Saturday, August 06, 2011

pilgrim's progress

On Friday I was a pilgrim.

Not the type with the silly hat and clunky shoes -- with buckles on both.  I was the type of pilgrim who sets forth on a quest.

Before I came to Pátzcuaro earlier in the year, I had heard about the Chapel of Humiliated.  The oldest church in Pátzcuaro.  Built on the spot where the Spanish conquistador Cristóbal de Olid required the Purépecha emperor, Tangaxoan II, to kneel in homage to the Spanish.

You may recall from our little history lesson the other day, Tangaxoan II thought he was simply entering into an alliance with Cortes as his liege lord.  Sparing his crown and his people.

Of course, it didn’t quite work out as he thought it would.  The Spanish quickly built the chapel and did not name it the Chapel of Good Budget Compromises.  They saw Tangaxoan’s kneeling as a humiliation -- and were ready to remind everyone of their spin.

Our humanist hero Don Vasco was not above similar symbolism.  He attempted to destroy the Indian religion by building his precious cathedral atop an Indian pyramid, and his priest and Indian school on the foundation of an Indian temple.

But it was the chapel that interested me on Friday.  Fellow blogger, Don Cuevas, directed me to a map of the route to the chapel.  It appeared to be a bit of a hike, but I needed the exercise.

So, I off I went into the unknown precincts of Pátzcuaro.  Through neighborhoods I would never have noticed if I had driven.

Like all good pilgrimages. everything was new to me.  And I had no idea how close or far my goal was.  It turned out to be a mile or two.

When I told Felipe about my walk, he reminded me we drove past the chapel when I was here in February.  Not surprisingly, I did not immediately remember.

Unfortunately, the gates were locked.  But the exterior was the type of plain design I would expect from the area’s oldest church.  Compact.  Simple lines.  A rudimentary dome.  Almost Romanesque in style.

It would be interesting to see how that dome translates in the interior of the church.

Considering the history behind the chapel’s construction.  I was a bit surprised to see several Indian images portrayed on the façade.  I doubt it was accidental.  The Roman church has been very good at incorporating local symbols into its orthodoxy -- especially in Mexico.

I had one other tourist item I missed earlier in the year -- a Pátzcuaro cemetery.  This area is well-known for its celebration of the Day of the Dead and the Night of the Dead -- when families spend time at the graves of relatives.

As I started my pilgrimage in reverse from the chapel, I glanced at a door on my left.  And there was one of the town’s main cemeteries.

Like most Mexican cemeteries I have seen, this one was a startling mix of styles.  From the very basic.  To the grandiose.  If it was not quite the City of the Dead, it was, at least, the suburbs.

I have read several books on Mexico where the writer refers to “Mexicans’ obsession with death.”  That has not been my experience.  Mexicans appear to have a realistic view of death.  That it is merely a part of the cycle of life.  And that strikes me as healthy.

Of course, that assessment comes from the writer, who as a preschooler, wrote his first two stories with murder as the central themes.

It turns out that the cemetery I saw is closed for the dead celebrations.  It is simply too cramped to allow that many people on the property all at the same time.

All in all, I felt like a very successful pilgrimage.  In this particular case, the journey was not an end in itself.


Jonna said...

A nice pilgrimage, I also went to see that church on one of our stays in Patzcuaro.    I agree with you, it's not that Mexicans are obsessed with death, they simply acknowledge it as a part of life.  Something we manage to avoid entirely in the north.  

Have you eaten corundas yet?  I loved the ones from the guy in front of the cathedral, really rich.   

jennifer rose said...

Jonna's comment brings up food, which leads me to wondering why you haven't commented upon the local gastronomia. You've been uncharacteristically silent on that issue. So, have you tried the carne apache yet?

Don Cuevas said...

Jennifer, Steve has stayed healthy so far. Don't you be leading him to  eat strange, unrefrigerated, chopped raw beef on tostadas.

We had lunch with Steve on Thursday at Mariscos La Güera. He hasn't said anything about that yet. Maybe he was so overwhelmed by the experience that he's wordless. 

Saludos, Don Cuevas

Felipe Zapata said...

