Thursday, June 25, 2020

Mascota Part 6 of 6: The serene but mysterious ruins of Templo Preciosa Sangre de Cristo

Slanting morning sunshine leaves parts of the ruins in deep shadow. Templo de la Preciosa Sangre de Cristo (Temple of the Precious Blood of Christ), stands in a small park in the middle of Mascota. Anyone who has followed my blog knows that I am deeply attracted to ruins of one sort or another. I find them fascinating both for their history and for the photographic opportunities they provide. Although this picturesque site is mentioned in almost every description of Mascota, very little of its history is mentioned. In this posting, I will provide you with what I have been able to glean, along with a general history of Mascota itself.

The Templo, viewed from its south side. Allison, one of our group on this trip, stands in deep shadow on a path leading into the south entrance of the ruins. The Templo is far better known by its informal name, Templo Inconcluso (the Unfinished Church). It is called that because construction was abandoned in the early 20th century while the structure was only partially completed.

The Mascota Valley had been inhabited for thousands of years when the Spanish arrived in 1525. In Parts 2 and 3 of this series, I provided some information about the Capacha culture, which existed here 3000 years ago. By the early 16th century, the Capacha had long since been supplanted by people who had arrived in a long series of migrations from other areas. 

The indigenous people whom the Spanish encountered called themselves the Teco. They were ruled by a man named Amaxacotlán Mazacotla. This roughly translates as "Chieftain of the Place of the Deer and Snakes". The native ruler controlled a number of towns in the region, including Talpa, El Tuito, and Chacala, all three of which still exist. However, his realm did not include the town of Mascota, which had not yet been founded.

North entrance of the Templo. A pair of Doric columns frame the entrance. In the background you can see Julika, another member of our group. The Unfinished Church has been turned into a beautiful park and garden that is used for weddings, concerts, and other public and private events.

In Spanish, Mascota means "pet", but the town's name actually comes from Mazacotla, the second half of the Teco chieftain's name. The word is from the Nahuatl language of the Tecos, which was also spoken by the Aztecs. More than 2 million people still use it, including a handful in Mascota. Nahuatl is just one of more than 60 surviving indigenous languages in Mexico. 

Main entrance looking out. Jim B strolls in through the main entrance The area he is walking into is the nave, or main room of the church. On either side of him are the north and south wings of the church. The likely intended use of these wings would have been for offices, and a sacristy.

The Spanish arrival came only a few years after the fall of the Aztec Empire in 1521. Following this victory, Hernán Cortés sent several expeditions throughout Mexico to continue the Conquest. Francisco Buenaventura Cortés, his nephew, was the leader of one of these parties. After departing Colima in 1525 with a force of Spaniards and native auxiliaries, he arrived in the Mascota Valley and claimed it for Spain. 

In 1530, Francisco gave control of the valley to Pedro Gómez and Martin Monje, two of his conquistadors. Their tenure was brief , however. In 1535, an even more ruthless conquistador named Nuño de Guzman arrived and took over. His savage practices soon provoked an indigenous revolt.

Door to the south wing. The door in the center may have provided access to a sacristy, which is a dressing room where the priest's vestments and other sacred objects are stored when not in use. Across the nave from this door, on the north wing, are an identical door and window.

Nuño de Guzman's standard mode of operation was to force native people to reveal the location of any valuables through torture and murder. Any survivors were enslaved and sold at a profit. Not surprisingly, the Tecos rose in revolt, Guzman ordered Alvaro de Bracamontes, the Mayor of Compostela, to suppress them. Lacking guns, horses, or steel weapons, the Tecos were swiftly crushed. 

In 1536, Nuño de Guzman made Cristóbal de Oñate the first encomendero of the Mascota Valley. This entitled Oñate to demand tribute and forced labor from the Tecos. In exchange, he was only required to instruct them in Christianity, a pretty good deal if you are on the right end of it. Cristóbal de Oñate later went on to found the city of Guadalajara in 1542. 

