Try wrapping your tongue around the word Tequisquiapan or Tesqutsqutapan. The name comes from Nahuatl and means “place of tequesquite” a type of natural salt used to flavor food since pre-Hispanic times. At one time tequesquite was mined in the community. Here is a picture with one spelling–the government prefers Tesquisquiapan but the artist clearly prefers Tesqutsqutapan. We are unclear which is correct–such is research on the internet.
Just back from long summer holidays, we were eager to paint and, as usual, spotted the bell tower from down the road and, then found, not an intact capilla, but the ruin of a large iglesia. The boveda roof had collapsed, half of the main door was barely upright in its frame and a large lightning bolt-like crack had split the façade–a beautiful old ruin with lots of character. Two artist friends, Carol and Nyla, joined us for an enjoyable morning of painting.
In this part of rural Mexico, some communities designate their larger religious buildings iglesias and the smaller ones capillas.
According to a recorded oral history about Tesquisquiapan, the community was founded in 1700 and the Hacienda de Tequisquiapan in 1875. Little remains of the hacienda as the lands were expropriated in 1936 when the community became an ejido, an area of communal land used for agriculture. Although there are no indigenous languages spoken now, the community recognizes itself as an indigenous community based on its origins and traditions.
The Iglesia de San Rafael was probably built around the time that the hacienda was founded. There is a plaque on the back of the iglesia stating that reconstruction was begun on August 8, 1910. We have started carrying a 100 ft. measuring tape to record the size of each capilla or iglesia. This ruin measures 63’ (19.2 m) in length x 33’ (10.05 m) in width and the atrium about 42’ (12.8 m) x 42’ (12.8 m). You can compare this to the more usual size of capillas in our blog post “So…How Big Is The Typical Capilla??”
The Laja River cuts through the community and, in times of high water, the road becomes impassable. We watched mostly trucks and pickups navigate the river and decided to wait to cross in a car when the water is lower. Instead, we walked across on a simple pedestrian suspension bridge built in 1979. The history of the community records two major flooding events in 1912 and 1955.
Tequisquiapan, Dolores Hidalgo, C.I.N., Gto (population: 1,407; dwellings: 291; elevation: 1,875 meters; GPS: 100° 49’ 22” longitude; 21° 04’ 48” latitude).
© 2016 Lorie Topinka