There's a new Spanish restaurant in town with a real Spanish restaurant. Been open just a month. And one less Italian restaurant which was in the same spot for years.

Mexican Trailrunner said...

Am so enjoying your walking tours, Patz and SMA.  The pictures are wonderful.  Agree that Mexicans have a much healthier take on death than the NOB perception. 
I do hope you get out to Angahuan and hike or ride the horses down to the chapel buried under the lava flow and climb inside and take some photos for us!
Add Sopa Tarasaca to that list of foods not to miss.

Feckingobsmaked said...

It is my impression that Mexicans have a fatalistic attitude; one that extends to most aspects of life. "Que sera sera". In many cases, to believe that whatever will be will be, is just an excuse not to make any effort. Furthermore, hanging out in cemeteries waiting for the spirits of the deceased (at the witching hour of a specific date) is pagan in theory if not in practice.

Steve Cotton said...

No corundas yet.  But they are on the list.

Steve Cotton said...

Food has taken a back trip to my trips.  But I have had some very interesting meals -- all good.  The most unusual was chicken stuffed with corn fungus.  I had been told it tastes a good deal like truffles.  It didn't.  In fact, it didn't taste like much of anything. 

Steve Cotton said...

The experience was great.  I was just waiting for the right time to post.  Jennifer may have upped the ante.

Steve Cotton said...

And it is on my list.  For the past two days my usial internet cafe has been without a wifi connection.  So, I have been choosing my eateries based on wifi signal, not the food.

Steve Cotton said...

I have had sopa tarasca twice on this trip.  It is OK.  So far, most of the food I have had could best be called filing.  Depending on how I return to Melaque, I may get over to Angahuan.

jennifer rose said...

Wifi, is that all you can think about, Steve? 

You need to try the pizza and empanadas at El Viejo Gaucho, part of the Hotel Mansion Iturbe. And the ice cream, espresso and pizza at Testarelli's in Erongaricuaro. Oh, and some charales along the muelle.

Steve Cotton said...

And who was it who served as one of the pusher's for this habit, Miss Rose?  In any even t, I trust the three of us will have a very good lunch tomorrow.  My trip up that way today was fun.

Steve Cotton said...

Fatalistic strikes me as the wrong word. In the past 15 years, the Mexican middle class has grown to between 40 and 60% of the population because they know they can make a difference in their families' lives. My experience with my Mexican neighbors is that they make a great effort in seeing that their children have a better life than they had.

And I am not certain that honoring the memory of our American deceased on Memorial Day is that much different than the dead celebrations. We both celebrate what the deceased have added to our lives.

Felipe Zapata said...

Went to the new Spanish restaurant today. Very good. I've been hunting decent paella in Mexico for over a decade, and this is the best by far. All previous paellas, even when allegedly prepared by a Spanish chef, have been mediocre to pathetic to disgraceful. This place is good. They have other Spanish dishes, plus some local stuff if you insist.

For those arriving in a car, you can park in the parking lot of the Hostel Santa Fe, which you enter from Calle Ahumada just above the Pemex station near Siete Esquinas. Pay attention or you'll drive right by the narrow entry. Just walk through the hotel from the back to the street, and turn right a few steps. The restaurant is in the same location where an Italian restaurant lived for years. It's on Calle Lloreda, half a block off Siete Esquinas going away from the Plaza Chica.

This Spanish restaurant opened a month ago, and a Spanish chef from Andalusia arrived just a week ago. Let us not let it fail for lack of local interest as has happened to so many other restaurants that serve something a bit different than the general cheese and beans.

Felipe Zapata said...

Ignore Ms. Rose, Steve. She's messing with you. Charales are nothing but deep-fried minnows, and nobody sensible eats them. Stick to real food.

Felipe Zapata said...

The quality of sopa tarasca varies widely here. It's lame more often than not. As I have mentioned to you, a good (and somewhat different version) is served at Mistongo on Calle Dr. Coss. Plus, it's a good restaurant in general.

Steve Cotton said...

And it is on my list.

Steve Cotton said...

It was already on jmy list.  But it sounds as if it may be my lunch for tomorrow.