The sanctuary is the focus of the nave. It lies at the far end of the nave from the main entrance. A sanctuary like this will ordinarily contain two altars. In front will be a small altar that is little more than a rectangular table. Standing behind it, against the wall under the window, the high altar will contain statues and paintings of religious scenes. On one side of the sanctuary, toward the front, a pulpit will provide a place from which the priest can address the congregation. 

The original site of Mascota was at Hacienda Atajo, about 20 km (12.4 mi) northwest of the current town, along the road to the Pacific Coast. The Tecos likely ended up on the hacienda through a process called "congregation". The encomendero, assisted by his armed retainers and the local Catholic priest, would simply round them up. Once under firm Spanish control, they could be forced to provide free labor in the hacienda's fields and workshops. Another benefit of congregation was that the native people could more easily be required to abandon the practice of their traditional religion and convert to Christianity. This part has been described as "the Spiritual Conquest".

By the second half of the 17th century, much of the Mascota Valley had been acquired by the Augustinian Order to economically support their college. In colonial times, it was not unusual for the evangelical orders to own land or even entire haciendas. Often these properties were willed to them by pious hacendados (hacienda owners). In other cases, the properties were acquired when religious Orders made loans on which the hacendados defaulted. While the practices used on haciendas owned by religious Orders were generally more efficient than those of the secular haciendas, they were no less exploitive. Whippings and the use of slaves were common. Vestiges of the home of the Augustinian steward can still be seen in Mal Paso, a few miles outside of Mascota.

A possible side chapel extends to the left from the sanctuary. Tom, another member of our group, walks under a large arch intended to support the ceiling. The function if this area is not clear. It might have been intended as a side chapel devoted to a particular saint. On the other hand, such spaces are sometimes used as seating areas, auxiliary to the nave.

In the middle of the 18th century, the indigenous population at Hacienda Atajo was displaced from there. They resettled on the property still owned at that time by the Augustinians. I have been unable to determine the reason for their displacement, but it may have been that the owner of Hacienda Atajo simply want to use the land on which the people lived. The ease with which they resettled on Augustinian lands suggests that they were welcomed as a source of labor. In any case, the people were allowed to build their homes somewhat haphazardly along the Rio Mascota. This is the reason that the modern town is not laid out in the strict grid pattern typical of colonial pueblos.

Another possible side chapel. Notice the niche in the wall under the arch on the right. This was intended to contain the statue of a saint. Ceilings of churches are nearly always very high, with the aim of inspiring feelings of awe. The Unfinished Church was designed in the Neo-Classical style, as can be seen by the use of pilasters with doric capitals.

At the beginning of the 19th century, Mascota became involved in Mexico's independence struggle. When the War of Independence from Spain broke out in 1810, Francisco Severo Maldonado was the curate (head priest) of the Parroquia. He was a creole (Spaniard born in New Spain) and was heavily influenced by a group of creole plotters in Vallodolid (today's Morelia, in Michoacan) who were pushing for a separation from Spain. 

When Father Miguel Hidalgo launched his campaign for independence, Mascota's curate threw his support behind the rebel priest. In the early stages, Maldonado edited a newspaper called El Despertador Americano (The American Alarm Clock). When Hidalgo was defeated in 1811, Maldonado was arrested, tried and forced to retract his positions. He was even required to collaborate with a royalist newspaper for a time. After independence was achieved in 1821, Maldonado held several important posts in the new Mexican government.

In 1815, in the midst of the war, residents of Mascota were summoned by three rings of the Parroquia's bells. Once they assembled, it was announced that the Augustinian lands were to be sold to Francisco Guzmán, the wealthy owner of the San Juan Nepomuceno mine in the mountains near the town. However, Guzmán did set aside 5 hectares (12 acres) of land for the town, while keeping the rest for his own purposes. Those 5 hectares became the core of today's town of Mascota.

The entrance to the steeple is closed off by a barred gate. Behind the gate is a spiraling stone staircase. I have climbed up many such staircases when visiting old Mexican churches. They are typically contained in cylindrical structures like the one above. The small, square opening in the wall above the door provided light for those climbing the stairs.

