Sailing away with Nikk and Jan

Posts tagged ‘Canada de la Virgen’

A Visit to Three Cultures: Part One

The blog is now being created at Sailor’s Rest in La Cruz, the home of our friends who went back to Portland for four months, and we volunteered to house and cat sit while they were gone.
Go to www.sailorsrestlacruz.com to see pictures of the lovely place we’re inhabiting. The monsoon has not arrived yet, but it is hot and humid, for those of you of a certain age, insert Robin Williams describing tropical humidity in Good Morning Vietnam here. Any kind of exertion in the afternoon while outside has me sweating like the guy shoveling coal into the maw of the steam engine in the old days. To escape the heat we went on a road trip in May to visit San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato. Nikk’s daughter, husband and the grandchildren are temporarily staying in SM de A, so that was our first stop, traveling through incredibly smoky country, due to burning of fields before planting. On our ten hour trip from La Cruz in the rented Nissan Tiida we got lost a few times due to no road signs, spent a small fortune at the toll booths, endured road construction, and amazingly found the house in SM de A on a tiny cobbled street.

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We were told that people from Mexico City visit SM de A to experience Old Mexico. We certainly experienced the three cultures that overlap here: the Pre-Hispanic native archaeology and peoples, the Hispanic influence, especially religious and architectural, and the modern day Mexican town still with cobbled streets, a watercourse through town that reeked of sewage, an artesanal market, many coffee shops, and the expansive Botanical Gardens above town. SM de A became a Spanish settlement when one explorer followed dogs to a spring, which became the site of the “laundry area” with huge stone tubs. The volcanic rocks of the town pitch steeply down hills, and then so do the homes and streets. At over 6000 feet elevation, this meant some deep breathing for us, coming from months at sea level. The dogs still inhabit the town, but now are left stranded on the roofs of the houses, since there are no yards, and bark wildly at anyone who walks by.

Sightseeing, visiting with Nikk’s family, eating wonderful dinners on the rooftop terrace of the house, and playing with the grandchildren filled the four days of our visit. Here’s a picture of Teo and Callita showing me how they do yoga when I pulled out the mat to do a few poses one morning…..

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Below are some scenes from SM de A, Nikk and I love to wander, and we also love taking photos of doors. The first two shots are of the neo-Gothic church, and of the church we got kicked out of when we followed some people into a courtyard, trying to find a stained glass window that we’d seen from outside with a coyote in the stained glass scene, unfortunately the presence of a luncheon party in the courtyard was not a sign that it was OK to explore. Ni modo.

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This style of carving on the facade of the church is called Churrigueresque.

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About 16 miles southwest of SM de A is an ancient group of temples called Canada de la Virgen. The first structures were built about 700 BCE, and from 700-1100 AD the Toltec-Chichimichi cultures added large pyramids that were built to mark the positions of the Sun, Moon, and Venus.
The pyramids were first unearthed in 1985, and the site opened to the public two years ago.
We had to leave our cars at the visitor center, take a bus part of the way, and then walk uphill at about 7800 feet elevation to the site, accompanied by a guide who was very informative, but only spoke Spanish. Nikk’s daughter translated, luckily, and there were many signs with information in both Spanish and English. We found out that this ceremonial site had some bodies of important personages buried there (we only saw pictures of those), and the reconstruction also included a small garden of native plants. The tour takes several hours, and we were able to climb to the top of the largest pyramid, the House of the 13 Skies (a reference to the 13 months of the lunar calendar). This pyramid also marks the winter and summer solstice positions of the sun.

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Our Guide

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The House of the Longest Night, which marks the Sun’s position at the Winter Solstice

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The steps of The House of the 13 Skies

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One of the burials, from a picture at the visitor center.

To Be Continued. The next post chronicles the Botanical Gardens of SM de A, and the church in the little town of Atotonilco, on the way to Guanajuato, which is called the “Sistene Chapel of Mexico”.

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