it helped produce his sublime visions. I find it intriguing that the pre-hispanic Aztecs produced similar results using manta ray spines to self-pierce the tongue or the genitals. In both cases, the practitioners sought a mystical connection with higher forces through the infliction of intense pain on their own bodies. Although the Church condemned self-flagellation in the 14th century, it remains common in a few Catholic countries, including Mexico.

Souls in Purgatory. I had envisioned Purgatory as a crowded, uncomfortable and thoroughly boring place of interminable waiting, kind of like the boarding gate at an airport. However, apparently Purgatory is a lot more Hellish than that. Flames shoot up around the nude figures of a man and a woman. Between them stands a third figure  also nude except for his bishop's mitre (hat). Apparently, even high church officials had plenty of sins to expiate. This vignette was created to celebrate San Nicolas' role as Patron of Souls in Purgatory.

Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel

View from the inside of Parroquia San Miguel's main gate, looking out. The street outside is Calle Morelos, which branches off Hidalgo near Capilla San Nicolas. I had wanted to shoot from the street, using this beautiful gate to frame the church. However, as usual in Mexico, some bright soul decided to string multiple power/telephone lines in front of the church,. This prevented any clean, unobstructed shots until you are well inside the gate.. Mexican power, telephone, and cable lines are the bane of my photographic life here.

View from the steps of the church back toward central Taxco and the mountain slopes. This area sits above the street and is known as Plazuela San Miguel. It contains both a broad patio and a lush garden, altogether a great spot to rest yourself in the shade of its trees. Although we experienced some rain in the late evenings, most of our days in Taxco were like this one, brilliantly sunny with blue skies.

Parroquia San Miguel Arcangel is one of the oldest churches in Taxco. When it was built in the 16th century, it was originally dedicated to San Sebastian. However, in the 18th century the church was re-dedicated to the Archangel St. Michael, the warrior angel who is believed to be the commander of God's armies ranged against Satan's forces. A weather-worn and partially damaged statue of San Miguel stands in a niche above the choir window. Like San Nicolas Tolentino, this church exudes antiquity, at least on the exterior.

An brass bell, greenish with age, hangs from a wooden cross-piece in the belfry. This is the lower of the the belfry's two levels. Each contains space for four bells. Notice the two worn figures on either side of the opening. I have no information to identify them, but they may be angels or putti (cupids). There is evidence of brickwork underneath the chipped plaster. This may indicate a later date for the steeple than for the church itself. Bricks didn't come into widespread use in New Spain until the 18th century. It was not uncommon for steeples to be added well after the main structure was completed.

The interior of Parroquia San Miguel shows a strong Neo-Classic influence.  This includes stark, relatively undecorated walls and ceiling, with Greco-Roman columns around the altar. Carole can be seen in the lower right of the photo, sitting in a pew.

San Miguel Arcangel, wielding his customary sword with one hand and a cross with the other. The two columns of pink cantera that frame the statue are topped with Ionic capitals, a definite Neo-Classic touch. St. Michael the Archangel is revered by multiple religious, including Judaism, Islam and Christianity. Within Christianity, he is part of Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Anglican, and Lutheran religious traditions.

Santiago Matamoros, the Patron of Spain and of conquistadors in the New World.  Another warrior figure prominent in the church is Santiago Matamoros (St. James the Moor Slayer). He is St James the Elder, one of the Twelve Apostles. His association with Spain is probably mythical, according to biblical scholars. Nevertheless, he became a great symbol for Christians during the Reconquista (Re-conquest) of Spain from the Muslim Moors. The New World was discovered the same year as the final defeat of Spain's Moors. As a result, the Moor Slayer was reassigned the job of sponsoring the conquest and slaughter of indigenous people of New Spain and Peru.

A remarkably realistic portrayal of Christ on the cross. Although I have not been able to verify it, this may be one of the famous cornstalk statues that were created by Purépecha craftmen in Michoacan in the 16th century. They were made from the core of dried and ground up corn stalks, mixed with the boiled bulbs of begonia and orchidea. The result was a very light and malleable substance, ideal for sculpting. The pre-hispanic Purépecha invented the process in order to create statues of their various deities. Since they took their gods into battle with them, and it was sacrilege to leave them behind if they had to flee, a very light, cornstalk statue had a distinct advantage over one of stone or wood. The Spanish adopted the technique for Christian statues, particularly those of the crucified Christ.

A moment of veneration. As I turned to leave, I saw this man standing at the cornstalk statue and instinctively took a photo. It wasn't until after I enlarged the photo in my computer that I realized what he was doing. After he had prayed for some time, he extended his arm up to touch the feet of the statue, as a final act of devotion.

This completes Part 7 of my Taxco series. If you have enjoyed it and would like to leave a question or a comment, please do so in the Comments section below or email me directly. If you leave a question, PLEASE leave your email address so that I can respond.

Hasta luego, Jim