In the middle of the 19th century, Mascota was again caught up in Mexico's internal politics. Following independence, there was a long struggle between the Conservative and  Liberal parties that culminated in the Reform War of 1857-1860. The Conservatives were defeated but, in 1862, they invited France to invade and install the Austrian Duke Maximilian as Emperor of Mexico. The war dragged on until 1867, when French were finally forced to withdraw. The defeat of Maximilian and the Conservatives followed shortly thereafter. 

Remigio Tovar was a native of Mascota who had thrown his support to the Conservatives in 1856. When the Reform War broke out, he participated in the defense of Guadalajara, but fled when the city surrendered to the Liberals. Tovar returned to his home town of Mascota and organized guerrilla operations from there. Following the French invasion, he was promoted to Brigadier General and given command of the Conservative forces around the town. However, in 1862 Liberal General Antonio Rojas defeated Tovar, burned Mascota, and forced the Conservative general to flee Jalisco to a neighboring state. 

In spite of this early victory, the weight of French power overwhelmed the Liberals in the early stages of the war. In 1865, General Tovar re-emerged as a close political adviser to Emperor Maximilian, who made him a member of the Imperial Order of Guadalupe. After Maximilian was finally defeated and executed in 1867, Tovar was allowed to quietly retire. This was in spite of his traitorous acts in support of a foreign invader. He died in 1896, during the 35-year rule of Porfirio Diaz. This period is called the Porfiriato

Empty windows framed by stone and brick separate two parts of the garden. The stone wall on the right is part of the Seminario Menor which is attached to the ruins of the Templo. A Minor Seminary is a kind of prep school for boys who want to become priests. Assuming they complete their studies, they can then graduate to a Seminary. There, after further study, they will be ordained as priests.

Mascota prospered during the Porfiriato, or at least its wealthiest residents did. Lush farmland on nearby haciendas produced abundant crops and the town became famous for its beautiful horses. In the mountains surrounding the Mascota Valley, silver mines enriched the mine owners, who were often also hacendados, or at least members of their families. In 1885, Mascota won a national title as "City of the Year." 

It was in this context that the Templo del Preciosa Sangre de Cristo was planned. The official history states that the church was begun for residents "who had been pushed out of the central church by the newly arriving Spaniards." Apparently affluent residents of Spanish descent who had recently settled in the town felt they couldn't abide the presence of indigenous people and mestizos (mixed blood) in the Parroquia. The poorer people had to have some place to worship, so construction began on a new church, several blocks to the west of the Parroquia. This may have been a late 19th century version of what is known today as gentrification.

Altar of the chapel within the Seminario Minor. Here you can see the sort of front altar, high altar, and religious artifacts that the sanctuary of the Unfinished Church would have contained, had it been completed.

The cornerstone of the Templo was laid in 1897. Construction continued up to the beginning of the Revolution in 1910. Porfirio Diaz fled to Europe in 1911 as revolutionary armies closed in on Mexico City. Thus ended the Porfiriato. Ever since the Conquest, the Church had played a key role in the oppression of poor and indigenous people. Because of this history, the Revolution unleashed a fierce anti-clerical movement. Mexico's Constitution of 1917 severely restricted the power of the Church, at least on paper. Construction on the Templo came to a stop and the prospects for its completion were dubious.

Then, in 1926 the Cristero War erupted in Mexico and the state of Jalisco was the epicenter. The war pitted the new revolutionary government against Catholic reactionaries who objected to the curtailment of the power and privileges that the Church enjoyed. In addition, many of the Cristero movement's key supporters were hacendados who fiercely opposed the land re-distribution provisions of the 1917 Constitution. Ultimately, the Cristeros lost their war, dooming the Templo del Preciosa Sangre de Cristo. And that is how Mascota got its famous Templo Inconcluso. 

This completes Part 6 of my Mascota series. I hope you have enjoyed it. If so, please leave any thoughts or questions in the Comments section below. If you leave a question, PLEASE include your email address so that I can respond promptly.

Hasta luego, Jim

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Mascota Part 5 of 6: The Amazing Museum of Stones

Rocks of various sizes, shapes, and colors completely cover a traditional sombrero. One of the most unusual places to visit in Mascota is Museo de Piedra El Pedregal (Museum of Stones). The museum is located at Calle Morelos 64, about a block and a half east of Plaza Principal, on the south side of the street. Mexico is full of zany, quirky, even surreal, people and places. Mascota's Museum of Rocks fits easily in those categories. The entry fee is $10 pesos (45 cents USD) and the Museo is well worth it.

Señor Francisco Peña, the artist, curator, and owner, stands at the entrance of the Museo. Sr. Peña is warm and welcoming to visitors. He speaks excellent English and is very proud to show off his creations The rock-lined exterior gives a hint of the wonders found within. The sign above Sr. Peña's head is made from an ox bow that is covered with stones.

This well forms the centerpiece of the courtyard. Except for the brick arch, all of the well's other surfaces are covered with stones, including the bucket hanging from the top. Sr. Peña has worked for the last 25 years to create his museum and its unusual displays. He collects the rounded river stones he uses from the Rio Mascota, which parallels the south side of town. Notice the wagon wheel on the right side of the photo.

An old wagon wheel stands against the wall. Carefully fitted rocks fill all the spaces between its spokes. Two-wheeled ox carts, called carretas, provided the primary means for transporting cargo in Mexico until the advent of railroads in the late 19th century. I still occasionally encounter old-fashioned carretas when I go searching for haciendas on the backroads of Mexico.

Chess anyone? Except for the woven seats, every other surface is covered with stones of various sizes and colors. Even the chess pieces are made from stone. Around the perimeter of the table' surface, Sr. Peña has created a beautiful pattern of flowers. Even though they are very unusual, most of his creations are completely functional.

Model of Mascota's Parroquia Nuestra Señora de los Dolores. I featured this church in my last blog posting. It is located on the south side of Plaza Principal. The walls are covered with sand particles. If you compare the model with the first photo of my last posting, you will find that he has accurately replicated most of the details of the 18th century church.

A star-shaped piñata with many lovely details. The only parts of this piece that are not covered with stones are the colorful streamers. I'm sure Sr. Peña would have covered those too, if he could have found a way. The photos on the wall behind the piñata are scenes from Mascota's history. They are, of course, all framed with river stones. Sr. Peña is not only an artist, but also an historian and genealogist.

Piñatas are ubiquitous in Mexico and have an unusual history. They probably originated in China and were brought back to Italy in the 14th century. The name comes from the Italian word pignatta, which means clay pot, from which the original piñatas were made. The modern versions are generally paper maché. These colorful objects are often seen at traditional Mexican fiestas, particularly when children are involved.

The piñata is first filled with candy and suspended from a rafter or tree branch. One at a time, children will be blindfolded and given a club to try to break it open. As a kid flails about blindly, someone pulls the piñata up and down, just out of reach. Eventually, one of the kids swats the container hard enough and the result is a cascade of candy. The mad scramble for the goodies is the climax of the game and is a scene of great hilarity.

Another table contains pitchers and cups of various sizes. Once again, all these are perfectly functional. Leaning against the wall behind the table are other stone-covered items, including two guitars. I can't vouch for the quality of their music.

Time for dinner!  This table contains several beautifully decorated bowls and platters. Notice the plate in the center containing several slices of stone pizza. While the platters may be functional, the pizza might prove a bit hard on the teeth. Sr. Peña has a wonderfully quirky sense of humor.

The bar is stocked with numerous bottles and cups of various sizes and shapes. On the shelf in the back is a miniature, open-air bar. A cantinera (female bartender) washes glasses on the right and and two borrochos (drunks) are passed out on the table on the left. The bar's mirror shows my reflection as I took the shot.

Over the bar, a rack of glasses stands ready for after dinner cocktails. Martini and wine glasses are covered with very fine textured pebbles. The wall behind them is surfaced with much larger stones from Rio Mascota.

An old microwave oven displays a rather odd picture. At first, I thought this was an old TV, but a microwave seems more likely. The photo inside the oven is a take-off on the Beatles' famous Abbey Road album cover. Instead of George, Paul, Ringo, and John the composite photo shows Humphrey Bogart, Elvis Presley, James Dean, and Marilyn Monroe.

Te Amo (I love you) is spelled out on the large rock just in front of the oven door. It's not clear to me whether the message is about the actors in the photo or is directed toward the viewer of the work. As I said, Sr. Peña has a wonderfully offbeat sense of humor.

After a good meal of pizza and a cocktail, it's time for a snooze. The only things not covered with stones here are the mattress and its spread. I tested the mattress with my fingers to be sure. Even the pillows at the top of the bed have a layer of river stones. Sr. Peña has used his rocks to form lovely diamond-shaped designs on the bedstead and the mattress frame. Although I could probably sleep on the bed, I tend to favor softer pillows.

The bottom half of an old grindstone stands in a corner. This was part of Sr. Peñas collection, but is not one of his creations. It appears to be the bottom half of the grinder. When in use, it would have been in a horizontal position. A large post would have filled the hole in the center. Another large circular stone on top would have been turned by a water wheel, powered by a stream beside the mill.

The grain was crushed into fine powder between the upper and lower stones. The grooves radiating out from the center directed the flour toward the circular tray. The opening in the tray, seen at the bottom of the picture, allowed the flour to pour out into a barrel or a bag.

This completes Part 5 of my Mascota series. I hope you have enjoyed your visit to Sr. Peña's little museum. If so, please leave any thoughts or questions in the Comments section below. If you leave a question, PLEASE leaver your email address so that I can respond.

Hasta luego, Jim

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Mascota Part 4 of 6: Parroquia Nuestra Señora de los Dolores

Dramatic clouds loom over Parroquia de Nuestra Señora de los Dolores. The Parroquia stands in a broad atrium, surrounded by a wall and several ornate gates. A parroquia (parish church) is the main church in a Mexican community. The one in Mascota is called Nuestra Señora de los Dolores  (Our Lady of Sorrows). An older church, built in 1649, once occupied this site. In 1702 construction began on new one at the same location. The project lasted 100 years and resulted in the church you see today.

The Parroquia is located on the south side of Mascota's Plaza Principal and occupies a whole city block. In this posting, we will first take a look at the exterior features of the church, some of which clearly show elements of the original 17th century Baroque structure which were retained when the structure was rebuilt in the 18th century in Neo-Classical style. Next, we will tour the inside to see the nave and altar areas and a side chapel, along with some interesting statues on display.

The Parroquia's exterior

The main entrance of the Parroquia is one of the Baroque areas that were retained. Most of the remaining Baroque features are on the exterior, while the interior exhibits the Neo-Classical style.

The arch over the main entrance contains a couple of interesting details. The two scallop shells are closely associated with Santiago Apóstol (St. James, one of the original Twelve Apostles). According to one legend, Santiago evangelized in Spain for a time but was martyred when he returned to the Holy Land.

When his body was returned to Spain for burial, it was washed overboard during a storm. Later found on the shore, the body was covered with scallop shells but otherwise miraculously intact. The place of his burial, Santiago Compostela, in northwestern Spain, is a major pilgrimage site to this day.

The banner between the scallop shells is held by winged cupids on either end. Oddly, the cupids appear upside down. My speculation is that they were originally supposed to be right-side-up, but the curve of the banner better matched the curve of the arch when it was put in place.

Pairs of Solomonic columns stand on either side of the entrance. These are standard features of Baroque architecture, particularly the Churrigueresque variation found in Mexico. The distinguishing feature of a Solomonic column is its spiraling cork-screw design. Notice how the the two columns spiral in opposite directions. Solomonic columns got their name when some were brought back to Rome by Emperor Constantine the Great, the first Roman Emperor to become a Christian.

Legend has it that Constantine got the spiraling columns from the ruins of Jerusalem's Temple of Solomon. When he returned to Rome, he donated them to St. Peter's Basilica for use in the high altar. Investigators have determined that the columns are made of Greek marble and, in actuality, probably came from the city of Corinth. Solomonic columns became a popular feature of Spanish Baroque architecture during the 17th century and can be found in many Mexican churches built during that time.

A Neo-Classic wing extends out from the right side of the church. This structure was probably added in the 19th or early 20th century. Its purpose was not clear to me and there was no sign. However, it is likely that the building contains the offices of the priest and church officials. On the left, at the point near where the wing joins the main structure, you can see the right side entrance to the church.

The right-side entrance is Neo-Classical. However, the rough stone wall surrounding it may be part of the original 17th century church. Construction materials often provide clues to the age and style of old buildings in Mexico. Mexico's earliest churches were built of adobe with thatched roofs. Rough stone began to replace adobe in the late 16th and early 17th centuries.

Another wing extends out from the left side of the church. This one may be residential and probably contains the home of the párroco (parish priest). The left side entrance of the church is directly opposite the one on the right. This entrance, however, is of a much simpler design.

Statue of San José Maria Robles Hurtado, a martyr of the Cristero War.  The statue stands in a small open chapel just to the left of the main entrance. Notice the noose over the statue's left shoulder. Robles Hurtado was born in Mascota in 1888, and became a Catholic priest in 1913 at the age of 25. He was hanged by government forces on June 28, 1927 during the Cristero War (1926-29). The conflict broke out a decade after the end of the Revolution and was one of its main aftershocks.

San José Maria Robles Hurtado was canonized by Pope John Paul II in 2000, along with 23 other priests from all over Mexico. They all died during a struggle between the revolutionary government and Catholic rebels. The rebels, and the Church hierarchy who supported them, were fighting to maintain the power and privileges the Church had enjoyed during the previous 400 years. The government, in turn, was attempting to enforce the anti-clerical provisions of the Constitution of 1917, which included secularized education.

Inside the Parroquia

The style of the main nave is Neo-Classical. Typical of this style are the Greco-Roman pillars with Corinthian capitals that frame a series of large oil paintings along either side. While Baroque/Churrigueresque tends to fill every available space with statues, cupids and floral decoration, Neo-Classical is much more restrained in its approach. In fact, Neo-Classical style was an expression of the Rationalist Movement of the 18th century. As such, it was a reaction to the passionate excesses of Baroque.

The main altar and its retablo. In the center of the retablo is a statue of Our Lady of Sorrows. This version of the Virgin Mary refers to the sorrows of her life, including the crucifixion of her son Jesus. On the left and right are statues of Joachuim and Anne, her father and mother. Neither of these two is mentioned in the Bible. Their stories appeared in anonymous writings long after her death and were further embellished over the centuries.

A woman prays in a side chapel in front of a reliquary. A reliquary is a container, often highly decorated, that contains holy relics. Sometimes these include the bones of a saint, or objects the saint may have touched while alive. A reliquary is usually placed at the center of an altar and has a small door in front that can be opened to view the objects within.

Statue of San Martin de Porres (1579-1639). He was member of the Dominican Order of evangelizing friars located in Lima, Peru. Martin was the illegitimate son of a Spanish nobleman and a freed slave. She was a mulatta, of mixed African and indigenous heritage. The nobleman abandoned his family and Martin grew up in poverty, an experience that gave him great sympathy for the poor. As a boy, he took a job as a low level kitchen worker at the Dominican monastery in Lima.

For many years, Martin was not allowed to become a member of the Order because of his mixed race and his mother's status as a former slave. The Prior of the monastery eventually recognized his exceptional qualities. The rules were bent and he was finally allowed to become a Dominican friar, although he never became a priest. Martin's work with the poor and sick won him wide acclaim and many miracles were attributed to him. San Martin de Porres is the Patron of mixed race people, innkeepers, barbers, and public health workers. He was canonized in 1962 by Pope John XXIII.

This completes Part 4 of my Mascota series. I hope you have enjoyed it. If so, please leave any thoughts or questions in the Comments section below, or email me directly. If you leave a question in the Comments section, PLEASE include your email address so that I can respond.

Hasta luego, Jim